By Jami Laubich, Communications Intern
This morning the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominees for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. Lee Daniel’s film “Precious” was nominated for best picture, best director, best actress, and best supporting actress. Mo’Nique has already won both a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her supporting role in “Precious” and Sidibe has been nominated in the lead actress category for numerous awards, including the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.
Based on the book “Push” by Sapphire, the movie follows the life story of Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a poor, obese, African American teenage mother living in Harlem, who survives severe domestic violence at the hands of her parents. From having her mother Mary (Mo’Nique) throw bottles at her head to constantly being called worthless, Precious is a target of raw, unrelenting abuse. As if all this weren’t bad enough, Precious made it to ninth grade without being able to read or write.
Due to sexual abuse, Precious becomes pregnant with her second child, is kicked out of school by her principal, and sent to an alternative school. Ms. Rain (Paula Patton) plays an inspiring role as a teacher helping Precious find self worth. The message is: Education is power. For the first time, Precious feels safe in her learning environment, makes friends in the classroom of all women, and finally learns to read.
Every film has its critics, and no movie is perfect. “Precious” arguably perpetuates the negative stereotype that low-income women of color abuse the welfare system. When the welfare representative visits in the film, Mother Mary transforms herself from a lazy, cruel human into a pleasant, cordial, and polite person who openly lies about searching for jobs and taking care of her own child, as well as her grandchild. Yet as soon as the welfare worker leaves, Mary morphs back into her vicious self, throwing her grandchild recklessly off of her lap. In reality, Precious’s first daughter has Down syndrome, lives permanently with her great-grandmother, and only visits when the welfare worker comes to check in. The characters in the movie aren’t the poster group for the benefits of public assistance, but instead the film may leave some viewers questioning the validity of the institution as a whole.
Engaging in the film is a political experience. The movie focuses too much on Mary being a monster, and not enough time exploring why she is the way she is or exposing male privilege within society. The power of “Precious” lies in the multiplicity of issues it bombards its audience with, including AIDS, literacy, teen pregnancy and much more. When the film ended, I watched the audiences around me, while some were in tears others were furiously conversing with their friends and family. The topics brought up in the film are uncomfortable, but need to be discussed. So, go! Don’t just see it, but talk about it!
“Precious” is nominated for Outstanding Film by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD) and was the winner of the Cadillac People’s Choice Award for Best Film at the Toronto Film Festival. Tune in on March 7 to see if the movie and its stars receive the Oscars they deserve.