I know that it’s a subject that I rant about frequently, but I absolutely hate movie trailers. There’s never been a case in which seeing a trailer for a movie before seeing the movie has improved my experience, but there have been many cases in which the trailer has detracted from the film or convinced me to not see it. Pariah is yet another great movie with a horrible trailer, and it really prevented me from experiencing the full effect of the film.
Alike (played by Adepero Oduye) is a smart high school student and aspiring writer. Her name is pronounced uh-leek-ay, but everyone except her father Arthur (Charles Parnell) just calls her Li. She’s also a lesbian, wears mannish clothes, and tries to do whatever she can to avoid looking “girly”. She and her best friend Laura (Pernell Walker) frequent lesbian night clubs, and she doesn’t do anything to hide her orientation at school, but she hasn’t come out to her family and she’s in the habit of changing her clothes after she leaves home in the morning and before she returns at night.
Although Alike’s parents have their suspicions, they’re grasping at whatever straws they can to hold out hope that she’s straight. Her father is a police detective who becomes aggressive if anyone even hints that she might be gay, and he tries to spend as much time as possible away from home to avoid interacting with her. Her mother Audrey (Kim Wayans) is a devout churchgoing woman who is also in denial and tries to buy her cute outfits and force her to spend less time with Laura and more time with Bina (Aasha Davis), the daughter of a coworker and fellow congregation member.
Had I not seen the trailer ahead of time and had it spoil some of the most significant scenes for me, I probably would have been a lot more devastated by this movie than I was. It’s relatively short, but it packs in a lot of emotions like fear and denial and anger and inadequacy. Part of the film’s power comes from the great performances, but it also stems from the realization that her parents are concerned more about how her lesbianism will reflect on them. Her father becomes enraged if anyone even broaches the subject with him, and her mother seems more concerned about Alike’s appearance than her feelings.
The roles are all played expertly, but I was prevented from becoming truly engrossed in the story because I had (based on the trailer) a pretty good idea how it was going to end. It’s a movie that is definitely worth seeing, but I’d recommend trying not to learn much about it before diving in.