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Pariah (2011)



Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 101
Fresh: 95 | Rotten: 6

Pulsing with authenticity and led by a stirring lead performance from Adepero Oduye, Pariah is a powerful coming out/coming-of-age film that signals the arrival of a fresh new talent in writer/director Dee Rees.


Average Rating: 8/10
Critic Reviews: 36
Fresh: 32 | Rotten: 4

Pulsing with authenticity and led by a stirring lead performance from Adepero Oduye, Pariah is a powerful coming out/coming-of-age film that signals the arrival of a fresh new talent in writer/director Dee Rees.



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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 7,975

My Rating

Movie Info

Adepero Oduye portrays Alike (pronounced ah-lee-kay), a 17-year-old African-American woman who lives with her parents Audrey and Arthur (Kim Wayans and Charles Parnell) and younger sister Sharonda (Sahra Mellesse) in Brooklyn's Fort Greene neighborhood. Alike is quietly but firmly embracing her identity as a lesbian. With the sometimes boisterous support of her best friend, out lesbian Laura (Pernell Walker), Alike is especially eager to find a girlfriend. At home, her parents' marriage is



Dee Rees

Apr 24, 2012


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All Critics (106) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (95) | Rotten (6) | DVD (1)

The gay coming-of-age story's been done, but "Pariah" has something fresh to say, largely about the knotty complexities of love, and how they might keep someone in the closet: How badly do you need to be free, to hurt the people you love?

February 17, 2012 Full Review Source: Newsday
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Rees brings a heartfelt connection to the material, based on her own coming-out story, but the film's ingredients aren't the freshest.

January 22, 2012 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune | Comments (4)
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You don't have to be black or lesbian or even know someone who's gay to appreciate "Pariah"; you just have to have gone through or be going through the process of growing up.

January 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"Pariah" is a small film about a big subject: the struggle to be who you are, not who others would like you to be.

January 20, 2012 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

If the destination is trite, the journey isn't - it comes with an ample supply of raw honesty.

January 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Rees tells Alike's story in vignettes that are sometimes slapstick, sometimes heartbreaking, always tender.

January 12, 2012 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Pariah tells an involving story that's both deftly relatable and urgently progressive.

September 15, 2012 Full Review Source: We Got This Covered
We Got This Covered

The uniformly excellent work that Rees coaxes from her entire ensemble elevates her film above the more formulaic coming-of-age beats of her screenplay.

June 25, 2012 Full Review Source:

Displaying an amazing amount of confidence and vulnerability at the same time, Oduye carries the film.

June 1, 2012 Full Review Source:

Like Albert Nobbs, Pariah deals with issues of identity and sexuality, though in a vastly different way.

May 25, 2012 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures | Comment (1)
7M Pictures

...evades the formula for coming-of-age films as it announces the arrival of a fascinating new star in the remarkable Adepero Oduye.

April 29, 2012 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

That's what I loved about "Pariah," that it sets up a very familiar narrative and then makes it painfully real and surprising. T

April 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Capital Times (Madison, WI)
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

A smart, compelling -- and optimistic -- portrait of heartbreak and hope.

March 9, 2012 Full Review Source: Times-Picayune

Wayans, best known for acting in comedies with her siblings, is a revelation as a woman whose faith offers both hope and blind judgment.

March 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Kansas City Star
Kansas City Star

Smart, heartfelt, savvy, beautifully acted -- and clever enough at 86 minutes not to overstay its welcome.

March 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

"Pariah" has a vibrant and funky street-wise lyricism, and Rees captures the conflicting emotions of the title character with a fierce intimacy.

March 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The bright, bold and unusual colors heighten the emotional impact of Rees' story without interfering with the realism...

February 17, 2012 Full Review Source: Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

This is a movie that will doubtless speak to those who have endured similar hardships in their youth, and Rees' message seems to be that, as Dan Savage would say, it gets better.

February 10, 2012 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

This fresh new angle on teen sexuality goes well beyond the usual film treatment of this material, creating memorable characters and real drama.

February 2, 2012 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

[Filmmaker Dee] Rees's eye for how [teen lesbian] Alike maneuvers between her notion of who she is and whom everyone else wants and expects her to be is intense and poignant...

February 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Flick Filosopher
Flick Filosopher

Young, gifted, and a gay

January 26, 2012 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

On a second viewing, I couldn't escape one thought: There's nothing simple about teens coming out to their parents.

