Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire 2009

Critics score:
91 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

A.O. Scott, At the Movies: While the director, Lee Daniels, does not shy away from the grimmest elements of the story, his eclectic filmmaking style is almost exhilarating, finding room for fantasy, operatic melodrama, and authentic humor. Read more

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: This is an exceptional film about nearly unendurable circumstances, endured. You will come out the other side of it a markedly enriched filmgoer. Read more

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: Precious stacks the deck so high against its protagonist that in almost any other movie, she would come off as a helpless victim. Read more

Kathleen Murphy, MSN Movies: This remarkable, first-time actress makes Clareece truly precious, a full-fledged member of the human tribe. Read more

A.O. Scott, New York Times: A hybrid, a mash-up that might have been ungainly, but that manages to be graceful instead. Read more

David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture: Daniels does everything to hold the melodrama at bay, but there's only so much he can do. Read more

Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: This is a fine movie, and a deep one. It's about unearthing buried treasure. Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: No, Precious is not an easy sit, and isn't meant to be. But it's a film of remarkable strength and poignancy, filled with vivid performances that stay with you long after you've left the theater. Read more

Noel Murray, AV Club: Precious punishes the audience with scene after scene of squalor and hopelessness, but like last year's poverty-can-be-entertaining hit Slumdog Millionaire, it rewards them for hanging on 'til the end. Read more

Wesley Morris, Boston Globe: Avoiding the conventional tricks of lifting an audience up, the movie looks into this girl's wide, brown face and her bleak little life and sees, despite everything, a reason to live. Read more

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: The girl's story is almost unbearably painful, and when Precious finally reclaims her dignity and self-worth, her accomplishment seems genuinely heroic. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: It melodramatizes everything and yet its overall effect is something more than melodrama. Read more

Lisa Kennedy, Denver Post: Mo'Nique plunges headfirst into a moral abyss that makes her frightening. Read more

Tom Long, Detroit News: If you do watch -- and you certainly should -- you will see one of the most remarkable performances ever set to film, given by Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe. Read more

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: Precious captures how a lost girl rouses herself from the dead, and Daniels shows unflinching courage as a filmmaker by going this deep into the pathologies that may still linger in the closets of some impoverished inner-city lives. Read more

Amy Nicholson, I.E. Weekly: You can feel Daniels struggling to trust his mighty goddesses to carry the film. (He wedges in shots of boiling pigs feet to make sure we're queasy.) Read more

Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times: One that you hope will not be dismissed as too difficult, because it should not be missed. Read more

Rafer Guzman, Newsday: The remarkable Sidibe is one of several daring casting choices by director Lee Daniels. Read more

Anthony Lane, New Yorker: What rescues Precious is the performance of Mo'Nique as Mary, the heroine's Medusa-like mother. Read more

Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger: The whole thing begins to feel like The Color Purple as rewritten for a poetry slam, heaping on the abuse like a horror film. Read more

Bob Mondello, NPR: Daniels may be indulging in stunt casting, and slamming plot points home with sledgehammer subtlety, but the film's milieu and characters feel alarmingly real. And its story ends up packing an emotional wallop. Read more

Elizabeth Weitzman, New York Daily News: Daniels is not a subtle director, and he encourages Mo'Nique's powerful expansiveness. But it's much harder to act quietly than loudly, as Sidibe must do, and her still grace should not be mistaken for blankness. Read more

Lou Lumenick, New York Post: Believe the hype. Read more

Rex Reed, New York Observer: It's a once-in-a-blue-moon experience that tests the boundaries of film, with an electrifying, positively Oscar-worthy performance by salty stand-up comic Mo'Nique, as the most monstrous mother on the planet. Read more

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: Director Lee Daniels takes us on a journey -- letting us look down our noses at this misshapen lump of a girl with contempt and pity. But Sidibe plays shadings of strength underneath that eventually win our grudging respect. Read more

Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer: Harrowing and marked by heroic performances, Lee Daniels' Precious looks squarely in the wounded eyes of its title character and sees a girl with poetry in her. Read more

James Berardinelli, ReelViews: There are pitfalls inherent in this kind of story, but indie director Lee Daniels sidesteps them, crafting a feature that is both emotionally honest and stirring. Read more

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times: The film is a tribute to Sidibe's ability to engage our empathy. Her work is still another demonstration of the mystery of some actors, who evoke feelings in ways beyond words and techniques. Read more

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Precious is an emotional powerhouse, a triumph of bruising humor and bracing hope that deserves its place among the year's best films. Read more

Amy Biancolli, San Francisco Chronicle: What a triumph of a film. Read more

Dana Stevens, Slate: In offering up their heroine's misery for the audience's delectation, they've created something uncomfortably close to poverty porn. Read more

Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune: Despite the film's clear social conscience and sympathy for the community it portrays, Precious never panders for compassion. Read more

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: The picture painted by director Lee Daniels is almost unbearably bleak, but it feels completely honest. It's indeed relentless, but also transfixing and ultimately transformative. Read more

Keith Uhlich, Time Out: Given the months-long hype, what's most bewildering about Sundance sensation Precious is its overall shrug-worthiness. Read more

Dave Calhoun, Time Out: A film full of life and love, well-meaning and, judging by the reaction in the US, a genuine and important phenomenon that says act - don't dwell - on your dreams. Read more

Christopher Orr, The New Republic: [I]f Precious has a crucial flaw, it is that it is at once too bleak and too hopeful in its closing scenes: too bleak in the history it unearths, and too hopeful that the mere fact of the unearthing will make that history go away. Read more

Claudia Puig, USA Today: It's hard to be unmoved by Precious' determination. Despite its melodramatic moments, remarkable performances drive home the film's inspiring message. Read more

John Anderson, Variety: An urban nightmare with a surfeit of soul, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" is like a diamond -- clear, bright, but oh so hard. Read more

Scott Foundas, Village Voice: A former casting director, Daniels shows undeniable savoir faire with his actors, a mix of musicians and comedians effectively cast against type. Read more

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: Surely qualifies as the most painful, poetic and improbably beautiful film of the year. Read more