This week we see the release of the film Pariah. Written and directed by Dee Rees, Pariah centers around the character Alike and stars Adero Oduye in the leading role. Alike (pronounce aa-lee-kay), who has come to accept the fact that she is a lesbian, lives with her extremely conservative, very religious mother and her protective father. Though they suspect she may be homosexual, the question seems to linger in the household and everyone is afraid to ask. The fear in asking probably stems in the fact that there is comfort in not knowing.
This movie is made great by the dynamic performances of the entire cast. Alike’s best friend Laura is played by Pernell Walker. Mother and father are played by Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell respectively. Sharonda, the supportive but annoying little sister is played by Sahra Mellesse. And finally there is Bina though I’m not sure how to describe her complicated, very important and relevant part. It helps that these guys had a terrific script to work with.
Dee Rees has developed a coming of age story that centers around the life of a teenaged, African-American lesbian. It may seem from this description that this movie would target a very specific group demographically (black same-gender loving individuals) but I would argue that there is a much more universal story happening here. This film should appeal to anyone that has had to learn to live life on their own terms.
I do not want to spoil the movie so I will not give away too many details here. I will assume that most of us, when we were young, wanted to grow up and make our parents happy and proud of who we are and what we accomplish. But when your parent’s dreams and your reality are harshly different, the conflict over whose destiny will win could create an environment where tensions are on edge, personalities start to clash, and relationships get tested.
I want to highlight the performance of Ms. Kim Wayans for a moment. Wayans is known for her off the cuff humor. A member of the Wayans family, this entire clan is famous for bringing side splitting laughs not for bringing award winning dramatic performances. That being said, I am pleasantly surprised at the caliber of acting Kim brings to this role. Her performance stands out so much for me because it is so incredibly different from everything she's done in the past.
This movie is amazing and is a must see in my opinion. I encourage everyone to not only see this film, I would also ask that you financially support (aka purchase) this film. Projects like this come around only sporadically and it’s because most studios think that there would not be a return on investment (and in many cases they are correct). If we would like to see future projects that include same-gender loving people of color then we need to support the ones that currently exist. So please support this film and encourage others you know to support this film. Dee Rees and her team deserve the recognition for their awe-inspiring work.