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Film / Precious

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Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire is a 2009 film directed by Lee Daniels and starring Gabourey Sidibe as Precious. It is based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

This film contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Precious's father has repeatedly raped her, and her mother has gone as far as to, among other acts, toss a TV at her after falling down the steps with her son, Abdul. It is implied that she also forces Precious to have sex with her. In the book she definitely does.
  • Adaptation Title Change: Precious is based on the novel Push. The movie's poster even makes this very clear.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Despite efforts to make the actresses more homely, the characters in the film are much better looking than the characters as described in the book. In the book, Mary is morbidly obese to the point of not being able to fit in the bathtub; her appearance in the film is not that extreme.
  • Adaptational Curves: In the movie, Precious is even fatter than she was in the book, where she's said to be about 200 lbs. She's played by the 285-lb. Gabourey Sidibe.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Mary is a much bigger jerkass in the book than she is in the film, as the book is much more graphic regarding the details of the emotional and physical abuse that she puts Precious through.
  • Ambiguously Brown: There's a scene where Precious and Miss Weiss are talking, and Precious can't tell what ethnicity she is, and asks if she's "Italian, or black, or some type of Spanish." Not to mention that "Weiss" is usually an Ashkenazic Jewish surname and Jews of mixed race descent aren't completely unheard of. If Miss Weiss is anything like her actress, she should be bi-racial.
  • And Starring: The posters say "and introducing Gabourey Sidibe," since that was her first major film role.
  • Apathetic Citizens: One of the saddest parts of the film is how the majority of the people in Precious's world are simply inured to the horrific abuse they all suffer and no longer care about it. Even when Mary is violently beating Precious and her grandson, the most her neighbors can do is half-heartedly scold Mary for it.
  • Apathetic Teacher: The teachers at Precious's first school are either completely uncaring or too weak-willed to stand up to bullies. Precious has to serve as an "enforcer" for her math teacher by getting her fellow students to be quiet. We later learn that Precious somehow received an A-minus in English despite not knowing how to read, likely because she never spoke and didn't cause any trouble. Averted with Miss Rain, who is a genuinely caring teacher.
  • Ascended Extra: The young actress who plays Ruby (the little girl in Precious' building) started out as an extra.
  • Asshole Victim: Carl dies from HIV towards the end of the movie. When Mary tells Precious this, her response is simply "Is that all?"
  • Bait the Dog: When Precious returns to her apartment with her newborn son Abdul, Mary at first seems to have taken a level in kindness and even holds the baby, but then she violently tosses the child like a rag doll and goes back to abusing her daughter. This leads to a scuffle, with Precious finally fighting back and escaping the apartment with Abdul, narrowly avoiding the TV set Mary drops on her from the balcony.
  • Based on a True Story: The author says she based the characters and situations in the book on young people she knew in New York City in the late 1980s.
  • Beauty Inversion:
    • Mariah Carey as Precious' social worker is almost unrecognizable. Provides the trope image.
    • Gabourey Sidibe is made to look larger using unflattering clothes and hairstyles along with a menacing, surly glower.
    • Sherri Shepard as the receptionist at the alternative school. She has braids and is also almost unrecognizable, but not nearly as much as Mariah Carey.
  • Berserk Button: Calling Precious fat. One of her classmates learned the hard way.
  • Big Bad: Precious's abusive mother Mary is the main antagonist.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mary pretending to be nice to Mongo in front of a visiting social worker from welfare, only to be mean to her afterwards, especially in the eyes of Precious' visiting maternal grandmother Tootsie who fears and even hated her daughter Mary. Mary catches Precious trying to give candy back to Mongo, but refuses her to give her back the candy and allows her to put it back on the floor. Mary arrogantly thinks Precious and Mongo are stupid and not perfect.
  • Bookends: The film opens with Precious having an Imagine Spot of Tom Cruise flirting with her, a sign of her low self-esteem and desire to escape into fantasy. At the conclusion, Precious walks toward the city and imagines him again... only now he's talking to another girl, and Precious doesn't even acknowledge him as she passes by, showing that she's now more grounded in both reality and her own skin.
  • But Not Too Black: Precious explicitly states that among her many dreams is to have a light-skinned boyfriend. She has only posters of white film stars on her wall to emphasize her poor self-image (and how she believes that white people have it better than she does).
