Review by Kam Williams
Seventeen year old year-old Alike (Adepero Oduye) has been hiding a big secret from her parents, namely, that she’s gay. But that fact is becoming more and more difficult for the latent lesbian to suppress, given the raging hormones, which have her yearning for a girlfriend.
Lately, she has struck up a platonic friendship with Laura (Pernell Walker), a high school classmate who is already out of the closet. This development doesn’t sit well with her mom, Audrey (Kim Wayans), who is so deep in denial that she doesn’t recognize any of the telltale signs of her daughter’s sexual preferences, such as frequenting a gay bar.
Instead, the meddling mom tries to discourage Alike from hanging out with a bull dyke named Laura by introducing her to Bina (Aasha Davis), a girl she presumes to be straight. But the best laid plans often go astray, since there’s such a thing as lipstick lesbians. And sparks fly when the two hit it off.
As the truth emerges, Alike’s home situation grows increasingly uncomfortable, between her Bible-thumping mother and her police officer father (Charles Parnell) who doesn’t like the rumors he’s hearing down at the local liquor store. Soon, the poor kid has no safe harbor, and has to negotiate her way daily down a rough block in Brooklyn marked by intolerance of her homosexuality.
Is it any wonder then that she might feel like a pariah, a social outcast struggling to find acceptance. Pariah is also the title of this semi-autobiographical, coming-of-age drama directed by Dee Rees. Although the picture does feature a number of superficial parallels to Precious, it is in no way derivative, and addresses a very different theme of equal import to the black community.
A sobering look at what it might very well be like to grow up lesbian in the ‘hood.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity and sexuality.
Running time: 86 minutes
Distributor: Focus Features