By Gary Murray


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


Written and directed by Dee Rees  


Running time 86 min


MPAA Rating R


Selig Film Rating Cable


Growing up is hard.   If one is a black lesbian, it must seem an insurmountable task.  In the new Spike Lee produced film Pariah, writer/director Dee Rees takes on this idea.


The story of Pariah is the story of Alike (Adepero Oduye).  She is a double minority, a young black lesbian.  She spends her time in school and in a local lesbian bar complete with strippers.  She is a poet who may have a shot at a scholarship.  Alike also hangs out with her ‘out of the closet’ best friend Laura (Pernell Walker).   The two are friends, nothing more. 


Her parents (Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) do not seem to have on clue about the true nature of their daughter, especially Mom who keeps pushing her little girl into clothes that Alike doesn’t want to wear.  The young lesbian is much more comfortable dressing as a young gang banger.


Eventually, Mom gets Alike to hang around with Bina (Aasha Davis) a very pretty girl who seems interested in experimentation.  The entire plot is about Alike finding out the difference between love and friendship while trying to deal with coming out to her parents.  It is also about crushes and first love, with all the pain it endures. 


Pariah is an interesting idea that lacks fundamental strong execution.   The film carries no surprises and has a very basic, no revelations execution.  This story has been told many times before, sometimes better.  The big flip is that it takes place in a world where it seems every young black woman is a lesbian.  It is a very forced premise.


As much as the entire film came across as bland, I found Aasha Davis compelling.  The young confused woman looking for a thrill seemed the most honest of the entire cast.  Some of the women in Pariah are truly part of the ‘sisterhood’ and others merely posers.  The Bina character came across more as bemused to test the waters.


Writer director Dee Rees based the film on her own life and the details seem true.  This must be a struggle to have to be true to oneself while being the dutiful daughter.  The deal is that sometimes a true personal story doesn’t make for a compelling motion picture experience. 


Pariah was a big hit at last years Sundance Film Festival and it has that independent feel.  I didn’t find much to like about the film but the film is really not made for me.  This movie is niche filmmaking, made for a specific audience.  It should do well with the LOGO crowd but doesn’t have much of a universal appeal. 


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