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In New York City's Harlem circa 1987, an overweight, abused, illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction.
I so badly wanted to like this movie. I mean, I could look at Zoe Kravitz all day, Jason Clarke is my guy for The Chicago Code and the trailer really hooked me. But I just couldn't deal with the constant feeling that this was just a really really badly edited film. It had a lot going for it. The cast is really solid, the acting is there and it's not one of those navel-gazing angst movies. Real, big, serious things things happen that make it more than a generic, "growing up in a broken home sucks" movie.
But...I can't help but feel like it wasn't exactly put together or presented in a really effective way. Almost every single scene felt like each cut didn't match the music, cut awkwardly, lingered too long, didn't switch to a medium shot when it really needed to. The editing wouldn't match the flow of the dialogue.
But that's nitpicking. On a bigger level, It felt like things just happened. Something would happen that so easily could've been hinted at or foreshadowed ahead of time, but they just didn't. You could honestly move most of the scenes around and it'd make as much sense. But it's just aimless and random and the scenes were so isolated. It felt like the characters never referenced anything that happened before the scene they're in or was gonna happen in any scene later on. Every other scene you were left wondering, over and over again, "why?" or "that's it?" or "really?."
You couldn't follow any character all the way through and have it be a satisfying story. People disappear, reappear, show up for random scenes, mean less, mean a lot and just get underused over and over again. Every time you realize what they're trying to get across or say with a character, all you're left wondering is...well why didn't they just put a little scene of ______ that'd lead to where we're at now? They had so many powerful relationships and symbols and places and situations to do something with, but most of the time, the movie just wanted to show you them, so that you knew they were there. It's not really a narrative, it's a disjointed diorama. It's pieces of a movie. The parts don't move. They don't push the next domino forward or explain how one thing influenced the next or is connected. They're just there, because these things happened?
My favorite scenes were when she took care of her dad after he came home drunk and bloody, when her mom first came home, and when her sister came home with the baby. But it felt like all of her family was underused, thrown away at times and sloppily handled. I felt like there was SO much there, to tell a story about how people were constantly hurting her, leaving her, and coming back when life beat them back down. But it instead they each felt like 5 minute short films that were only really connected, because the same actors and sets were involved.
I think...with stronger editing, it could've come together better, but it just felt like the script or the director wasn't ready, or it needed a strong producer to ask those little questions that'd pull the film together. Instead, this is kind of a lighter, choppier Precious, that doesn't do as good a job setting up it's wants, characters, story lines, themes, or narrative. And I really wanted to like this.
I'd recommend watching Precious, Thirteen, Kidulthood, Half Nelson or Love & Basketball if you were interested in this.
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