Another week, another big gay film. My pick for this round is Pariah, which I’ve been meaning to watch for a while but have been unable to do without blogging incentive. Largely because I can’t find the motivation to do anything without blogging incentive at this point. See what Christa thought of this one here!
Where to Watch:
A young African-American teen, Alike, struggles with her identity as a lesbian, challenging relationship with her parents, and aspirations of writing poetry.
The Uncondensed Version:
Alike (Lee for short) is a teen living in the Bronx who is out only to her best friend Laura (also a lesbian). Laura, who is working on her GED after dropping out of school, tries to introduce her to other girls, but Lee is too shy.
After Lee gets home well after her curfew, it becomes clear that there is tension at home. Her mom is concerned that Lee is home so late and doesn’t behave or dress in a particularly feminine fashion. Also her dad doesn’t seem to be around a ton. When he is around, Lee’s parents spend most of their time fighting about his absence and their daughter’s behavior.
Meanwhile, Lee is showing promise as a writer with encouragement from her English teacher.
Lee is also showing an interest in a girl from school and asks Laura for an introduction. I think it becomes pretty obvious at this point that Laura is really into Lee but doesn’t want to risk their friendship. So Laura makes the introduction and Lee totally blows it. Around this time is perhaps the greatest scene of the movie when Lee asks Laura to get her a strap-on.
While all of this is happening, Lee’s mom is scheming as much as any mother from a Jane Austen novel. In an effort to get Lee to spend less time around Laura, she introduces Lee to the daughter of a friend, Bina. The two of them are forced to walk to school together and basically have play dates. Lee is not thrilled, especially when she has to spend with Bina instead of meeting Laura at a club like she’d planned to.
So Lee is determined to have a terrible time, but Bina tries to make the best of it. When Bina asks what kind of music she likes, Lee gives her the hipster “You’ve probably never heard of it” response, though Bina has, in fact, heard of it. The two end up having a pretty good time, actually.
This is all well and good, but Lee is completely blowing off Laura, who is quite upset. TBH, I would probably be pissed too once I got over being irrationally afraid that something bad happened to her like getting hit by a meteor.
Alike and Bina are spending more and more time together, and Bina finally makes a move on Alike, who freaks out. No matter who you are and how good your intentions may be, being a teen always goes horribly, horribly wrong.
Later, Alike spends the night at Bina’s house. It’s all very sweet until Bina pretends the whole thing wasn’t a big deal and says she isn’t really gay. Luckily Laura is there for her like a true bff.
As our film wraps up, we learn that the relationship between Alike’s parents is even more dysfunctional than we realized, and there is a major fight between Alike and her parents.
It all comes together in the last 20-30 mins of this film, and I don’t want to ruin it completely, so I’ll just say it gets emotional.
I think because of the subject of this film and the title, Pariah, I was expecting a much more devastating approach/ending. Also because I’m an emotional wreck these days and at the moment we seem to be picking films that are a dull blade to the heart. However, this film was actually quite uplifting. Don’t get me wrong: this movie is very much about struggle and sacrifice and accepting that even family may not entirely accept who you are.
The actress playing Alike is so good, and there’s a successful balance of humor and drama in the plot and dialogue. I love the resilience of Alike’s character and determination as she forges her identity.
As Alike’s own mother says, “God doesn’t make mistakes.”