Precious: Gritty Candor or 'Poverty Porn'?
Harlem drama brutally honest, some say manipulative
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2009 8:52 AM CST

(Newser) Precious packs a strong emotional punch with its story of an abused, illiterate teen in '80s Harlem, but where some critics see candid greatness, others see "poverty porn."

  • Precious is "a great American film," writes Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times, that finds a believable way to move from "a landscape of despair" to an inspiring ending. Star Gabourey Sidibe makes a fantastic debut and "three other actresses perform so powerfully in the film that Academy voters will be hard-pressed to choose among them."

  • What director Lee Daniels at times "lacks as a craftsman," Scott Foundas writes in the Village Voice, "he makes up for in his willingness to put the lives of abused and defeated black women on the screen with brute-force candor and a lack of sentimentality."
  • But Dana Stevens, writing for Slate, finds that effort to "wring uplift' from a hard-knocks story manipulative. "Daniels' need to shove the reality of Precious' life in our faces, and wave it around till we acknowledge its awfulness, winds up robbing the audience (and, to some extent, the actors) of all agency." Further, in offering up their heroine's misery for the audience's delectation, he's created something uncomfortably close to poverty porn."