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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > Toe to Toe

MOVIE REVIEWS

TOE TO TOE (2009)

Starring Louisa Krause, Sonequa Martin, Gaius Charles, Silvestre Rasuk, Ally Walker, Leslie Uggams, Anwan Glover, Dionne Audain, Erica Chamblee, Hina Abdullah, Julia Garro, Maha Chehlaoui, Anthony Del Negro, Thuliso Dingwall, Stephanie Rigizadeh and Michael Gable.

Screenplay by Emily Abt.

Directed by Emily Abt.

Distributed by Strand Releasing.  104 minutes.  Not Rated.

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Toe to Toe

Toe to Toe starts off as a darker Bend It Like Beckham wannabe, but soon it becomes rather obvious that writer/director Emily Abt is trying for something much more serious than just a rehash of that over-praised little art house favorite. 

Good intentions don’t make a good movie, though, and Abt is working so hard to make a profound social statement that she doesn’t notice that her film is not exactly saying anything at all. 

Oh, sure, there are lots of button pushing topics: teen sexuality, racism, drink and drug abuse, street violence, date rape, sexually-transmitted diseases, bullying, lesbianism, teen pregnancy, parental neglect, girl-on-girl violence, religious and economic differences.  However, it is all put out there in such a high dramatic pitch that much of it never really connects.

It’s a bit of a shame, because Toe to Toe does have two extremely strong lead performances by mostly unknown actresses.  They give the film bearing even when it often doesn’t quite earn it. Soniqua Martin plays Tosha, a smart girl, stuck in a ghetto existence that she cannot stand, living in an extended household that includes four generations of her family.  She transfers to a Washington DC school far from her home because she sees the sport lacrosse (which is not available at her school) and a more-respected academic high school as her ticket into Princeton, and out of the hood.

Louisa Krause is Jessie, a rich troubled teen with an absentee mother (mom is usually in Africa or somewhere on business).  Jessie has been through several schools in recent years, getting a reputation as a slut and often living up to it.  Her promiscuous ways and alcohol and drug abuse just seem to be a call for help, though.  She also sees the lacrosse team as a final chance to make something of herself. 

The two become friends out of necessity… in honesty, probably a bit too quickly.  The story jumps from plot point to unlikely plot point with little exposition or explanation.  Abt should have fleshed out their friendship more before bringing out the inevitable break. 

There are many things contributing to this understandable split, however the movie settles on the least interesting of those – a love triangle with a wannabe DJ (Silvestre Rasuk). 

The movie then follows the two girls, together and separate, through their trials and tribulations.  However, it quickly takes on a bit of a judgmental tone – sexually active = bad and destructive, studious = good and on the way up. 

These tags may even be accurate, but it doesn’t change the fact that it feels like a bit of a cop out on the filmmaker’s part to essentially throw one of their leads to the wolves before she finally finds a somewhat unearned redemption.  Also, the purer one of the two does have a share of character flaws as well, but she is allowed to skate on them because she is bettering herself in the eyes of the film. 

It is too bad, because like I said, the young leads did a terrific job with what they had.  Particularly Krause – who was also impressive in the similarly uneven suburban satire The Babysitters a couple of years ago – she gives weight and real pain to an out-of-control party girl who can’t seem to figure out how to make all the bad things stop. 

Otherwise, the cast is mostly unknown.  Only Heroes star Ally Walker as Jessie’s globe-trotting mom and Leslie Uggams as Tosha’s demanding-but-loving grandmother have any real name recognition.  While both are fine with what they are given, these veteran actresses do not have nearly enough to do. 

The film actually does end on a high note.  Abt is able to bring it all together and show where she was going with all the preceding drama.  Of course, it would all work better if this catharsis felt earned by the storyline.  In the rush to get to the happy-ish ending, Toe to Toe tries to accomplish too much and almost forgets to show how these epiphanies were achieved by the characters.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 27, 2010.

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Copyright ©2010  PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 27, 2010.

 

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