I watched PARIAH soon after that live Hollywood post-Oscars telecast. I watched the movie again a couple of weeks ago. Meryl Streep was right about PARIAH. What a good movie. It presents different images of an African-American family dealing with something we don't often see Black families deal with in films focused on a Black family. The daughter is finding her own voice and identity sexually and intellectually. She knows she's not straight. She knows the school she wants to attend after high school graduation. Her sister knows the truth. Her loving father senses it. Her mother breaks your heart as she watches the rug pulled right out from under the plans she made for her daughter. Also, there's a little tension in the marriage.
I could feel the Kim Wayans performance. I could see some of my own mother in her. Audrey (Kim Wayans) is not a mean, irresponsible mother. She's self-deluded. You see the pain behind her eyes. You know Audrey feels if co-workers and church friends find out that her daughter is a lesbian, they will see her as a failure in Black Mothering. Audrey breaks her own heart thinking she could arrange her child's life the way she'd arrange furniture in the living room before company arrives.
Her daughter is smart, a good student and responsible. She prefers not to wear traditional feminine clothing. It jars Audrey that her daughter won't complete Audrey's image of the fine middle class African-American family with two working parents and two lovely daughters both in school. To her husband, Audrey snaps "I'm tired of this whole tomboy things she's doing!"
PARIAH is a great film to see during Pride Month. Filmmaker Dee Rees followed PARIAH with the exceptional MUDBOUND, one of the best films of 2017. In MUDBOUND, Dee Rees directed Mary J. Blige in a dramatic performance that earned her an extremely well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Look for MUDBOUND on Netflix.