Do you remember your first time? Was there an angst? Was it what you expected? Did the relationship last forever?


The answers to those questions generally follows: Yes, yes, no, no. A select few get yeses for the last two questions, but generally the experience is pretty underwhelming - as is the person.


Now, the question is, are you straight or do you prefer same sex relationships?

Coming of age is tough for most. It's tough for middle class suburban kids; it's tough for low income inner-city kids; and it's really tough on gay kids no matter what their background.


Adepero Oduye's character Alike [pronounced ah-lee-kay] is an inner city young lady who has come to the realization that she prefers women. Her best friend - but not lover - Laura (Pernell Walker) is a butch lesbian who wants to be her first experience but is more supportive than aggressive. She actually is just a friend.


That is a friend that Alike's mother Audrey (portrayed magnificently by Kim Wayans) completely disapproves of. Audrey knows the score with Laura and doesn't want her daughter hanging out with her. You see Audrey is a God-fearing conservative Christian who wants her daughter to be a "normal" woman with heterosexual behavior. Unfortunately, as a role model, Audrey is lacking one little thing... a devout husband. Her husband Arthur (Charles Parnell) is a cop who seems to have side company; he also has a lot of overtime days.


Arthur however, is loyal to his daughter and turns a blind eye to what is pretty obvious. His "daughter is turning into a man right before his eye's" as Audrey proclaims.

Audrey comes up with a plan to buddy-up Alike (who's street name is Lee) with a church girl named Bina (Aasha Davis). That should do it! Nothing like a little Christian fellowship to get a person's mind right.


But sometimes the best laid plan's go astray.


Alike is an outcast. She is an outcast from her mother. She is an outcast at school. She is an outcast in the LGBTQIA community because she is still a virgin and therefore hasn't officially tossed her hat into the ring as it were. Alike is a pariah.


Oduye is convincing and powerful as Alike as is Walker as her butch friend. Parnell is perfect as the philandering daddy who thinks his girl does no wrong and even finds excuses for her. But director Dee Rees best talent is Kim Wayans who nails the mother role perfectly.


The interaction between Wayans and Oduye as dissatisfied mother and daughter is thought provoking and heartbreaking. You will feel for one or the other or both.


"Pariah" is a contemplative film that studies relationships; family, straight and gay relationships. It's the coming of age film for all ages and all lifestyles - because relationships are tough no matter who.   -- GEOFF BURTON




FEATURE: CHATTING UP PARIAH - Geoff Burton chat's it up with Pariah director Dee Rees and lead actress Adepero Oduye.