REVIEW: Pariah

Pariah
Directed by: Dee Rees
Written by: Dee Rees (screenplay)
Starring: Adepero Oduye, Pernell Walker, Aasha Davis and Kim Wayans

Pariah is the remarkably honest if not groundbreaking first feature from writer/director Dee Rees, who adapted it from her own short film.  It charts the partial repression and eventual emergence of a young Brooklyn teenager’s (Adepero Oduye) lesbian sexual identity.  All of this takes place in a deeply religious, patriarchal African American household where girls are meant to be “girly” and where parents, especially the father (Charles Parnell), are not questioned.

It’s not the father, though, but the mother (Kim Wayans) who challenges and puts down Alike (pronounced Ah-lee-kay) the most.  Like in the more recent and more watered-down animated film Brave, Pariah pits mother/daughter against each other and lets the father largely remain peacekeeper.  The key difference, though, is that the peace is not kept.

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REVIEW: For Colored Girls

For Colored Girls
Directed by: Tyler Perry
Written by: Tyler Perry (screenplay), Ntozake Shange (play)
Starring: Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, and Kerry Washington

It was hard watching the latest film from the controversial and wildly successful Tyler Perry without the expectation that at any moment Madea, an old black woman that Perry performs as in drag, would interrupt the tension by bursting through the wall like  Kool-Aid Man.  That character, the subject of backlash from other modern black filmmakers like Spike Lee who say it recalls early stereotypes of blacks on screen, often struts into Perry films with attitude and comedy to break the melodramatic tension.

There is no Madea in For Colored Girls.  In fact, there is very little at all to break apart the tension created by the struggling lives of these 9 African American women, who deal with everything from rape, abortion, and infidelity over the course of the film’s two-plus hours.  Perry’s adaptation is drawn from an award-winning play by Ntozake Shange and is structured around poetic recitations of these horrific events.

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