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Sidibe’s physique is an image that beauty-conscious America works against.Her character seems to carry the burden of the extent to which society has belittled her.The illiterate Precious Jones attends overcrowded, failing public schools.
This will certainly be the case with Daniels’s visualization of the lead character of Sapphire’s novel—Claireece Precious Jones, who is portrayed (unforgettably) by Gabourey Sidibe.
Harking back to the tradition of neorealist filmmakers like Vittorio De Sica (whose film Two Women is knowingly snippetted in Precious), Daniels cast an unknown with no professional acting experience. She mumbles, reluctantly makes eye contact, displays little expression and even less vocal dexterity.
In the background of the poster hover a pair of butterfly wings, and a glorious imaginary crown tops Sidibe’s head.
The earliest advertisements were captioned Life is Precious.
Full of brazenly racist clichés (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken) it is a sociological horror show.
Offering racist hysteria masquerading as social sensitivity, it’s been acclaimed on the international festival circuit that usually disdains movies about black Americans as somehow inartistic and unworthy.” Translation: Precious has received artistic awards by playing upon feelings of racial guilt and superiority; its ethics are so debased that to gullible white audiences it looks progressive.
Sentimental, yes, but a little is okay for a story that is so brutal and deadly.
Precious’s narrative adheres respectfully to Sapphire’s 1996 novel, which is set in Harlem, 1987.
“In the beginning was not the shadow, but the act.” Ralph Ellison’s cause and effect dictum is applicable to any cinematic adaptation of a literary work: Before there was the movie, there was the book.
But today—given the power of film, publicity, and celebrity—the cinematic shadow often takes precedence.