Pariah (2011)

pariah poster 2011 review
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting : 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Looks at an under-explored area

Could have even been expanded more

Movie Info

Movie Name: Pariah

Studio:  Chicken and Egg Pictures/MBK Entertainment/Northstar Pictures

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  January 20, 2011 (Sundance)/December 28, 2011

MPAA Rating: R

pariah alike adepero oduye bus

Which Alike are you now?

Alike (Adepero Oduye) is a young woman living multiple lives.  At home, her mother Audrey (Kim Waynes) and father Arthur (Charles Parnell) see her as a student and aspiring writer who has a big future, but when Alike leaves home, she spends her time at lesbian bars with her friend Laura (Pernell Walker) who is out.  Alike’s worlds are starting to crash together.  Her mother suspects about her daughter’s lifestyle and her father turns a blind eye, but Alike cannot hide forever.

Directed by Dee Rees, Pariah is a drama film.  The film was released to positive reviews and received nominations from multiple organizations.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #1083).

There was a lot of buzz around Pariah at its release with the director and cast being potential new voices in movies…but Pariah seemed to come out at the wrong time and fizzled among awards that were facing criticisms of lack of minority representation.  Most of the people involved have moved on strong, but Pariah deserves a shot at being revisited.

pariah alike mother kim wayans adepero oduye

A “complicated” relationship

The movie is a tough one.  It isn’t as explosive as some movies about similar subjects, but it has a lot of heart, thought and depth.  It is really the story of two young women in Alike and Laura.  Alike is closeted and trying to keep it that way, but Laura is out and has paid the price.  She is both a warning and inspiration to Alike as to what can happen.  While the subject isn’t easy for any family, the movie takes on exploring some of the extra pressures of being a minority within a minority…and how advancements in perceptions of LGBTQ might not be the same in all cultures.

The cast is really good, but Adepero Oduye is stellar as Alike.  She is young, but balancing a ton of things that most adults can’t manage.  She knows what would happen if she was out and is inching her way through school trying to keep it under wraps…but it also keeps her from having to face it head on.  The introduction of Bina played by Aasha Davis forces the issue (but also demonstrates another “character” to the mix) in the “I’m not gay-gay” character who builds a way despite wrecking Alike’s.  It is also notable to see the big change from Kim Wayans In Living Color days to this role which has her playing a “bad guy” in the picture, but also a mother who is really hurt by her daughter.  Charles Parnell’s role as Alike’s father is a bit more mysterious though he is also trapped like Alike (though with different problems).

pariah adepero oduye aasha davis

My mom has to stop hooking me up with church girls….

Visually the movie is also strong.  Much of the film takes place at night and feels really murky.  We rarely get to see Alike out of hiding (day or night) and she covers herself up to keep from being seen (plus is the light Alike the real Alike?).  It is shadowy and kind of unspoken…much like the life Alike is living.

The movie isn’t a complete downer in that there is hope by the end.  Things might work out great, but it feels like Alike isn’t necessarily in a better place, but a different place…which is true often in life.  Pariah deserves an audience and it is the type of movie that will actually age well in that it shows a story of how things-perceptions change over time…but it also holds some biases that may never.  There is more room for development, but it is still a strong entry with a different voice.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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