For Reel

Pariah (2011)
January 7, 2012, 12:06 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Dee Rees

Gorgeously photographed by Bradford Young, Pariah marks the feature debut of a promising new director in Dee Rees, and, more significantly, it serves as an introduction to an enchanting actress by the name of Adepero Oduye, who I am surprised to learn plays a character half her own age. She is Alike, a black teenage lesbian who has accepted her sexuality even if the rest of her family has not. In the scenes in which she is by herself – transfixed by a naked woman in a strip joint, tearing apart her room in rage – the film is astonishingly powerful, however things get particularly problematic when it concerns the relationship that she has with her parents. Her mother is wrought to be no more than a bible-thumping, sadistically needy shrew (try as she might, actress Kim Wayans can not redeem the thankless role), whereas her policeman father, although troubled in his own ways, is ultimately understanding and kind to her. Though I doubt that director Dee Rees intended to send the message that this does, the parental dynamic condescendingly suggests that Alike pursues lesbianism solely out of disdain for her mother and her wish to be more like her father. Besides, the picture is at its best when it concerns Alike’s own relationship with her sexuality, and, in resorting to exterior obstacles which are architected to be nothing more than that, it becomes less a picture about coming out and more a film about how awful parents can be to their children.


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