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By Scott Knopf | January 26, 2009

“Push” tells the story of Clareece ‘Precious’ Jones, a strong young woman who overcomes every odd life throws at her. Precious is poor, illiterate, overweight, and pregnant with her second child (both of whom were due to her own father’s sexual abuse). On top of that, her mother Mary (Mo’Nique) is one of the ugly and vile human beings to ever exist. She spews hate every time her lips part. Not only does she just stand by while her daughter is raped, she beats that same daughter for “taking her man.” Living a life that most people couldn’t even imagine, the tough-hearted and thick-skinned teen presses forward after each hit and becomes determined to makes something of herself despite her current situation. “F**k today” is her motto as Precious continues to look to the future instead of dwelling on the past or present.

Gabourey Sidibe is a force to be reckoned with. After being prompted to audition for the film, this collegiate theater actress made her film debut in one of the year’s best films, possibly the best. Donning the face of a warrior, Sidibe, who in real life is bubbly and humorous, transforms into this character so full of hurt and pain that she involuntarily trusts no one. The performance is so convincing that it’s jarring to realize that Precious is a fictional character. No disrespect to the women nominated for Best Actress this year, but one of you wouldn’t have received a phone call that morning if “Push” had come out a few months earlier.

Lee Daniels (who also made 2005’s “Shadowboxer”) did the unthinkable when he cast the film’s supporting roles. First, he brought on a comedian, Mo’Nique, to play the wretched villain. Then he cast two singers (one of whom “won” a Worst Actress Razzie Award) to play substantial characters. Lenny Kravitz plays a nurse who bonds with Precious after she delivers her baby and Mariah Carey plays a social worker who swears to help the standoffish teenager.

Daniels’ casting choices were inspired because every single person who shows up on screen from the leads to the bit players all does their part to strengthen “Push.” The two actress’ performances deserve special attention especially. Carey is almost unrecognizable in her role and ends every doubt about her acting chops that “Glitter” (2001) set in place. Mo’Nique’s performance as the abusive mother is untouchable. Thankfully, she got the praise she deserved when she won the Special Jury Prize for Acting Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, just one of three awards given to “Push” during the ceremony.

“Push” also took home both U.S. Drama trophies making it only the third film in the festival’s history to win both the Grand Jury and the Audience awards. With its brutally honest depiction of life with abuse to its inspirational themes and messages, Daniel’s film deserves to be seen. He has been quoted as saying that he just wants to “tell my truth” and it’s clear that “Push” is a part of that truth.

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