Claireece Precious Jones is a 15-year-old African-American with a child by her father, who lives elsewhere, and another by him on the way. Her mother doesn’t work, mostly only watches TV, bullies her, beats her, and throws back in her face the meals she cooks. School is unruly, and Precious is impassive, silent, friendless and illiterate.
It’s a grim life, to say the least, and Precious escapes with fantasies of herself as a singing star in glittery videos. But she is observant, smart at maths, and not easily cowed. When her school tutor learns that Precious is pregnant again, she offers her a place in an alternative school. Precious doesn’t know what ‘alternative’ means, but her life changes.
The film is big on the personal empowerment dynamic. Oprah Winfrey co-produced it, and Mariah Carey ‘stars’ in it. So you may be cynical, but this is not formulaic Hollywood stuff, and doesn’t have a conventional happy ending. It’s a film with real pain and horror, which, with its credible and hard-won shift, is profoundly moving.
Precious, in a small class of six outcast schoolgirls, the others all pretty sussed and sassy, with a highly committed teacher, and with prods from a social worker – the very convincing, glitterless Carey – slowly opens up. It’s no easy thing, as Precious makes clear: ‘The other day I cried. But you know what? Fuck that day.’
Brilliant on the personal dynamic, less so with the social, this is as real as mainstream features ever get.