'Precious' Will Leave Lasting Mark

Lee Daniels' film 'Precious' is as riveting as it is disturbing.

ByABC News
November 2, 2009, 4:17 PM

Nov. 6, 2009 -- "Everybody's good at something," Ms. Rain tells her student, Claireece "Precious" Jones.

And Precious is especially good at transforming dark to light, hate to love and the relentlessly callous landscape of her environment into something bearable.

There is no airbrushing or sugarcoating in Lee Daniels' second film, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." Grit, fried food and palpable street shots of Harlem during the 1980s pervade the screen. "Precious" is a heavy film, filled with glints of light.

Adapted from Sapphire's 1996 novel "Push," the film centers on a morbidly obese 16-year-old teenager named Precious (Gabourey Sidibe), who struggles to overcome domestic abuse and illiteracy.

Precious survives her harsh lot by using her imagination to escape to a kinder, more accepting place that includes the light-skinned boyfriend she has always wanted. Once she is snatched back to her reality, however, the themes of sexual abuse, illiteracy and teenage pregnancy continue to reign supreme.

Sidibe's portrayal of Precious is an undeniable triumph. The complexity of her character is one that the 24-year-old Sidibe handles seamlessly, and it is hard to believe this is her first acting part.

Precious' role is that of victim: a victim of the images she aspires to become, including a blond-haired white woman she sees reflected in the mirror as she gets dressed; a victim of the father who has twice impregnated her and sexually abused her since she was 3; a victim of the mother who demands, among other things, that Precious have dinner ready every night; and a victim of the outside world that tells her she has no other choice than to become a home attendant or welfare recipient.

But Precious knows better, and does better than most people would ever do in such circumstances. By escaping to an alternative school and giving birth to a second child by her father, Precious gains a sense of resiliency that is impenetrable and steadfast. Nothing that life throws at her will bring her to her knees.