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May 12, 1993 - Image 8

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 1993-05-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

8-The Min ySummWeeky-WenesdayMay 12,1993

AF THE 'There's never be
Not just another debut

en a good Republican folk singer.'
- jamaez

By MEGAN ABBOTT
Soon after it made a big splash at
theSundanceFilmFestivalin January,
garnering the coveted Best First Dra-
matic Feature award, "Just Another
Girl on the I.RT." faced a bit of a
critical backlash. A New Yorker film
critic deemed it anti-Semitic; other re-
viewers condemned it as sloppy and
Just Another Girl
on theIT.T
Written and directed by Leslie Harris;
with Ariyan Johnson, Kevin Thigpen
and Ebony Jerido.
full of stereotypes. Suddenly, the for-
midable achievementof the first major
commercial feature by an African-
American woman filmmaker became
overshadowed by latent and often un-
founded critiques of the film.
Thechargethat Leslie Harris' "Just
Another Girl ..." is too broad and ste-
reotypical betrays a failure to under-
stand Harris' intent. The film takes a
stereotype -the sassy, loud-mouthed
African-American teenage girl on the
subway (the I.R.T.) - and strips that
stereotype ofitssexistandracistunder-
pinnings. Harris deftly uses the stereo-

type asa starting point from which she
peelsaway allthesocially-constructed
trappingstorevealavitalyoung woman
underneath.AndthatwomanisChantel
(Ariyan Johnson). ,
Chantel is a 17-year-old with a
Plan. She's a straight-A student from
the projects who's going to graduate a
year early and go on to college and
medicalschool.WorkingataManhat-
tan gourmet food shop, Chantel bears
up under the cold snobbery of the
yuppie patrons, spinning off fast-talk-
ing insults with her best friend, Natete
(Ebony Jerido).
At school, Chantel faces run-ins
withteachersandaprincipalwhowarns
her that she ought to act more like a
lady. But Chantel refuses to mute her
personality for anyone. She plans to
break out on her own terms.
However, the finely-designed,
sweet-smelling lifestyle of Chantel's
new boyfriend, Tyrone (Kevin
Thigpen)provesenticing.Ditchingher
projects' suitor Gerard (Jerard Wash-
ington),whose ideaof adateis spread-
ing ablanketdown inthelaundryroom
oftheirbuilding, Chantel begins a full-
fledged and doomed liaison with
Tyrone, savoring his jeep and his
family'sbrownstone.Chantelbecomes
more reckless, and the price proves

quite high.
Aside from the sheer delight of a
film wholly centered around awoman,
particularly a woman of color, "Just
Another Girl ..." also breaks new
ground in dealing with the plight of
inner-city youth. While drugs and vio-
lence do not enter Harris' story, the
crisesofpoverty,teenpregnancy,single
motherhoodandobstaclestoeducation
are central to the film.
Harris' main trouble comes not in
theplotmovementfromurbancomedy
to serious social drama, butin the shift
in tone. The fmal45minutes tum curi-
ously melodramatic, though the plot
largely warmnts it. Also, the acting of
some of the non-principals is uneven,
often more suited for student films(re:
large reaction shots).
But"JustAnother Girl ...," with its
intense emphasison Chantel, who is in
nearly every scene and who talks di-
rectly to the cameraduring muchof the
film, was destined to live or die based
on the lead performance.
Fortunately, Ariyan Johnson, a
dancer with no film experience, scores
on every count With her Brooklyn
accent wrapping around her tough talk,
and with her stunning use of her body
and face to convey emotion, Johnson
puts forth an amazingly naturistic

Ariyan Johnson stars as a straight-out-of-Brooklyn girl.

