On Friday, Dee Rees’ much lauded independent film, Pariah will expand its release from four theaters to eleven, increasing the opportunity for many to view this incredibly important Focus Features release. Rees’ debut work has deservedly generated a deluge of critical praise, and should at the very least garner a few nominations come award season.
The coming of age story centers on Alike (pronounced uh-LEE-kay), played pitch perfectly by Adepero Oduye as a somewhat awkward 17-year-old high school student and aspiring poet. On the cusp of fully coming in to her sexuality, Alike dons herself in boy’s clothing at school and as she explores the gay nightlife New York City with her friend Laura (Pernell Walker). At home, however, Alike dresses in a more traditionally feminine costume to throw her mother, Audrey (Kim Wayans) off of her increasingly difficult to mask scent. This, of course, is the core tension in the film, and the viewer’s stomach tightens as the stakes get increasingly higher. As this central narrative unfolds, Alike smartly navigates her way through personal discovery, experiencing first love and a gut-wrenchingly painful heartbreak, all the while preparing for that ever difficult task of leaving the (parents’) nest.