Precious finds a perfect balance between heartache and laughter.
Lee Daniels has created a stark urban tearjerker, based on the novel Push by Sapphire and focused on an overweight black teenage single mother's desire to live a life that doesn't involve abuse from her father while her mother refuses to acknowledge the destruction going on in her home. The central turn from Gabourey Sidibe as Precious, who seems to suffer every possible social disadvantage, ranks alongside that of Tahar Rahim in A Prophet as the best performance by a newcomer this year. But it is the scene-stealing performance by Mo'Nique as her mother that has been winning all of the awards, and she is the favourite to pick up the Best Supporting Actress Oscar on Sunday. This macabre family tale could easily have been melodramatic in a badTV kind of way, but allied to the powerful central performances is Lee Daniels's excellent direction and an awesome palette of oranges and blues that is reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai. The dream sequences in which Precious imagines her life as a superstar, make a striking contrast with the drab everyday details of her existence and are particularly well executed. It is through her interaction with others - her teacher (Paula Patton), a mystery man (Lenny Kravitz) and her social worker (a career-defining turn from Mariah Carey) that the true horror of Gabby's existence is related. Despite the heavy subject matter Daniels manages to find a perfect balance between heartache and laughter in on of the best American films of the past year.