I remember Sapphire's 1996 novel, Push, on which this movie is based, as being unrelentingly heavy. An illiterate 300-pound girl, pregnant for the second time at 16 with her father's child, is subject to an ugly sack of abuse by the depraved father, by her angry mother, and by strangers who see her size as an invitation to assault her verbally, sometimes physically.
The movie, Precious, still weighty, has moments of lightness, especially in the girls-only classroom of the last-chance school Precious attends. Thrown together, Precious and her classmates form an unlikely fabric, a safety net that catches and holds them all. Without getting all preachy, those scenes suggest what Precious will come to learn: that education is the way out of her particular hell.
Gabourey Sidibe brings intelligence and growing awareness to her sullen, illiterate Precious. The comic Mo'nique is a powerfully vile and monstrous mother. Lenny Kravitz has a small role as a sympathetic nurse. Paula Patton has an impossibly decent role as the saintly teacher. Mariah Carey, who plays the social worker, should stick to singing. And is that the novel's author who has a cameo in the daycare scene at the end?
Lee Daniels directed. Oprah and Tyler Perry produced.