A Film for the Majority of the Minority
Pariah is a film about teenagers, yet there aren’t any pacts to get laid before the prom. It’s a movie about African American’s, but it’s not made by Tyler Perry. It’s a film about gay people, and there’s not one reference to Rosie O’Donnel, Liberace, or Richard Simmons. All in all, it’s film about a topic not typically represented in media, and it’s well done.
The film revolves around Le (Adepero Oduye), a 17-year-old girl living in NYC with her devoutly religious mother (Kim Wayans) and her adulterous father (Charles Parnell). If that wasn’t already enough dramatic tension, Le is a lesbian getting into her first serious relationship, learning about love, and attempting to come out of the closet to her parents who already have a less-than-stellar relationship. While Le enters adulthood, her parents become more childlike, leading to an interesting interaction of fully developed characters.
Many of the heartfelt moments in the story come through when characters are saying nothing at all — the facial expressions and reactions at key moments could reveal more than pages upon pages of dialogue shoved down audience’s throats. *Quick Spoiler Alert* In one of the more emotional scenes, Le tells her mother that she loves her and the mother remains silent. Heart breaking, psychiatrist-will-be-required-later silence. *End Quick Spoiler Alert* The motto “show don’t tell” is effectively implemented here. A human experience is a nuanced one; most are somewhere in the grey area between happy and sad. Everyone in the main cast represents the complexity of life in authentic feeling scenes as if the viewer is a fly on the wall watching this coming-of-age tale. Whether a fly would appreciate emotional storytelling and a lack of feces is irrelevant.
Pariah is, at its heart, an underdog story full of outcasts who all have their own issues and struggles. In any underdog story, there’s a moment where the good guy challenges the bad guy in a grand way, though this film’s peak confrontational moment does not feel rewarding enough. It’s a very real film that focuses in a hard-hitting issue, but remains from getting so dark that you get depressed and want to slit your wrists. And while this film will be a fascinating story for those who cannot relate in any way, it will be an extremely powerful event for others in similar situations. Low key, but high impact.
Matt the Movie Analyst’s final verdict: 7/10