US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire

By Patrick McCormick | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire Directed by Lee Daniels (Lionsgate, 2009)

Black is beautiful. Black, obese, poor, functionally illiterate, abused, pregnant, despised, and drowning in an ocean of pain, 16-year-old Clarisse "Precious" Jones (played by Gabourey Sidibe) and the startling film director Lee Daniels and writer Geoffrey Fletcher have fashioned about her is a thing of beauty. She is disturbing, fascinating, and profoundly human, well worth a long, loving look from audiences more accustomed to saving their adoring glances for the likes of Julia Roberts.

Indeed, many will wish to look away from Precious, the simultaneously fractured and armored woman-child, who is forever trying to hide in plain sight. We may prefer to close our eyes to the suffering inflicted by relentless human cruelty and turn away from the overwhelming despair of a pregnant girl raped by her absent father and tortured by a raging mother.

But, at the heart of this darkness, Daniels' film and Sidibe's performance draw us like moths to the light. Here we and a circle of others-mostly women-in this story discover the rough-cut humanity of a child trapped in hell who still dares to dream of her own beauty.

And here we discover a sympathetic teacher, Blue Rain (Paula Patton), who falls like Shakespeare's gentle dew on the rocky soil of Precious' toughened skin, helping the inarticulate girl to find a voice and give a name to her own story. We meet a compassionate social worker, Mrs. Weiss (Mariah Carey), ready to open her ears and heart to Precious' heartbreaking tale. And we meet a gentle nurse named John (Lenny Kravitz) who sees this pregnant adolescent as someone sacred, to be honored and respected.

In the process of truly seeing Precious, Ms. Rain, Mrs. Weiss, and nurse John recognize and draw out a beauty and humanity forced into hiding by the world's mockery, her father's incest, and her mother's brutal reign of terror. It is a miracle evoked only by those brave and loving enough to look.