Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Adepero Oduye is Spectacular in Dee Rees' "Pariah"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 44 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux

Pariah (2011)
Running time: 86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
MPAA – R for sexual content and language
PRODUCER: Nekisa Cooper
EDITOR: Mako Kamitsuna


Starring: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Kim Wayans, Charles Parnell, Sahra Mellesse, and Aasha Davis

Pariah is a 2011 independent film from director Dee Rees. This contemporary drama is a coming of age story about a Brooklyn teen discovering her sexual identity, while negotiating her way through the very different worlds of the lesbian club scene and of her conservative family. Filmmaker Spike Lee is one of the film’s executive producers.

The film centers on Alike Freeman (Adepero Oduye), a 17-year-old African-American teenager who lives in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. She lives with her family: her religious mother, Audrey (Kim Wayans); her policeman father, Arthur (Charles Parnell); and her younger sister, Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse).

Alike is gradually embracing her identity as a lesbian, with her openly gay friend, Laura (Pernell Walker), as her guide and support. At home, however, her parents’ marriage has reached a breaking point, and the tension grows whenever her parents discuss her development as a person. When she begins to socialize with Bina (Aasha Davis), a young woman who attends her high school, Alike starts to feel better about her identity, but her family and her social life only grow more complicated.

The easy way out of this review is to say that Pariah is an amazing film, because, y’all, it surely is. I cannot think of a film that deals with the black gay teen experience as well as Pariah does, and if there is one, all the better. The comic actress, Kim Wayans, as other members of the Wayans clan have done, takes a moment to show the range and scope of her talent with a dramatic turn as Alike’s mother, Audrey, that is rich in pathos.

If this movie is a revelation (and it is), then, it is all the more a surprise because Adepero Oduye as Alike Freeman is an illumination casting much needed light on the corporate product landscape that is the American film industry. As Alike blossoms, as a young adult and as a young artist, Adepero grows onscreen before our eyes. The joy we see in Alike as she becomes more confident and assured in the choices that she makes, the more Adepero seizes command of this film.

Adepero has a winning, Tom Cruise-like smile. Dee Rees has made a winning film that will make you smile like Tom Cruise. This film promises a lot in terms of Rees talent. If by chance she doesn’t live up to it that will be understandable. Pariah is a fine film and will certainly be a hard act to follow.

9 of 10

2012 Black Reel Awards: 1 win: “Best Breakthrough Performance” (Adepero Oduye); 8 nominations: “Best Actress” (Adepero Oduye), “Best Breakthrough Performance” (Kim Wayans), “Best Director” (Dee Rees), “Best Ensemble” (Kim Wayans, Adepero Oduye, Charles Parnell, Sahra Mellesse, Aasha Davis, Pernell Walker), “Best Film” (Nekisa Cooper), “Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted” (Dee Rees), “Outstanding Supporting Actress” (Kim Wayans), and “Outstanding Supporting Actress” (Pernell Walker)

2012 Image Awards: 1 win: “Outstanding Independent Motion Picture;” 6 nominations: "Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture" (Adepero Oduye), “Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture-Theatrical or Television” (Dee Rees), “Outstanding Motion Picture,” “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture” (Charles Parnell), “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Kim Wayans), and “Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture-Theatrical or Television” (Dee Rees)

Monday, May 28, 2012


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