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Review: Pariah

Dee Rees's first feature
By PETER KEOUGH  |  January 3, 2012
2.5 2.5 Stars

Compared to the non-stop trauma of Precious, or even Gun Hill Road, Dee Rees's first feature plays like an episode of The Cosby Show. A teenager growing up in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Alike (Adepero Oduye) has an inspiring English teacher who encourages her poetry, and she has a stable home environment with a funny, if absentee dad (Charles Parnell), an uptight, Bible-thumping mom (Kim Wayans), and a teasing but sympathetic kid sister. And she's adjusting well to her lesbianism, as her butch best friend Laura (Pernell Walker) initiates her into the world of gay night clubs, strap-ons, and the potentially uninhibited expression of her sexuality. But Alike remains closeted and a virgin, and the prospect of changing either status fills her with dread. Rees has an intimate feel for setting, rooting her melodrama in precise details while allowing for an expressionistic palette of lurid lighting. Her characters, convincingly played, avoid stereotype, with the exception of mom, the film's ultimate pariah.

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