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Pariah (2011)

tomatometer

94

Average Rating: 7.8/10
Reviews Counted: 102
Fresh: 96 | 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.

89

Average Rating: 7.9/10
Critic Reviews: 37
Fresh: 33 | 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.

audience

82

liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 8,090

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

R,

Drama

Dee Rees

Apr 24, 2012

$0.8M

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All Critics (107) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (96) | 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
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: TheMovieReport.com
TheMovieReport.com

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

June 1, 2012 Full Review Source: Scene-Stealers.com
Scene-Stealers.com

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
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
Playback:stl

Audience Reviews for Pariah

A complex portrait of a struggling lesbian teenager from a conservative household, "Pariah" tries to be enlightening, even tragic in its depiction, and though it's obvious it's trying this approach, it's piteous enough to yield emotional depth. The lead character is as personable as any high school kid trying to understand their own body, while also feeling constrained by their parental units. The lead character is not just a lesbian, with all the trappings of stereotypical behavior usually shown, even in indie faire. Lead character Alike (Oduye) is very intelligent, accomplished, and understands the perplexing complications of her sexuality versus expectations from her family and peers. As a character study it's pretty riveting, though the plot isn't all that new. While there's a central conflict between Alike and her family, it's more a struggle between her fighting parents and less to do with turmoil over her sexual preference. Much of what affects Alike's life, and the consequences of her actions, are only partially alluded to, but never explained in-depth. While this explores many facets about the world unseen in modern depictions of gay culture, it could have gone many steps further.
June 9, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

The struggle and pain are palpable. An extraordinary performance by Oduye giving voice to a segment of the LGBT community I have never gotten to know. My life was enriched for having seen this film.
May 18, 2013
cchclaw

Super Reviewer

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
danperry17

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

    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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