performance, full of nuances and tur-
bulence. She's a real find, doing
Chantel's complex character realjus-
tice.
AndHarrissurelyknowswhatshe's
doing inherinterpretationofChantel's
struggle.We clearly,ifabitobviously,
see what Chantel is up against. The
scene in which the teenage girls dis-
cuss various homemade birth control
methods is both funny and chilling.
There's also a moving bit in which
Chantel tries to explain to Natete that
her good grades are no fluke, that she
is actually that smart.
The fact that Chantel would have
to convince her best friend that she is

indeed fiercely intelligent and really
does intend to become adoctor is quite
painful. No one really believes in
Chantel,despitesomemarginally posi-
tive parental support. And it becomes
apparent that Chantel's increasingly
self-destructive behavior betrays her
own growing doubts in the face of all
these obstacles.
Leslie Harris' uneven, but largely
powerfuland potent firstmoviereveals
a major filmmaking talent. She prom-
ises to be an important, and needed,
new voice in American film.
JUST ANOTHER GIRL ON THE
IR.T is playing at the Michigan
Theater through May 15.

WH WAT HREWE

Sizzling Sondheim
In the mood for a great musical
revue, not to mention some hot new
talent? "Exclusively Sondheim," a
showcaseofsongsby thegreatmusical
theater composer/lyricist Stephen
Sondheim, is going on this weekend
just 30 minutes from A2. The show is
a set of Sondheim standards and rare
gems. If you don't know Sondheim's

stuff, don't sweat it-this is a great
introductiontohis work;if youdo, we
promise you won't be abitbored.This
isperhapsthebestrevuewe'veseenin
quite a while. With only three people
in a relaxed cabaret setting, the songs
are given the intimate treatment they
deserve. Tenor J. Matthew Riopelle
and mezzo-soprano Holly T. Graham
will enchant you with their poignant
lyricism and unrelenting strength, ac-

companied by the very agile hands of
pianist Steven Serraiocco. Run, don't
walk, to this show -hell, hitchhike if
youhaveto!Thesefolksaregoingtobe
big someday soon. Showsare this Sat-
urdayandSundayat8p.m atRiverview
(not Ann Arbor) Gabriel Richard High
School. Tickets at the door are just $5
for students, and proceeds go to Mr.
Riopelle'seducationalfund.Call(313)
285-5669 for directions and info.

$2." Lunch Specials
Everyday of the week. A complete meal for only $2.99.
Better and cheaper than fast food.
Mon: Smoked Turkey Sandwich & Soup
Tues: BLT & Fries
Wed: 131b Cheeseburger & Fries
Thurs: Grilled Turkey Dijon & Fries
Fri: Fish Sandwich & Fries
Saturday: Tuna Melt & Soup
Sunday: 1131b Cheeseburger & Fries-
Expanded Beer Selection!
Now 20 Beers on Tap
Happy Hour M-F 3-7pm
Kitchen Open Late Every Night

Barton Fink South of the
Border
TheMichiganTheater'sstellarMay
lineup continues this weekend with
showings of two acclaimed indies,
"Mac" and "E Mariachi." Spike Lee
and Coen brothers' actor-of-choice,
JohnTurturro("JungleFever,""Barton
Fink") makes his directorial debut in
~~O ~
\A V
R RDC V
g o5 SR A

the family saga, "Mac." This autobio-
graphicalwoikrakedinravesatCannes.
But it is even more crucial that you
make it to Robert Rodriguez's "El
Mariachi."Made on ashoe-string bud-
get of $7,000, "El Mariachi" was in-
tended to go straight to Spanish-lan-
guage video. But then Sundance came
along,andRodriguez'slittleactionflick
became the new indie sensation. Jam-
packed with every technique from a
filmstudent'scatalogueofcost-cutting
ingenuities, "El Mariachi" is an indie
cinemalover's(andaB-movielover's)
paradise. Forget Araie; this is the real
action movie - with guts. Both films
play at the Michigan this weekend.

Monster Record-ull
The big one is coming. The Ann
ArborBigMonsterRecord&CDShow
will be happening this weekend at the
ElksLodge(325W.Eisenhower Park-
way). Buyers, sellers and traders are
welcome to attend in the exchange of
LPs and CDs. Maybe now youcan get
rid of all those damn Duran Duran
albums that have been cluttering up'
your attic. Admission is $2.

0

338 State St. 996-9191

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