Mini-Review: Pariah


Pariah

Drama, 2011

86 minutes

Starring: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Charles Parnell, Kim Wayans

Directed by: Dee Rees

Written by: Dee Rees


Pariah is the kind of movie that you could easily talk yourself out of seeing. It’s about the “tough” stuff: adultery, family tension, and growing up gay in a home, and situation, that not only doesn’t accept it but tries to suppress it. It is also, partially for that same reason, precisely the kind of movie you should see. Alike (pronounced a-LEE-kay) is a winsome teenage girl who is coming to terms with the fact that she is undeniably a lesbian. She is also black; in short, hers is a voice that is not often heard in popular culture, cinematic or otherwise. Her close friend, Laura, is her bridge into the world she wants to belong to: together they dress in baggy, masculine clothes and frequent a lesbian club that recently opened near where they live in Brooklyn. Her family, however, keeps her in the closest, pressuring her to be the daughter they want even when that is clearly at odds with what she wants for herself.

Alike’s struggle is at times harrowing, heartbreaking, and seemingly hopeless. Though we want her to find common ground with her family, and to be accepted for who she is, it seems evident early on that this cannot possibly happen. This film is not about wish fulfillment but about how we contend with the harshness of reality. Still, even beyond its important subject matter, Pariah is an excellent film, subtle but affecting, surprisingly funny at times, and beautifully acted. It understands its world, its perspective, and thus makes it wonderfully real and imperative to the viewer.

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