Back in September during TIFF, Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire was the talk of the town, and won the festival’s People’s Choice Award. Now, as the movie premieres in the United States and abroad, it’s garnering more and more attention. What is it about this emotional film that causes so much talk?

The subject matter of the film is tough, tough stuff. It’s about an illiterate, obese high school student named Precious who is repeatedly raped by her father, and pregnant with his second child. Her invalid mother lives off welfare cheques for Precious’ first child, who has Down’s Syndrome. Far from light-hearted, the film has nonetheless been a favourite of audiences, both at TIFF and at Sundance. Some criticism of the film has been that the main character simply has too many problems pushed upon her, and it’s unrealistic. Sadly, I don’t think that this is necessarily true.

A large part of the buzz surrounding the film is that it is produced by Oprah‘s production company Harpo Productions, and promoted by the Lady O herself. Part of Oprah’s interest in Precious is a personal bond to the story: Oprah was also molested by a family member during her childhood. The soundtrack features Mary J Blige, also sexually abused as a youth, and Mo’Nique, another cast member, has opened up to media about being raped by her brother. I think that part of the appeal of Precious is that sexual abuse is a theme that all too many women can relate to. And for the record, illiteracy, rape, obesity and AIDS are far from being unrealistic problems for one person to be saddled with. If only that were true.

The lead in the film, Gabourey Sidibe, was pulled from anonymity to stardom when she auditioned for the part on a whim, and landed it. Mo’Nique, Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey all lend their acting skills and star power to the film, and apparently Mariah really isn’t that bad this time. Seriously.

See for yourself what the hype is about when Precious comes to Canadian theatres November 20th.