"I'm gonna break through, or somebody gonna break through to me."

This declaration sums up the mission statement of Clareece "Precious" Jones (Gabourney Sidibe). Precious lives in Harlem, and at 16 is pregnant with her second child -- fathered by her own father. She somehow manages to get good grades, despite her illiteracy and hellish home life. Mercifully, her father isn't around much, but her mother, portrayed by fellow future Oscar nominee Mo'Nique, does her best to make up for his absence with constant verbal, emotional, and physical abuse.

Precious finds herself with a chance to attend an alternative school, called Each One, Teach One. She doesn't really understand what is being offered to her, but she is smart enough to know that this is an opportunity, and she decides to take it. It is this decision on her part that enables her to right her course, and choose a new life for herself.

Chief among her helpers along the way is Ms. Rain (Paula Patton). Others include social worker Mrs. Weiss (Mariah Carey) and Nurse John (Lenny Kravitz). These are the people who, with kindness and determination, take the time to break through to Precious.

I can't say enough about this film. It's gritty as bone crushed between teeth, and every moment from titles to credits plays as real as it gets. The actors are disarmingly good, which is all the more amazing due to the fact that most of them have limited film resumes. It is lead actor Sidibe's first.



www.WeAreAllPrecious.com

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Comments

David Dodd Nov. 27, 2009 @ 11:42 p.m.

I've read really awesome feedback about this. I confess, I did not read the book, but the film looks very powerful indeed.

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SDaniels Nov. 28, 2009 @ 1 a.m.

I can't wait to see the film, though I might have to wait until it comes out on DVD. I definitely recommend the book as a powerfully written testimonial of a subject we don't hear nearly enough from today, and in fact for the last year or so, have been using an example from Sapphire's text for a writing prompt and discussion with entry level writing students. They are always intrigued, but now might be more motivated to pick up the book, after seeing the film:

How do we explain exactly what affects us about this writing? I find that taking very small excerpts, and drawing out what ideas and meanings come to me, can help me to pinpoint more clearly what it is about this writing that attracts or repels me as its audience:

For example, I find the language of Sapphire's novel Push, to be deceptively simple while concealing depths of feeling and meaning. Words are often spelled phonetically, and contain some rhythms similar to those employed by Zora Neale Hurston.

Here's an excerpt:

"I jus' fall in Mr Wicher's class sit down. We don't have assigned seats in Mr. Wicher's class, we can sit anywhere we want. I sit in the same seat everyday, in the back, last row, next to the door. Even though I know that back door be locked" (Push 4).

What I love about this short passage is how much is communicated in few words, how Sapphire says so much with so little. Here are just a few of my thoughts on this three-sentence passage:

The structure of the first sentence, with its word usage, the "jus fall," gives me a feeling of abruptly sweeping into a room and falling into a chair in one swift motion--with purpose, and with a noticeable "I don't care" attitude, perhaps. "Jus" falling into the chair without a thought could indicate that this person is feeling a bit defeated in some way; she falls into the room and the chair.

But then again, it seems that even though seats aren't assigned, this person behaves as though they were, giving the impression that she wants structure and stability she can control, not change. She distances herself from others, yet perhaps to also draw attention to herself, by sitting in the back, the last row.

This character shows us that she literally has her back against the wall--but that she has demonstrated control over the situation because she has knowingly chosen this position--she knows the door is locked. Sometimes a locked door can provide a kind of support, because no one can open it and surprise you, or knock you down--even if the opening door might bring a good change.

What I'm doing here is called "close reading," something we do a lot in literature, but also in advertising. Every word counts, and every word and sentence must communicate something to the reader without it being spelled out.

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SDaniels Nov. 28, 2009 @ 1:06 a.m.

I just wanted to add that while Duncan felt that the sexual orientation of the teacher is not important to the film, it is important in the book, as Sapphire's treatment of sexuality, and what it means to be a woman in Precious's world, demands the fullest exploration possible of what she makes of potential and possibility in her world. I am hearing good things, and truly hope the film is as good as this book! ;)

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CuddleFish Nov. 28, 2009 @ 7:44 a.m.

Thanks, AG, for the review. I had seen the trailer and frankly am not anticipating seeing the movie. Good to hear you and SDaniels liked the book, and glad you enjoyed the film. :)

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FullFlavorPike Nov. 28, 2009 @ 1:26 p.m.

Never heard of it, but I'll keep an eye out fer shure....

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antigeekess Nov. 28, 2009 @ 6:13 p.m.

Daniels, I haven't read Sapphire's book, but I think your analysis of that passage is right on. Based on the film, this is exactly Precious's character. She knows she's locked in for now, but when that opportunity comes, she's going out the door. She watches, and waits.

Haven't read Duncan's review either, but I'd say that Ms. Rain's sexuality is important. It makes it clear that she's a woman who doesn't define her worth in terms of her relationship to a man, as Precious's mother does. It also makes Ms. Rain's home a comfortable place for Precious, since there's no man around to potentially victimize her.