  • Child by Rape: Both of Precious's children.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Precious has at least 75 uses of the F-word, mostly from Mary.
  • Creator Cameo: Sapphire has a cameo in the very beginning, in one of Precious's fantasy sequences. She also shows up toward the end of the film in a daycare center.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: The poster, seen above. This one's less Hitchcock-y. This one tells the whole story.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Mary is implied to be one. She had a sexual relationship with her husband Carl, and is later shown forcing her own daughter to give her oral sex (off-screen).
  • Desperately Craves Affection: Precious is sexually abused by her father and is implied to have had the same thing happen to her by her mother, who also piles emotional and physical abuse on her including telling her nobody is ever going to love her. She receives no genuine familial affection from her family so Precious finds a way out of her traumatic daily life by escaping into daydreams. In her mind, she has created an alternate world where she is loved and appreciated.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Mary takes all her anger and sexual frustrations out on her daughter Precious after her husband Carl began sexually abusing Precious and Carl not wanting to sleep with Mary anymore.
  • Dream Sue: Precious often escapes her cruel reality by imagining herself as things she believes she can never be, such as a successful celebrity loved by everyone, a girl capable of getting a very handsome boyfriend, a beautiful white teenager, or, in the saddest example, a girl who's recognized in her yearbook, with friendly teachers and a loving family. In reality she is often outcast, has to resort to extremes to get what she wants, is morbidly obese, is despised and abused by her mother, and raped and impregnated twice by her father.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Despite contracting HIV from her father, Precious manages to dig herself out of the hell of her past life. She is reading at a near high school level by the end of the film, has new friends, severs all ties with her mother, is in possession of both her children, and has gained a new lease on life. Her next move as the film ends is to complete a GED test, which will allow her to graduate high school.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mary Johnston. She allows her husband to rape their daughter, impregnating her twice. The firstborn child has Down's Syndrome and she sends that child to live with the grandmother. She receives welfare, but only spends it on herself, and puts on a wonderful mother routine when the social worker comes for visits. Even worse still, Mary physically, verbally, emotionally, and also sexually abuses Precious and eventually physically abuses the second baby that Precious gives birth to.
  • Force Feeding: Mary demands that her daughter cook for her. Precious cooks a meal of pigs' feet. However, she forgets to make collard greens. Mary is furious, and she forces Precious to eat the meal, claiming Precious "fucked it up". Precious is not hungry, but she ends up eating the meal. While eating the pigs' feet and watching an old Italian film with Mary, Precious sees herself in the movie with her mother taunting her with "mangia, puttana" ("eat, you whore").
  • Gospel Choirs Are Just Better: In one of her fantasy daydreams, Precious imagines herself in a choir much more magnificent than the one she is watching rehearse at a local church.
  • Hate Sink. Carl. Despite having limited scenes, he ruined Precious’s life by cheating on his wife with her, repeatedly molesting Precious, giving her HIV, so there’s nothing redeemable and good about him.
  • Hidden Depths: Precious may have limited literacy skills, but she makes up for this by being surprisingly good at math, obviously brought about by her infatuation with her math teacher, which meant she always paid attention in his classes.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire.
  • Incest-ant Admirer: Carl desires to one day marry his own daughter Precious and continue sexually abusing her. Precious is disgusted at this.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Why Mary abuses Precious: because her husband was too busy sexually abusing Precious, Mary felt since there was no one else she could turn to, decided to sexually abuse Precious as well. To satisfy her own needs as well hoping by doing so will help draw her husband back to her.
  • It's All About Me: This is ultimately Mary's Fatal Flaw — she's completely self-absorbed and selfish to the point of abusing her daughter and grandchildren. Her boyfriend Carl started raping Precious at age three and never let up, but Mary, rather than trying to help her daughter, became violently envious and abusive because she thought Precious was "stealing" him from her. She later forces Precious to claim that both of her own children (who Carl fathered) live with her so she can collect welfare checks which she only spends on herself. During her Motive Rant at the end of the film, Mary reveals that she even forced Precious into sexual acts because she wanted someone to "make her feel good."
  • Karmic Death: After decades of sleeping around and also raping Precious for most of her life, Carl dies from HIV. Unfortunately, he passed it on to her the last time he forced himself on her.
  • Kick the Dog:
    • Mary delivers quite a scathing hate speech in the beginning to Precious after one of her teachers pays a visit to their home and Mary blames Precious for everything (even though Precious didn't even invite the woman to her home in the first place).
