Monday, April 8, 2013

Pariah

I watched Pariah over the weekend.  It is a pretty good movie--the things we expect to happen occur in a nice narrative, and some things we don't expect are thrown in for good measure.  The qualities that really made Pariah stand out to this particular weirdo were
  • the cinematography by Bradford Young which is STUNNING
  • a decent story about women often left off the screen (I mean that not even for the main character, actually, but Aisha Davis's lofty, disappointing metal fan and Parnell Walker's modern butch masterpiece)
  • the acting.  The entire cast was absolutely, completely flawless.  Best ensemble acting I've seen in a film since...  I have no idea.  My favorite ensemble cast currently is Archer, which says...  Well, everything, but back to this cast: 
The last was no surprise going in since Adepero Oduye has received tons of praise for her portrayal of a closeted teen who doesn't know herself.  She's a bit of a heavy-hitter in the making, with appearances in lots of things I've seen without realizing who I was watching (always, in my book, a sign that the actress is Good At What She Does).  And she is a very good actress, I think, but honestly, the two people I most enjoyed were Kim Wayans and Parnell Walker.  (Besides Charles Parnell, I mean, who has that good looking and smoldering thing down pat.  Anyway).

Kim Wayans has a couple flashes of community theater in her performance, which frankly, I enjoy.  But you know what I mean, right?  Her expressions and actions are explosive in a way that's meant more for stage than screen, which can look a lot like Acting.  Many of my favorite performers are stage to screen transits, and/or a bit notorious for snacking on scenery.  I don't care.  The reason volatile people are important and powerful on screen is because everyones' lives are shaped by moments of chaos.  Loss of control.  Having people brave enough to do it on screen is why we watch movies, a lot of times: catharsis.

So good on you, Kim Wayans.  You were epic.

But the person who stole the show for me was Parnell Walker.


Apparently nothing at all like the tortured  Laura IRL (which means PW is Good What She Does).
There are a lot of stereotypes driven apart, bisected, and re-imagined in this film.  Maybe I live a life of wonder and that is why I'm not particularly surprised or even engaged by them--because my friends have been doing this in real life forever--but I doubt it.  I suspect for lots of us this will be the nagging negative of watching Pariah; for many it may feel a bit like a too-triumphant portrait of struggles we know too well to honestly buy the bow-strings at the end.  However, Laura is the exception.  Admittedly, I have a soft-spot for characters who dive.  I'm a downer that way.  But this performance is flawless--you understand everything she never says, and weep for what she does.  It is incredible story-telling, and at it's heart her story is what makes the main character's believable.

Kudos, Ms. Walker.  I am really looking forward to watching this career.  And yee-haw for an excellent film overall.










Pariah, lgbtq, dee rees