Alongside other reviewers, Courtney made it clear that the film—about an obese, illiterate African American teenager who is HIV-positive and pregnant by her father for the second time—is often unbearable to watch. Filmmaker Lee Daniels and executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry were committed to capturing the rawness of their source material, poet Sapphire's 1996 novel, Push. (NPR has helpfully posted an excerpt from the book, though some of the language may be offensive). Sexual abuse and violence are pervasive themes throughout the film, which earned five Independent Spirit Award nominations last week.
Claireece "Precious" Jones's nickname is, of course, ironic. In others' as well as her own eyes, she's the antithesis of one who is esteemed, cherished, or beloved, as the American Heritage Dictionary puts it. Growing up in Harlem in 1987, Precious refers to herself as the "ugly black grease to be washed from the street." Her parents have no doubt led her to conclude thus. Her father, who we never see except when he is raping her, has abused Precious since she was a toddler; her mother, a bitter welfare recipient who spends her days chain smoking in front of the TV, inflicts on her daughter constant verbal and physical assault, telling her at one point, "I should have aborted your a**." Until attending an alternative school, where her teacher, Ms. Rain, has the effect of dignifying those around her, Precious is not so much a person with agency as an object to which terrible things are done. And perpetual poverty is the backdrop for her family's story, telling ...1
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