Bill T. Jones on Lee Daniels

'Precious' inspires fellow director

I was moved to see the arrival of such a film. The story has a specificity to a certain group of people, and there’s an interesting exploration of nonconventional editing, story­telling, etc. I applaud it. Some observers would like to put the film in a category of social justice, claiming that this film is about political ideas rather than art. In my opinion, that’s a component that gives the film an added allure. Yes, it has a message. But that’s not necessarily what makes it a strong film for me.

There’s a scene in the film where Precious has finally been taken into an alternative school, and there’s a very self-conscious but effective 360-degree tracking shot of the walls of the room, and we see what looks like TV screens of various political and cultural imagery, implying that this is her experience of education. It’s an insightful directorial choice. I also like the intercutting of Precious’ fantasy world at moments of trauma (of which there are many in the film) that bring to the surface Precious’ inner life, as if it came from the pop culture she has access to. It is camp and funny and over the top but also extremely moving.

All the casting is spot on and, in particular, Gabourey Sidibe as Precious. We seldom see a person with Precious’ body moving joyously free as a healthy sexual being — all things her evolving character has yet to find in her “real” life. This device is touching, wise, and it’s good filmmaking. It teaches something about this woman and her world, which is our world.

A Tony winner for choreographing “Spring Awakening,” Bill T. Jones helmed this season’s new Broadway musical “Fela!”

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