Ignore the idiots who dismiss the painfully funny and potently moving ‘Pariah’ as ‘Precious Lite’. This vibrantly alive debut feature from Dee Rees, drawn from her own life, introduces an original voice. Rees’ focus is on Alike (the altogether wonderful Adepero Oduye), a 17-year-old African-American virgin from Brooklyn’s middle-class Fort Greene. Alike is eager to come out as a lesbian without knowing quite how to do it or to break the news to her churchgoing mother (Kim Wayans) and her cop dad (Charles Parnell). In her corner are sass-queen sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse) and BFF Laura (a knockout Pernell Walker). But what happens when Alike finds herself attracted to Bina (Aasha Davis), who’s more closeted than she is? The gifted Rees makes finding out a stirring and heartfelt journey. And Oduye is unforgettable. A star is born.
Stirring. At its heart is an incandescent performance by Adpereo Oduye, who captures the jagged mood swings of late adolescence with a wonderfully spontaneous fluency. Ms. Oduye conveys not only the intelligence and will power of a young woman who is bursting out of her chrysalis like the butterfly she describes in the poetry she writes in a journal, but also the vestigial shyness of a bright, sheltered child in the throes of self-discovery. An acutely observed examination. The cinematographer Bradford Young makes you feel like an inhabitant of this part of Brooklyn.
5 stars! An astute coming-of-age drama!
Adepero Oduye's composed performance, is a splash of determination and humor alongside the inevitable swells of yearning. ’Pariah’ benefits from solid performances among its young cast… and warm, lucid camerawork from cinematographer Bradford Young. The film benefits most of all from writer/director Dee Rees' careful screenplay, which dances that shifting line between fear and emergent hope.
At its soulful heart, ‘Pariah’ is a stinging street-smart story of an African American teen's struggle to come of age and come out. Writer-director Dee Rees has a distinctive style and strong voice. The film's pace is set by an infectious, insistent hip-hop beat, with director of photography Bradford Young wielding the camera like an unsympathetic paparazzo. Rees has been smart in the way she's constructed Alike's world. Adepero Oduye as Alike is ‘Pariah's’ subtle center, with the actress moving seamlessly between the tomboy thrilled to play hoops with her dad to the sour-faced daughter forced to wear pink by her mom. She makes all of her character's discomfort with life believable, from the pain of rejection to her fumbling, and sometimes funny, attempts at being ‘the guy.’ There is a real tenderness to the film, especially as Alike navigates those first tentative moves at not just sex, but love — all the conflicting emotions of actually falling for someone. Rees in turn gives ‘Pariah’ a surprising and empowering maturity.