Chantel Mitchell (Ariyan Johnson), a hip, articulate, black high-school girl in Brooklyn, is determined not to become "just another girl on the IRT" (the IRT is one of NYC's subway lines). ... See full summary »
Chantel Mitchell (Ariyan Johnson), a hip, articulate, black high-school girl in Brooklyn, is determined not to become "just another girl on the IRT" (the IRT is one of NYC's subway lines). She dreams of medical school, a family, and an escape from the generational poverty and street-corner life her friends seem to have accepted as their lot. But personal and sexual challenges confront Chantel on her way to fulfilling these dreams. Written by
The initials "I.R.T." in the film's title stand for "Interborough Rapid Transit", which refers to a number of New York City's subway systems. Despite the title, however, there is only one scene where Chantel Mitchell is seen in the subway. See more »
Intriguing Film with Excellent Dialogue & Unique Characters
If there was one truly great thing about "Just Another Girl On The I.R.T.", it's the incredibly realistic dialogue. This fact is especially remarkable when considering that most of the film's cast haven't acted in a film previously, including Ariyan A. Johnson, who plays the protagonist, Chantel Mitchell. Not only is the dialogue funny at times and poignant at others, but it's almost as if you're in New York City listening in on real people's conversations. Any other movie with as low a budget or as unknown and as amateur a cast would have had dialogue that was wooden or may have sounded forced.
No one can critique this film without mentioning the character who represents "Just Another Girl", namely Chantel. Chantel is certainly not "just another girl", as she makes perfectly clear when she breaks the fourth wall. The best thing about Chantel, and what some critics (especially on this site) don't seem to understand about her, is that she is a complicated, round character. At her best, she's ambitious, hard-working, clearly very smart, and incredibly charismatic. However, she clearly makes some wrong choices in this movie which most viewers probably look at in dumbfounded awe. The reactions that Johnson reflects upon realizing those wrong choices are very familiar and genuine.
There is unfortunately very little written about Johnson's life and background anywhere on the Internet, which may account for her strong, believable debut performance in this movie. However, Johnson plays this complicated character so convincingly that it's hard to believe this is her feature film debut. She has since had noticeable supporting roles in two critically acclaimed features ("Bulworth" in 1998, and "The General's Daughter" in 1999), but hasn't acted in a movie or TV show since 2004. To say she is an underrated actress is indeed an understatement, and I would love to see her appear in another film sometime soon.
Of course, the plot is something which other reviewers on this site have been critical about. Although it is true that the plot is somewhat unusual, it's not exactly a bad thing when the plot of a movie can't be explained in one sentence. If anything, plot complication can be a valuable asset to a film, and "Just Another Girl on the I.R.T." is certainly no exception.
But then again, a number of Spike Lee's films had similar non-linear plots. This film reminded me of something Spike Lee would have directed not just because it had a majority African-American cast. This film drew parallels to "She's Gotta Have It" with a strong, independent female protagonist, the constant breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience, and the frank discussions about sex. It also reminded me of "Crooklyn" and "Do The Right Thing", along with a number of character-driven films by Jonathan Singleton.
I'm not so sure if this was a film "Hollywood didn't dare to make", as stated in the closing credits. After all, Spike Lee revolutionized black cinema, and is still no stranger to controversy with the messages in his films. Plus, the issue of teen pregnancy has been dealt with in cinema before (e.g., 1989's "For Keeps") and since (2007's "Juno"). So what Leslie Harris meant by that statement is unclear to me, and did actually come off as a bit cocky.
Still, this film deserves a lot of credit for its dialogue, characterization, and uniqueness in its own right. Ariyan Johnson brought a lot to this film which other actresses with her experience may not have been able to handle. It's too bad director Leslie Harris didn't make a follow-up feature, or even a sequel. But still, to make a mark on Hollywood with a film like this, even if it's only one time, is quite the accomplishment. I just wish more people could see this film.
I was fortunate to find a used DVD of this film in a local music store. I only paid about $7 for it, and it remains a priceless addition to my DVD collection.
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