Monday, February 13, 2012

96% Pariah

"Pariah," from first-time writer/director Dee Rees, doesn't break much artistic ground. It tells the same gay/lesbian coming-out story that we've seen a million times. But it's told particularly well and from within a black urban context, which I don't believe has been done before. It also goes a bit deeper into the hearts and minds of the homophobic parents than typically is done, which was great. Unfortunately, it only scratches those surfaces. Kim Wayans, who of course has a long history in comedy, shows she has major dramatic talent, playing the homophobic mother of the main character. The cast is universally good, but Wayans is the stand-out. The main character is a black teenage girl in Brooklyn going through the coming-out process. She has fully come out to herself as a lesbian, and she has even found her way into a lesbian circle of friends. She even frequents a women's night club. But she hasn't told Mom or Dad about any of this, both of whom are homophobic. Mom is particularly venomous in her hatred of gays and lesbians. You can see that Dad, a detective in the NYPD, in his heart of hearts is not a bigot. Thrown into the mix to complicate things a little bit is a bisexual girl eager to have lesbian experiences to explore herself. But she tosses lesbians aside like useless candy wrappers after she's had her fun. If I were going to give Dee Rees advice, I would say this: Ms. Rees, in "Pariah" you started digging into the parent characters with some real psychological and artistic depth. I encourage you to go more deeply in that direction. I think your true gifts as an artist lie there. I would give anything to see a sequel where you explore what happened to that mother and what she's really fighting. You hint that her husband is beginning to stray, but I think there's more in there. Help us see it. Remember when that great schoolteacher tells Alike that she could "go deeper" with her poetry? You could go deeper with your films. I know you could.

January 1, 2012


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