On the Outs

          A recent story in Newsweek magazine detailed the growing rise of violent
  behavior in young girls. There, of course, have been several high profile cases
  such as the stabbing of an 11-year-old girl by her nine-year-old friend in New York
  City, three teenagers charged with murder in a drive-by shooting in North Carolina,
  and the stabbing a high school student by a classmate in Chicago. The article
  went on to mention that one-third of juveniles arrested for violent crimes are female.
  Cornell University professor Joan Jacobs Brumberg pointed out that “Violence in
  girls, like violence in boys, is rooted in the individual and the individual’s situation.”
  In some ways, those are the themes that filmmakers Lori Silverbush and Michael
  Skolnik address in their fine film

          Along with Paola Mendoza (who appears in the movie as single mother
  Marisol), the directors decided to collaborate on a project dealing with the lives of]
  inner-city girls. The trio developed writing and acting programs designed for those
  incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility in New Jersey. Through their work, they
  became acquainted with inmates and their stories, many of whom had been
  placed in custody for everything from truancy to drug dealing to more violent
  offenses. Soon they had enough material to create the three characters are
  at the heart of

          The film focuses on three characters: Keisha ‘Oz’ Osborne (Judy Marte), a
  tough street drug dealer, Marisol (Mendoza), a single mother addicted to crack
  cocaine and raising a young daughter, and Suzette (Anny Mariano), a
  sheltered young girl whose life is turned upside down by her romantic involvement
  with a drug dealer.

          The filmmakers have created three very distinct and real characters that
  allow (for the most part) the three actresses to shine. Marte, who made a striking
  impression in
RAISING VICTOR VARGAS, is terrific as Oz, whose own mother
  is a junkie trying to get clean. Oz has her own corner from which she deals drugs.
  She’s also a loving sister to her mentally disabled younger brother (Dominic
  Colón). Marte gives the most accomplished performance in the film.

  Mendoza, as single mother and addict Marisol, acquits herself nicely. Her
  character attempts to get clean while incarcerated in order to regain custody of
  her daughter from the foster care system, but Marisol has no clue to the realities
  of the world. The concept of working and supporting her daughter are foreign and
  her predicament is perhaps the most tragic. There’s a nice scene where Marisol
  is reunited with her daughter briefly and Mendoza is heart-breaking during the
  scene, but when she is called upon to “break down,” there’s a theatrical aspect
  to her work that feels less than organic.

          Newcomer Anny Mariano is a find as the sheltered Suzette, a nice girl
  corrupted by her involvement with Terrell (Clarence ‘Don Parma’ Hutchinson).
  The young actress delivers an impressive performance.

          One of the aspects of the film that I appreciated was the interconnectedness
  of the characters. It seems to be a theme to some of the better films of 2005; as
CRASH or HEIGHTS, the individuals interact without really knowing it.
  Suzette’s boyfriend Terrell sells drugs to Marisol, Terrell takes Suzette to an
  abandoned building where Oz cooks her drugs, etc. Even though the young women
  end up in the same detention facility, they don’t become friends or even realize
  their connections. Once on the “outs,” Marisol even attempts to buy drugs from Oz
  who has a realization about the effect her life choices are having.

ON THE OUTS is a powerful, moving and well-acted drama that is well worth
  seeking out.

               Rating:                                B+
               MPAA Rating:                    NONE (language, violence and drug use)
               Running time:                      81 mins.
©  2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.