No doubt there are people in this world who have endured lives as horrific as the one Precious leads in this film. That said, seeing as this book was written by a teacher not unlike the film’s Ms. Rain, I’m guessing Precious and all her myriad problems were a composite of several real life students as opposed to a fictionalized version of any one of them. That’s what it feels like, anyway. I'm also guessing that at least some of them can read, and that hasn't solved all their problems. Furthermore, the material is handled by director Lee Daniels in such a melodramatic and manipulative way that it veers towards caricature. The end result is more like some right-wing Senator’s anti-welfare diatribe than the story of perseverance and empowerment it professes to be.
On the plus side, the performances are excellent across the board. If Sibide fails to make Precious a real human being, blame it on the script, not her. The film asks a great deal of the first-time actor, and whether portraying the utter despair of her reality or the fantasy of appearing on a music awards show, she gives her all. Mo’nique also shines in the kind of role few actresses would want to take, almost (almost) humanizing a monster. There’s also good work from Lenny Kravitz and bad movie punch-line Mariah Carey, proving if nothing else that director Daniels has a knack for getting good performances out of his cast. I’d be tempted to give Daniels credit for knowing how to push an audience’s emotional buttons, but damn, how can you not feel sorry for Precious? Daniels’ storytelling abilities, on the other hand, are nothing to write home about. The movie has a ragged feel that can’t entirely be laid at the feet of its editor. For all its four-star reviews, Precious just isn’t that good of a movie. 2 out of 4 stars.