I feel a bit bad about this film because I wasn't moved in the way I thought I was going to be. In fact coming into this film, I was secretly terrified that I wouldn't be able to cope with the story's events and it would mess me up for several weeks. I certainly don't think you can sit in the cinema and be excited about seeing Precious. However I found the film strangely flat, and don't concur with the message "it will stay with you for days after."
I think the main problem isn't with the film itself, it's with the way society is today and how we en general mass have become so desensitised to everything. In my own case I work with the news every single day and I hear in detail about the most horrible stories that I ordinarily wouldn't have come across, not to mention the ongoing sadness that seems to come out of Afghanistan day after day after day. Your mind just becomes numb with information, with horror, with violence. It can still shock and upset you, but soon you've forgotten about it again and have sunk back into your cushy, protected life. I don't think it's our fault, it's just the way things have progressed. Look at all those awful magazines you get on the shelves these days bearing exclusive real life stories of bodies being chopped up into several pieces, of partners being secret rapists and murderers, of domestic abuse getting out of control. Look at The Jeremy Kyle Show. Look at the popularity of 'misery memoirs'. People lap up these sensationalist revelations because they want to feel good about their own normal, happy lives. This is the way of the world today.
So unfortunately Precious doesn't pack that dehabilitating punch. The events are horrible, and you feel incredible sympathy and desperation for Precious to fight through the pain of what she is going through and not succumb to the path that has been carved out for her by her abusive parents. At the same time though it is impossible to identify with her character because of the extremes of her situation, so there is always a distance there that cannot be accessed. As an outsider looking in you come to relate more to the characters in the film who are doing the same thing, such as Miss Rain and the social worker. It was the scenes where these characters met with Precious that carried the most emotional impact, and made me upset (Miss Rain telling Precious that people do love her, and the confrontation scene between Precious, her mother and the social worker at the welfare).
The acting is impeccable. Gabourey Sidibe pulls out a strong and heartfelt performance as Precious, and in her interviews she always comes across so eloquent and astute. She really got this part, and becomes it. Mo'nique has made herself into a thoroughly despicable but at the same time irreparably damaged character as her mother, whose final scene in particular is agonising to witness as she tells Precious her version of events. Paula Patton is great as the redeeming teacher, and Mariah Carey's performance is full of nuance: she is actually very good in this role, and in no way a distraction in the film.
I enjoyed the scenes in the classroom the most, and the happiness and feeling of hope Precious gets from being around her new friends (Joanna in particular is a riot!). Also really liked Lennie Kravitz as the male nurse who has a lot of time for Precious - I didn't realise it was him until several days after, even though I recognised the face. Wasn't massively into the dream sequences that the film dissolved into occasionally - the transition was very good at apt times of the story, but they disrupted the tone.
Go and see Precious, as it's a powerful story of fighting adversity and finding love and hope in a harrowing world and it deserves an audience. It will make you cry a lot, but also will leave you feeling upbeat with some strong central performances. But I must quietly admit it wasn't as powerful as I'd gone in expecting.