Pariah is a young adult coming-out tale. The moving story is told with documentary-like realism. It takes an unflinching look at the difficulties faced by teenagers coming out as gay to reluctant-to-accept parents.
Alike (Adepero Oduye) isn't confused about her sexuality. However, she has been dressing in pink and semi-fluffy to appease her church-going mother Audrey (Kim Wayans). She leaves the house with a hidden change of oversized clothes, her doo-rag and baseball cap with which she becomes her true self she can be once away from home. Audrey wages her low-simmer battle to keep Alike girlie and away from bad influences, like her best friend, Laura (Pernell Walker), a lesbian and Alike’s main support. Audrey doesn’t accept the unspoken truth about Alike. As she puts it, “God doesn’t make mistakes.”
Wayans is terrific as the overbearing, pushy mother. There were moments when I expected her to launch into the comedic Wayans territory. She’d make a certain face and, I’d waited for her trademark berserk expression.
Meanwhile, Audrey and Alike’s father, Arthur (Charles Parnell) are in marital discord, which makes Audrey focus on Alike to avoid the bigger issue she’s dodging. Alike's close relationship with her father saves her from complete parental alienation; that is, until she tries to come out to him.
Writer/director Dee Rees creates a confident teen character in Alike, who tries to be true to herself and keep her parents. Her solid network of lesbian pals and an influential teacher keep her moving forward. It’s heartbreaking to see her parents deny her in her efforts to be honest. Pariah depicts the harsh realities that occur after some teens come out to their families. I’ve read about teens being kicked out of the house and shunned after coming out.
In Pariah, Alike's biggest ally is herself. With her excellent grades and good friends, she creates options for herself. Sadly, life doesn’t always present bankable options like those that open up to Alike.
Great indie film. Check it.
Writer/Director: Dee Rees
Run time: 86 minutes