AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2011
By Caitlyn Collins | October 28, 2011
Director: Dee Rees
Writer: Dee Rees
Starring: Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans, Pernell Walker, Charles Parnell, Aasha Davis, Sahra Mellesse
Being in high school is neither fun nor easy for most teens. This is especially true if you feel you can only reveal certain parts of yourself to certain people. Alike (Adepero Oduye) carries a change of clothes with her wherever she goes. To her friends she is a lesbian who hangs out at the new strip club with her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker). To her family she is a rebellious daddy’s girl who is beginning to dress too much like a boy. Pariah, directed by Dee Rees, tackles the complicated tale of trying to find your identity and learning to be comfortable with what you discover.
Alike, or Li as she is called, is a smart seventeen-year-old who excels at writing, something she is encouraged to do by her English teacher. Yet Li’s mother, Audrey (Kim Wayans), seems to focus only on Li’s friendship with Laura and the fact that her daughter hasn’t left her tomboy phase. Terrified of the truth, Audrey asks her husband Arthur (Charles Parnell) to have a talk with her. Li has the typical older/younger sibling relationship with her younger sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse), finding her a pesky nuisance. But luckily for Li, Sharonda seems to be the only family member that is fully aware and accepting of Li’s sexual orientation.
Pariah is a mostly realistic portrayal of teenage love, heartbreak, friendship, and family bonds. Perhaps the only real drawback is Rees’ ending; everything for Li wraps up a little too cleanly. Pariah is still a film worthy of being viewed by all young women.