Thoughts on Lee Daniels’ PRECIOUS

I have often looked at some who’s lives have intersected with my own and asked how people keep their dreams alive. Hope is a powerful force. Sometimes people don’t need much to believe in, but they need something. I was reminded of these thoughts and feelings watching the new Lee Daniels film PRECIOUS over the weekend. The character who gives the film its title is one of the most compelling yet least likely protagonists I have seen on the screen in some time. Obese, impregnated by her father and despised by her mother, who abuses her constantly, Precious Jones literally has nothing going for her – except a faint glimmer of hope, given to her through the kindness of strangers. The above mentioned problems only begin to scratch the surface of her existence.

PRECIOUS is not perfect as film either. Daniels’ experiments with jump cuts and non-traditional editing occasionally distract to a point where he comes dangerously close to taking the viewer out of the story. One also gets the impression that much of the story is left on the cutting room floor due to time. Precious’s relationships with her fellow classmates and Nurse John are given brief moments of screen time, even when the story calls those characters to play significant roles in Precious’s character arc and emotional transition. Daniels is careful to call attention to the fact that the film is adapted from the book PUSH, a novel by Sapphire, as if to call attention to the fact that the entire story of Precious would not fit into the film and interested viewers can get the full story elsewhere. Many of Daniels’ other experiments do pay off however. Musicians Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz turn in the finest performances either has made outside of music. And Comedienne Monique’ is a emotional steamroller letting loose a performance certainly to be noticed by the Academy.

The most exciting part of PRECIOUS is that it feels like a story we have not seen before. In a cinematic time of sequels and high concept projects, PRECIOUS gives us more reality than we have likely ever witnessed, heart that doesn’t sacrifice emotional truth, and insight into characters that NEVER seem to make it to the screen.