2016, NR, 88 min. Directed by Elizabeth Wood. Starring Morgan Saylor, Brian “Sene” Marc, Justin Bartha, India Menuez, Chris Noth, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Ralph Rodriguez, Anthony Ramos, Adrian Martinez.
REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Sept. 16, 2016
Brace yourself for the salvo that is Elizabeth Wood’s White Girl, the latest in the perennial state-of-the-union movie concerning “today’s youth,” a genre that, yes, goes beyond Larry Clark’s Kids (a film that I often wish never existed, just so people would stop referencing it). Playing out like some bizarro hardcore version of an episode of Girls, Wood’s feature debut infuses a hefty dose of white privilege mixed with more than a sprinkling of gender politics, all wrapped up in a sleazy, sweaty, strung-out package that wants, no, needs you to react to the various bad decisions every character makes.
It’s summer in New York City, and Leah (Saylor, amazing here, much as she was under-appreciated in Homeland) is gearing up for her sophomore year in college. She’s got an internship at some unnamed, trendy magazine, and she and Katie (Menuez) have just moved into an apartment in Queens, outliers of gentrification, as the streets are still rough in these parts. Leah strikes it up with the street corner dealer Blue (Marc), and the two quickly fall into a heated affair, fueled by drugs and libido. After Leah takes Blue and his crew to a posh party where he makes bank selling overpriced cocaine, he decides to go big, getting fronted a pound of blow from his unsavory dealer Lloyd (Martinez). He immediately gets busted, leaving Leah with the drugs. The film then kicks into high gear, as Leah, desperately trying to get Blue out of jail, attempts to sell the coke herself, with the assistance of Blue’s friends and her creepy boss Kelly (Bartha). Suffice to say that things don’t go so well.
Based partly on her own experiences, Wood’s film is a provocation, as Leah slingshots from one bad encounter to another. As shot by Michael Simmonds, the film has a restless, kinetic style that suits the drug-fueled mayhem, but like waking up after partying all night, in the cold light of day, White Girl’s themes offer little insight other than wanting to take a shower.