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Branding Pariah as a coming-out film is too simple, if not wrong. Yes, Alike (Adepero Oduye) is secretly finding her gay identity. She is a bright, shy girl, 17, who writes poetry and dresses boyishly (shirts, caps) and has a very feminine smile. She seeks her niche among classmates (bi, straight, lesbian), and she sneaks off with a bold friend to a new Brooklyn dance club for gay, mostly black women. It is a place that her father, a cop, considers a cesspool.

Dad (the reliably excellent Charles Parnell) must guard his macho standing. He brings some New York street swagger into the home, while trying to remain sensitive. A reflexive (not ideological) homophobe, he is tired of his devoutly Christian wife (Kim Wayans) pressing him about Alike and so much else. A younger sister looks up to Alike but also likes ragging on her. A stylish new chum (Aasha Davis) shows some courage in this insecure, confining world. “A person could go crazy in this dump,” Susan Kane laments in Citizen Kane, and in a claustrophobic brownstone, Pariah makes a similar point.

The debut feature of writer-director Dee Rees covers familiar ground with conviction. Like so many black-family films (and many gay-themed films), it relies on tightly laced ensemble strength. Maybe it is Rees’s love of her excellent cast, and her relative inexperience, that left her hooked on medium closeups and a nudging music track. But what happens to Alike and those around her is moving and worth attention. Pariah is a good way to start 2012, and it opens January 6.


Reviewed in the movie capsules: The Darkest Hour.

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Blakely Sanford Dec. 28, 2011 @ 2:13 p.m.

Finally a movie reviewer that saw War Horse the same way I did. A good movie, maybe, but the brutality was unbarable. We dont need to relive WWI through the eyes of a horse.


David Elliott Dec. 28, 2011 @ 4:47 p.m.

Blakely, Thanks for reading and writing. No, "War Horse" is not a good movie, and it goes flat even pictorially, and it short-changes the actual carnage of WWI, and no child should have to watch the horse in pain and panic. Of course, the movie never mentions that most of the British horses that survived awful service in the military were then shipped off to French meat packers and glue factories. The commercial piety of a feel-good finish is respected. Spielberg helped define those pieties.


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