      Mary: See, I think right now, you feeling like you're becomin' a grown woman. 'Cause that shit you pulled in the kitchen... I shoulda fucked you up. But I let you walk away. And I let you get yourself together. But, bitch, I'mma let you know, if you ever pull that shit again, that'll be your last mothafuckin' day standing. I promise you that. You gon' send a white bitch to my mothafuckin' buzzer? Talkin' 'bout some higher education? You're a dummy, bitch! You will never know shit! Don't nobody want you, don't nobody need you! You done fucked around and fucked my mothafuckin' man? And had two mothafuckin' children? And one of 'ems a goddamn animal, runnin' 'round lookin' crazy as a mothafucka? Bitch, you know what? See, I think you... I think you tryin' me. I think you tryin' to fuck with me. You fuckin' with my money... and you gon' stand up there and look at me like you a mothafuckin' woman? I'mma show you what real women do, bitch. See, you don't know what real mothafuckin' women do. Real mothafuckin' women sacrifice! I shoulda aborted your mothafuckin' ass! 'Cause you ain't shit! I knew it when the doctor put you in my goddamn hand you wasn't a goddamn thing and you have that smirk on your face, bitch? Get it off your fucking face! [throws a vase at Precious] Now smile about that! Smile about that, you fat bitch!
    • Precious reveals that she delivered her first child Mongo while lying on the floor as her mother Mary was kicking her on the head.
    • Mary seems to have become nicer to Precious and asks to hold her new grandchild... only to deliberately drop him and start beating Precious again. This inspires Precious to finally fight back and move out for good.
  • Lack of Empathy: Mary’s entire characterization, bar none. From abusing her daughter and grandchildren, there’s nothing she won’t stoop so low to regardless over how many people she hurts. The final low point for Previous is when Mary yelling at her face over “taking” her man, right after throwing down her newborn grandson. Precious rightfully yells back over the glaring facts that she never “took” her man and he raped her. But this makes Mary even more furious, yelling back her belief that she was never raped.
  • Lazy Bum: Mary refuses to look for work and mooches off the government. It’s also a reason why she wanted to get Precious to live in her house again after the latter ran away from home (due to the welfare checks getting cut off since Mary had no dependents).
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Both Ms. Weiss and her girlfriend are feminine.
  • Living Photo: Played for Drama; the title character looks through her photo album, a photo of her mother Mary comes to life and shows her to be a loving and caring parent and a picture of her math teacher Mr. Wichell, who she has a crush on and tells her that he plans to leave his wife for her.
  • Living with the Villain: Precious living with her abusive mother and sexually abusive father. Justified in that she has nowhere else to go. She eventually escapes, with Miss Rain's help, to a halfway house.
  • Love Triangle: In Mary's eyes, she thinks she has to compete with her own daughter Precious over her husband Carl, when in reality Precious is being sexually abused by Carl and doesn't want anything to do with him.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Mary. She is unemployed, is never seen looking for a job or enrolling in any type of school, receives government assistance, misuses the system to the point where she wants Precious to start receiving government assistance due to her (Precious) having a child. Mary also abuses Precious, constantly calling her stupid and berating her for wanting more out of life for herself and her children. It is also implied that Mary sexually abuses Precious as well. Mary and Precious also reside in a shabby apartment in a very seedy section of New York City.
  • Masturbation Means Sexual Frustration: Mary is seen indulging in this in her bed before calling for Precious and forcing her to "finish her off" off-screen.
  • Middle Name Basis: Precious' first name is Clarisse, but she's called Precious by everybody.
  • Missing Reflection: Precious, comparing her situation to a film she saw. At a party, someone takes a Polaroid shot of five people, but only one shows up: the rest were vampires. Like them, a girl in her situation has "no place in the picture". Precious feels her true inner self deserves such a place. She sees her soul as slim and white for this reason: later, she understands that she deserves to be in the picture no matter what she looks like.
  • Misplaced Retribution; As the social worker points out, Mary should've been mad at Carl for sexually abusing their daughter Precious. Instead, she forces physical, mental and sexual abuse onto Precious.
  • Never My Fault: Mary claims to Ms. Weiss that she isn't at fault for being aware of her husband Carl sexually abusing Precious and not stopping him in the first place. Ms. Weiss argues that she still "allowed" him to abuse her daughter and calls her out on it.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The television commercials show only the main character's day-dream sequencing, implying that the film is about an up-and-coming diva, when the actual film is not even close.
