|Inbal Weinberg||:||Production Designer|
|Eniola Dawodu||:||Costume Designer|
Pariah Opens Dec 28 at Select Theaters Nationwide (see bottom)
Pariah opens with two teenaged girls talking about how much pussy they get…. Yes, that’s right, I said pussy. This immediately lets you know the movie is not about a black church‘s struggles to stay afloat down south by selling chitlin’ nuggets and french fries to the locals.
Initially it also appears Alika, the main character, is having major identity issues with her sexuality after coming to terms with the fact that she is a lesbian, however, it becomes apparent almost immediately during the film that all the characters are dealing with their own personal demons. Alika is coming to terms with the fact that she is gay but she has the dual dilemma of trying to discover where she fits in as a gay girl in the gay world and she is determined, to no avail, to face the impossible task of not disappointing her parents with the revelation, especially her mother, Audrey, a staunch, religious, bible-toting, bitter, homophobic, middle-aged woman with incredibly low self esteem, who refuses to see her greatest problem…. herself. This role is exceptionally played well with a first time dramatic role for comedian Kim Wayans.
Alike leans more towards being masculine but she is not quite a “stud” (extremely masculine lesbian) nor is she the soft damsel in distress. Her dead center juxtaposition of appearing as a possibly straight overgrown tomboy vs actually being gay has her mother in constant fear and worry. Audrey’s fear is not that her daughter is gay but it targets the typical black cultural standard in black families of DADT (Don’t ask Don’t Tell). She wants to know and she does not want to know because she is not sure she can handle another disappointment. Audrey is a woman mired in her own self created loneliness and nagging, she is desperately frustrated because she is unable to convince her husband that she can still be fucked. He has lost all interest in her and they are headed for a divorce and Audrey is not able to handle that either so her dual dilemma, she surmises, is her daughter being gay and a divorce. While Kim tries very hard not to be funny during this film she can’t hide it, she is just a naturally funny woman and there are a couple of moments where you do laugh but her dramatic effort is quite impressive at the same time. Audrey gets overly involved in introducing her mental instability to Alika by making her life miserable as well.
Alika’s best friend Laura is definitely a “stud” and Audrey does not like her and she makes a successful effort to introduce Alika to a friend of her’s from work’s daughter who goes to church with her. Audrey thinks this girl will make a good impression on Alika but she is unaware that the girl is actually bisexual. Audrey’s plan backfires when Alika and the girl end up fucking during a sleepover.
Laura is comfortable in her own skin even thought her mother has rejected her and she is living on her own with her sister while in high school. Alika’s desire not to disappoint her parents and to be accepted by them is more paramount than her ability to accept herself. In one particually funny scene, Alika asks Laura to buy her a strap on (fake dick or for the white readers “a fake cock“) that she can wear. Alika puts on the fixture and cannot figure out how to properly wear her newly purchased accessory. Then out of the blue her little sister walks into the room and discovers Laura showing Alika how to wear the machine and she threatens to tell their mother. Alika puts the unit away just in time before her mother bursts into the room.
I don’t want to give away too many details about the movie but it’s a brilliant effort by first time writer/director Dee Rees. She does an amazing job of weaving so many personal dilemmas and details in such a short time allowing the viewer to see it all and how the characters best resolve them during this movie. I have never seen any writer do this in a movie and by the time it’s over you can see that the only person who finds inner peace is Alika herself as she progresses on with her life and everyone else stays behind still dealing with their problems. The end result may be different things to different people but what I got was Alika was never the problem she was the excuse for other people’s problems.
PARIAH RELEASE SCHEDULE:
DECEMBER 28, 2011
Los Angeles, CA -ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood 14 & Dome
New York, NY -Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center – Landmark Sunshine Cinema 5
San Francisco, CA – Landmark Embarcadero Center Cinema 5
JANUARY 6, 2011
Cambridge, MA – Landmark Kendall Square Cinema 9
Chicago, IL – AMC River East 21 ETX – Landmark Century Centre Cinema 7
Dallas, TX – Landmark Magnolia 5
San Diego, CA – Landmark Hillcrest 5
Seattle, WA – Landmark Harvard Exit Theatre 2
Washington, DC – Landmark E-Street Cinema 8