Strip Search follows several parallel stories examining personal freedoms vs. national security in the aftermath of 9/11; two main subplots involve an American woman detained in China and an Arab man detained in New York City.
A look at a group of girl friends coming-of-age during their senior year of high school in urban America. Nikki and Emma have a heart to heart talk one evening about how much they'll miss ... See full summary »
That is how i see this movie: like a living photograph. There is not much going on plot wise, and nothing epic occurs at all, but this movie is engrossing just the same. It is a quick look into the lives of these people, and an unabashed, unbiased look at race relations.
To begin with, this largely unknown cast gives a fine performance. In particular i enjoyed Billoah Greene as Samel and Reg E. Cathey as Akbar. Samel was perhaps the most interesting character in the movie because, more than any of the others, he brakes through stereotypes. He is a young black man, but he has a white foster mother whom he greatly respects, he is smart, and not a womanizer. He represents in this movie, i feel, hope and forward movement in today's society, and the idea that things can get better. The interaction with him and the elderly man at the counter was one of the three most powerful in the movie (the other two being the mother and the daughter interaction and the interaction in the end between the corporate man and the older woman). All three of those interactions depicted the gap in generations trying to communicate with each other in varying degrees of positive and negative. His interaction showed a very positive and understanding interaction and seemed to show that these two very different people, only knowing each other for a few moments, could come to some understanding of what the other was about. This is opposed to the two other interactions that stalled and broke down as the characters were unwilling to accept each other. Samel stands in a stark contrast to the hoodlums show in the movie. He is also the opposite to Akbar who has lost hope completely but seems to be trying to convince himself that there is still some. It is as if his overly pro-black talk is more for himself to hear than anyone else and that he is trying to convince himself that what the corporate man said is not true, but what sadly is true in many inner city areas. Being white and from New York both these characters, in their actions and motivations was, for me, a powerful insight into the black male perspective in 21st century America.
The other life glimpses were profound as well. The single very young mother realizing that she has to resort to degrading herself just to make ends meet, while barely getting to see the son she is doing it for; the corporate man trying to find peace between what some see as selling out his roots and what he sees as the inevitable evolution of the city; the woman trying to make it the business world with an overabundant contempt for white people and her own black roots; the elderly men with families who are coming to realize that their lives have amounted to very little and the simple act of losing a low paying job could ruin even that; and the washed up ex-con who wants the life he threw away back. Overall these were brilliantly thought out caricatures and expertly played.
Before we go giving all the praise to the actors one cannot forget the writer/director. I have not had the privilege to see Jim McKay's previous two films, but based on the reviews, and what i have seen here in everyday People, he shows a strong ability to capture the images and essence of people of all races, religions, and ages. He has a keen understanding of the personal mind, the human condition, the collective unconscious, and how the three interact in the modern world on the everyday level of the average person. He also showed the slow death of 20th century America at the hands of 21st corporate America in ways so subtle it was brilliant. A good example of this is when the corporate man comments, while sitting in a genuine New York diner, that the Hard Rock Cafe will come in and bring real diner food to the neighborhood. He then goes on to chide the simple fact that he has been given free coleslaw and pickles with his meal. This showed so easily his utter ignorance to everyday America and to the lower working class. New York diners are considered some of the best in the world, and you always get a pickle and coleslaw with your meal so this comment illustrated that the corporate man may never have even set foot in a diner before then, which was a profound comment in and of itself. Aside from his screen writing he has a good director's eye for setting up his scenes to show contrast between interacting characters, and of the environments they cohabitate. I look forward to see where his skill takes him next and what he will have to give us in the future.
I find myself drawing a natural comparison between this and Monster's Ball, as Everyday People seems to deal with many of the same issues that it did. Monster's Ball was a big budget attempt at the same type of snapshot of life movie. I felt, next to Everyday People, that Monster's Ball was dry and forced, and handled by people who have been long out of touch with the types of characters they tried to create. Everyday People, with its low budget and its unknown actors, didn't let itself get distracted by its own weight and rolled out very naturally, as if you yourself could have been sitting in the restaurant simply observing these people.
A really good dramatic piece that feels almost documentive feature rather than a film, which is a testament to how close it came to its intent. I definitely recommend this film to anyone who wants a bit of an insight on lives they may never see or interact with.
9 out of 10
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