The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - YOUR MOVIE PLANNER -

(2009) 15

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

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