I'd be interested to know if Nurse John plays a bigger part in the book. Precious's interactions with Mr. Wicher and with John appear to be her only positive interactions with men. Kravitz plays John as such a grounded, gentle man. I'd have liked to see more of him in the film.

And no, I don't mean nekkid. Necessarily. :)

As wonderful as Sidibe is as Precious, most of the film has her in a state of rather flat affect, typical of depression. For me, the truly jaw-dropping moments belong to Mo'Nique. She's just remarkable in this.

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antigeekess Nov. 28, 2009 @ 6:17 p.m.

Re #4:

Why not, Cuddle?

If it's the incest issue, it doesn't get a lot of screen time. A couple of very quick, not very graphic flashbacks, and that's about it. There isn't even an explicit verbal recounting of it at any point.

When I titled this as "Precious Not Few," I had actually intended to go into that subject in depth, but felt like it would give the wrong impression of the film.

Title doesn't make much sense now, but I can't be bothered to change it. :)

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antigeekess Nov. 28, 2009 @ 6:40 p.m.

For anyone who's interested, this is a GREAT interview with Mo'Nique about this film.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6emKxAx9Mc

And here's Sidibe's interview from about a week earlier. She's just pure joy, and quite different from Precious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEAT6FrXbvk

Funny stuff. :)

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SDaniels Dec. 4, 2009 @ 7:56 a.m.

"I'd be interested to know if Nurse John plays a bigger part in the book."

Sorry I'm coming back late to this thread, peeps.

I do not recall a "Nurse John" at all, and don't think this is a character Sapphire wrote, or wrote with any significant part. Mr. Wicher only appears in mention, through Precious's sparse commentary on his teaching and character--a good guy, she thinks, but it is clear that she can't relate to this white math teacher, and to him, she must be a freak. I intuited that the film would be sweetened and lightened up, and with all these positive characters around, it sounds like this is what mostly happened—except AG’s mention of Precious’s flat affect, which sounds dead on. This is symptomatic of depression, but also of someone shut out of all of the signs around her, as she learns to read them and to be read, her affect loosens and softens.

"Push" the novel refers to the pushing Clarice does between two possible existences, pushing forward, and being pushed back by society. It refers also to the physical labor of pushing out her baby, a baby whose future is for a time uncertain (no spoilers here ;). The novel has a lovely part where a “Spanish” EMT comes in and helps her, encourages her in childbirth, and “after that I look for someone with his face and eyes in Spanish peoples. H coffee-cream color, good hair. I remember that. God. I think he was god. No man was ever nice like that to me before.”

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SDaniels Dec. 4, 2009 @ 7:57 a.m.

(cont.)

But this novel also literally PUSHES the reader away, just as Precious does, in her illiteracy (you have to learn to read her) and the events of her life, so alien to, and so far outside the lives of most readers. The things that happen to her are so horrifying, and so bleak in outlook that one of its most common readers, the white academic liberal in orientation, or humanities-loving reader, is going to feel pushed away. On the other hand, the story is pushed right up in your face. This is reality—take it or leave it—if you have a choice. And the novel is somehow aware that you have a choice—part of its brilliance. Many of Precious's experiences seem to be inextricable from the human experience in general, but there is too much to do reading them within the complexity hinted at of the history of her own family, and importantly, how her family's history is unreadable outside of the larger narratives of a uniquely African-American history of slavery, genocide, and indentured servitude. We are witnessing the fallout of these social ills, and the symptoms Precious exhibits, emotional social, and physical, are all consequences traceable from those larger narratives.

AG is absolutely correct to say that Ms Rain's sexuality is integral to the story. AG writes: "It makes it clear that she's a woman who doesn't define her worth in terms of her relationship to a man, as Precious's mother does." Yes, I think that the way Ms Rain embodies this real possibility of not necessarily defining one's existence or worth in relation to a man is contrasted to Precious's definitions at the beginning of the story--always so far back developmentally--she defines herself through an incestuous, abusive, and otherwise neglectful father, which she tries to escape through alternate fantasies of being a music video vixen. She is lost in these dead ends until she meets Ms Rain and the other students at "Each One Teach One," exploring the bits and pieces revealed of their lives as a microcosm of “minority” experiences.

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antigeekess Dec. 15, 2009 @ 10:26 a.m.

Update: Golden Globes Nominations.

This morning, it was announced that "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" has been nominated for Best Motion Picture - Drama at the Golden Globes.

Gabourey Sidibe has been nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama.

Mo'nique has been nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture.

Sidibe's reaction is here:
http://theenvelope.latimes.com/la-et-golden-globes-quotes-pictures,0,3522064.photogallery

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CuddleFish Dec. 15, 2009 @ 10:52 a.m.

What a cool site, wow! And great name, TheEnvelope!

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