  • "Not If They Enjoyed It" Rationalization: Mary's thoughts on Precious; she explicitly blames Precious for everything Carl did because she didn't fight him off.
  • Pædo Hunt: Carl began raping Precious when she was three years old, and didn't let up for over a decade.
  • Parental Incest: Precious is raped by her father, resulting in two children and HIV. It's strongly implied that Precious's mother forces her to "take care of her" (i.e., perform oral sex on her) because she feels that her daughter drove her boyfriend off and, as she says, "Who was gonna love me?"
  • Photo Op with the Dog: Precious's mother Mary pretends like they live with Precious's child who has Down Syndrome in order to get welfare. In reality, Mary hates the child and calls her an animal.
  • Principles Zealot: Implied with Mary. If you go by the way she treated Precious, it was implied that Mary was taught that her job as a wife comes first and she should stay loyal to a man no matter how horrible of a human being he is. This may be why she allows Carl to abuse her daughter Precious.
  • Psychological Projection: Mary often tells Precious that she is unwanted, worthless, fat and incapable of doing well in everything. Yet she doesn’t seem to have any friends, chooses to rely on welfare checks rather than look for work and is also overweight. Precious, on the other hand, makes an active effort to get her GED and is able to establish genuine friendships with her classmates. It’s clear that Mary hates herself and her own circumstances so takes her anger out on Precious.
  • Race Lift: Ms. Weiss is Ambiguously Brown (played by Mariah Carey, who has mixed African and white ancestry). In the book, Ms. Weiss is white and Precious does not fully trust her.
  • Rape Discretion Shot: Mary masturbates in her bed before calling for Precious and forcing her to "finish her off". The screen fades to black before Precious has to do so off-screen.
  • A Saint Named Mary: Subverted with Precious's mother Mary, who is physically and emotionally abusive, foul-mouthed and deceitful.
  • Scary Black Man: Precious's Abusive Parents, her father repeatedly raped her, while her mother also takes it out on her daughter as well.
  • Screaming Birth: Precious uses this when she goes into labor at school. The scene cuts to her being on a stretcher, howling in pain. A nurse comes to Precious' stretcher and tells her to stop making noise. She does for two seconds and then goes right back to screaming.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: After her mother purposely drops her infant son Abdul and abuses her again, Precious fights back, gathers her son and runs out of there.
  • Short Title: Long, Elaborate Subtitle: Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Precious stands up to her mother Mary when the latter deliberately drops her infant grandson Abdul and accuses Precious of "stealing" Carl from her.
  • Sir Swears Alot: Mary.
  • Situational Sexuality: Since her husband is never home and she's too lazy to go out and find somebody else to satisfy her, Mary decides to sexually abuse Precious by forcing her to perform oral sex on her.
  • The Sociopath: Carl fits this trope to a T. He's a drug user who has no qualms about sleeping around with many partners besides Mary and Precious (he actually has a wife, but clearly has no love for her). What really makes him this, however, is the fact that he's been raping his own daughter for nearly her entire life and didn't stop until her second pregnancy by him finally drove him out of the house. He's clearly completely aware that the odds of producing children with some kind of deformity or developmental disorder is very high (as evidenced by the first child being born with Down's syndrome) but doesn't care about anything except satisfying his lust.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In a few places. The movie has REALLY surreal moments. The most bizarre might be the scene where Precious and her mother fight, accompanied by a gospel Christmas song.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Twice, in fact Precious' first pregnancy is almost a preteen pregnancy.
  • Tranquil Fury: Ms. Weiss calmly (and angrily) calls Mary out on allowing Carl to abuse Precious.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Mary suffers one and unleashes her fury on Precious after Precious reveals her children's true heritage and the government stops sending Mary welfare checks.
    Mary: School ain't gonna help none. Take your ass down to the welfare! Who the fuck she thinks she is?! So I guess you think you cute now, right?! Ol' uppity bitch! You should've kept yo fuckin' mouth shut! Just because he gon' give you more children than he gave me, you think you're something fuckin' special?! Fuck you and fuck him!
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Precious, after she steals and eats fried chicken on the run.note  Precious doesn't vomit in the book and her narration makes it clear this isn't bulimia; she's eating for two.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Mary had no issue tossing baby Abdul around.