Monday, 10.30pm, BBC2
Or Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire (aka teacher turned author Romona Lofton), to give it its full title.
It’s the kind of film one puts off watching because of its perceived worthiness, and there’s no denying that Lee Daniels’s adaptation of Sapphire’s unflinching debut novel is relentless in its use of social realism, shocking violence, profanity and dark, dark humour in order to provoke a reaction. You have been warned, Precious is a real smack around the face, but it is also a wholly rewarding experience... No one could ever call Precious the ‘ feel-good film of the year’ (a throwaway phrase often ascribed to otherwise difficultto-market films), but it is inspirational, positive and ultimately uplifting – without ever relying on sentimentality.
Gabourey Sidibe (below) is stunning as the teenager of the title, a morbidly obese, semiliterate girl, already on her second pregnancy – both of them the product of her father’s sexual abuse. Given the opportunity to attend an ‘alternative’ school, Precious finds a sense of self-worth with her fellow misfits, despite the best efforts of her jaw-droppingly grotesque mother, Mary (Oscar-winner Mo’Nique, above, who wrings every last drop of terror out of her character). Bile-spitting Mary is determined to drag her daughter back down to the gutter – though the reason why is reserved for the final, brutal blow.
The story behind the film
Newcomer Sidibe is as far removed from Precious as it is possible to be, and has charmed Hollywood with her articulate style and big personality. A psychology student before she got her big break, she was, apparently, once advised by Joan Cusack not to get into show business (‘It’s so image-conscious’) – in fact, Sidibe, who was in two minds, only attended the open auditions because she was forced to go out of her way to college by another movie crew filming in her area. As she says, ‘It was fate.’ She earned an Oscar nod for Precious, and has gone on to star in dark TV sitcom The Big C, so it’s a good job she didn’t heed Cusack’s advice. Vicky Thompson