January 25, 2012 Full Review Source: Orlando Weekly
Orlando Weekly

Sets new standards for gay-lesbian coming-out play-acting with these "everyday people" rebel girls.

January 20, 2012 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

One of the most remarkable facts about Pariah is how it manages almost completely to avoid stereotypes: Every important character is complex and humanized...

January 20, 2012 Full Review Source: Playback:stl

Audience Reviews for Pariah

Gritty portrayal of coming out as a teenager - about finding yourself, whatever that takes, and about the number of ways that the vulnerability that comes along with sexual self-discovery will be exploited by others. There was some over-acting and some bad poetry, and the budget is too obviously small, but more than similar films, Pariah puts the threats to its main character in the forefront by showing all kinds of different relationships and what power over this teen could mean for the manipulator. Not a perfect film, but a raw and striking one with a standout performance by Adepero Oduye. Take a chance on it, it's well-worth seeing.
November 20, 2012

Super Reviewer

"Pariah," from first-time writer/director Dee Rees, doesn't break much artistic ground. It tells the same gay/lesbian coming-out story that we've seen a million times. But it's told particularly well and from within a black urban context, which I don't believe has been done before.

It also goes a bit deeper into the hearts and minds of the homophobic parents than typically is done, which was great. Unfortunately, it only scratches those surfaces. Kim Wayans, who of course has a long history in comedy, shows she has major dramatic talent, playing the homophobic mother of the main character. The cast is universally good, but Wayans is the stand-out.

The main character is a black teenage girl in Brooklyn going through the coming-out process. She has fully come out to herself as a lesbian, and she has even found her way into a lesbian circle of friends. She even frequents a women's night club. But she hasn't told Mom or Dad about any of this, both of whom are homophobic. Mom is particularly venomous in her hatred of gays and lesbians. You can see that Dad, a detective in the NYPD, in his heart of hearts is not a bigot.

Thrown into the mix to complicate things a little bit is a bisexual girl eager to have lesbian experiences to explore herself. But she tosses lesbians aside like useless candy wrappers after she's had her fun.

If I were going to give Dee Rees advice, I would say this:

Ms. Rees, in "Pariah" you started digging into the parent characters with some real psychological and artistic depth. I encourage you to go more deeply in that direction. I think your true gifts as an artist lie there. I would give anything to see a sequel where you explore what happened to that mother and what she's really fighting. You hint that her husband is beginning to stray, but I think there's more in there. Help us see it.

Remember when that great schoolteacher tells Alike that she could "go deeper" with her poetry? You could go deeper with your films. I know you could.
January 2, 2012
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

A lesbian teenager in Brooklyn leads an uncomfortable double life, trying to hide her lifestyle from her conservative parents while struggling to find a suitable partner for her first sexual relationship. Excellent acting salvages a well-intentioned but familiar script that occasionally drags.
November 21, 2011
Greg S

Super Reviewer

"Pariah" opens with 17-year old Alike(Adepero Oduye) using a fake ID to get into a women's nightclub where she hangs out with her friend Laura(Pernell Walker). When Laura tries to hook her up with another woman, Alike drags her out of there. Alike's being out past her curfew would not be a problem if her younger sister Sharonda(Sahra Mellesse) did not do her sisterly duty to rat her out to their mother(Kim Wayans). In fact, she blames her nocturnal activity entirely on Laura, who is working on her GED, and wants Alike to make more socially acceptable friends like Bina(Aasha Davis) who she introduces to her at church.

Even though writer-director Dee Rees shows a lot of promise with her first feature "Pariah," it is also much too rough to fully pass muster with subplots going off in all directions and not enough experience to tie it all together. Alike is not only lesbian but also coming to terms with her gender identity, as she always appears to be changing clothes to and from home. That's not to mention the Misadventure of the Amazing Strap-On. Maybe in 1994, this all might have seemed fresh and enough to go on but not so much now. While many elements might ring true, others come off as cliche, such as Alike's poetry, and others just feel false. For example, no mother, much less a churchgoing one, would buy clothing for her teenage daughter that would 'accentuate her figure.' Feminine might be the word you are looking for.
February 25, 2012
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

    1. Alike: This isn't me.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
    1. Alike: [reading] Breaking is opening, and I am broken. I am open.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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Foreign Titles

  • Pariah (DE)
  • Pariah (UK)
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