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White Girl (NR)

Drama 88 min. September 2, 2016
By Abbey Bender
It's hard to watch White Girl without experiencing a creeping sense of anxiety. Loosely based on the adolescent life of writer/director Elizabeth Wood, the film follows Leah (Morgan Saylor), a college student who parties all night and snorts prodigious amounts of cocaine. She and her roommate, Katie (India Menuez), live in Ridgewood, Queens as members of the hipster gentrification class. Early on Leah meets Blue (Brian Marc), a drug dealer hanging outside her apartment, and the two begin the tumultuous relationship that drives the narrative as they party, fuck and push the product. Blue doesn't seem too much like the usual movie cliché of a hustler (though plenty of stereotypes can be found in his orbit) -- he has a delicate quality and is less wild than his girlfriend.

In order to get Blue out of jail, Leah enlists a lawyer, George Fratelli (Chris Noth), who is too expensive but plies her with his understanding of discrimination in a world of police who inordinately punish nonwhite men for drug possession. The relationship between Leah and the older, slightly sleazy Fratelli ultimately moves in a disturbing sexual direction that viewers with an inherent distrust of powerful men might not find surprising. Wood is attuned to the ways America's power dynamics work against young women, yet scenes in which Leah gets money stolen and faces sexual violence feel strangely like some kind of punishment. You might hope that a film directed by a woman about an attractive college student who constantly uses drugs would identify more with the protagonist than the leering men around her. But Leah is a bad seed, and White Girl won't ever let us forget it.
Elizabeth Wood Morgan Saylor, Brian 'Sene' Marc, Justin Bartha, Chris Noth, India Menuez, Annabelle Dexter-Jones, Ralph Rodriguez, Anthony Ramos Elizabeth Wood Gabriel Nussbaum Film Rise

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