When Tori, an affluent urban teen, befriends Snake, a streetwise kid from Harlem, his concerned parents hire Phil to be his Nanny to watch out for him. Soon Snake's older and more dangerous...
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When Tori, an affluent urban teen, befriends Snake, a streetwise kid from Harlem, his concerned parents hire Phil to be his Nanny to watch out for him. Soon Snake's older and more dangerous brother emerges and Phil realizes the job is much more involved than she ever imagined. Quentin Crisp also stars as a strangely profound local deli-owner to advise Tori along the way. Written by
Charles Ricciardi <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"Barriers" is at times, an effective little tale with a lot of ambition and a lot of heart, but which seems curiously muted and sometimes misses the impact it so desperately needs. The material should make a harsher statement about the struggles of race, class and gang violence, but seems oddly toned down as if to keep it "safe" for its targeted youth audience. Considering the profanity used for realism, why didn't director Alan Baxter and writer Charles Ricciardi go for broke in achieving more realism and stronger depth?
Another problem is the lead performance by young Jamaul Roots should have been a little more convincing. Roots plays "Tori", the overprotected, shy protagonist who is consistently bullied by the local thugs until one of them, a kid named "Snake", (well-played by Geoff Garcy) defends him. Roots plays him just a little too annoyed and not really sympathetic. Yes, we see that this kid doesn't make a lot of friends and seems too angry at his parents' smothering, but a hobby would've really improved his plight (and one not involving arcade games) or better yet, maybe a trip to the counselor's office or a really angry confrontation with his parents.
Garcy adds a considerable amount of complexity as "Snake", the gang youth who may not be the punk that everyone else assumes he is. His act of "theft" is clearly motivated by need instead of amorality, and it's actually the need for acceptance from his volatile brother (Derrick Roberts) a gang member who sees him as weak and soft. Roberts is indeed the strongest element of the film and gives the film its shot of hardcore adrenaline.
Golden plays Phil, the middle-aged college student who is hired by Tori's parents to care for him and credit goes to her for being a strong presence. She's tough, yet vulnerable and doesn't come off as a victim or put-upon. But the scene where she tells off her cheating boyfriend fails to impress, due to the scant dialog and the overall staginess of the acting. In fact, a fight in a schoolyard almost comes across as comical, particularly when a young girl has her hands covering her eyes and mouth(!). There are a few scenes that do resonate with truth and force; one being when Phil confronts Tori's father about the missing credit card numbers and a scene where Tori seeks comfort from Phil even after the consequences of honesty have forced her out of a job. The film's humor and even heart comes from a cameo by the late gay writer Quentin Crisp as an elderly store clerk who contemplates his mortality.
Overall, "Barriers" has its strengths, and it is refreshing that a character-driven story was being told, but a low-budget, character-driven story should never play by the rules.
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