Release Date: Jan. 13, 2012
Running Time: 86 minutes
Every child craves unconditional love from his or her parents. When that unconditional love isn’t there, it can create a toxic atmosphere that is underlined by distrust, disappointment and a lack of acceptance. In Pariah, African-American high school student Alike (newcomer Adepero Oduye) goes to great lengths to hide from her parents that she is a lesbian. Things are already bad at home, with Alike’s parents experiencing marital problems, and she fears revealing her sexual orientation would result in her emotionally fragile mother (Kim Wayans) rejecting her. Unlike her mother, who suspects something is going on, Alike’s father (Charles Parnell ) chooses to bury his head in the sand. Director Dee Rees’ quietly dignified “coming out” character study examines how hard it is for someone to remain true to themselves when everyone around them expects he or she to be something they are not. Oduye eloquently articulates Alike’s frustration with her life at home, and the fear she possesses of being outed, without pleading for our sympathy. As Alike’s mother, former In Living Color cast member Wayans offers an eye-opening dramatic performance that examines how a parent reacts when her child challenges her belief system. Wayans manages to avoid turning Alike’s mother into a monster by portraying her as a damaged woman unable to cope with all the turmoil in her life. Bearing this in mind, it should not come as a surprise that Pariah goes to great lengths to ensure Alike’s father doesn’t behave in stereotypical fashion as a tightly wound cop with no patience for conflict in his home. Charles Parnell lends Alike’s father uncommon empathy and a surprising reluctance to pass judgment during defining family moments. Thankfully Pariah doesn’t attempt to manufacture a happy ending. Rees knows that would be dishonest and counterproductive to Pariah’s efforts to preach tolerance and understanding to those who refuse to open their hearts and minds to anyone living a life that runs contrary to their beliefs and values.
Aired: Jan. 13, 2012
Web site: http://www.focusfeatures.com/pariah