Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
What Was I Watching Before? Bryan Singer Says 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Is "The True Birth Of The X-Men" What Was I Watching Before? Bryan Singer Says 'X-Men: Apocalypse' Is "The True Birth Of The X-Men" Review & Recap: 'True Detective' Season 2, Episode 3 'Maybe Tomorrow' Review & Recap: 'True Detective' Season 2, Episode 3 'Maybe Tomorrow' Zack Snyder Defends 'Man Of Steel' Finale, Ben Affleck Reveals Bruce Wayne Knew People Who Died In That Battle Zack Snyder Defends 'Man Of Steel' Finale, Ben Affleck Reveals Bruce Wayne Knew People Who Died In That Battle New Book Contends Eric Stoltz Was “Difficult” & The Cast Wasn’t Shocked He Was Replaced On ‘Back To The Future’ New Book Contends Eric Stoltz Was “Difficult” & The Cast Wasn’t Shocked He Was Replaced On ‘Back To The Future’ Watch: Scott Lang Wants To Call The Avengers In New International 'Ant-Man' Trailer Watch: Scott Lang Wants To Call The Avengers In New International 'Ant-Man' Trailer Watch: Epic New Trailer For Werner Herzog's 'Queen Of The Desert' With Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, & More Watch: Epic New Trailer For Werner Herzog's 'Queen Of The Desert' With Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, & More The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far The 20 Worst Films Of 2015 So Far Zack Snyder Reveals The Easter Egg Idea He Pitched Christopher Nolan And David Goyer For 'Man Of Steel' Zack Snyder Reveals The Easter Egg Idea He Pitched Christopher Nolan And David Goyer For 'Man Of Steel' New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet New Images Of Bruce Wayne, Lex Luthor, More In 'Batman v. Superman,' Ben Affleck Compares Batman To Hamlet Mads Mikkelsen And Hugh Dancy Released From Their 'Hannibal' Contracts Mads Mikkelsen And Hugh Dancy Released From Their 'Hannibal' Contracts Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Paul Thomas Anderson To Write And Possibly Direct Warner Bros' ‘Pinocchio’ For Robert Downey Jr. Watch: Michael Fassbender Plays ‘Steve Jobs’ In New Trailer For Oscar-Contender Co-Starring Kate Winslet & Seth Rogen Watch: Michael Fassbender Plays ‘Steve Jobs’ In New Trailer For Oscar-Contender Co-Starring Kate Winslet & Seth Rogen Tom Cruise Still Gearing Up For 'Top Gun 2,' Story Will Involve Drone Warfare Tom Cruise Still Gearing Up For 'Top Gun 2,' Story Will Involve Drone Warfare Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Watch: First Trailer For Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’ Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley & Nicolas Cage Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke Review: ‘Terminator: Genisys’ Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney & Jason Clarke 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" 'Thor: The Dark World' Director Alan Taylor Says His Marvel Experience Was "Particularly Wrenching" The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season

Review: Coming-Of-Age At A Workmanlike Pace In 'Yelling To The Sky'

The Playlist By Gabe Toro | The Playlist December 13, 2012 at 6:56PM

If you’ve seen enough movies, you’ve seen “Yelling To The Sky.” There’s a slight disappointment that, as a bleak inner-city coming-of-age film, this picture is part of its own subgenre. Not only because of the familiarity to some audience members, but also due to the fact that these pictures consistently reflect a serious divide within the middle class. In this picture, the characters aren’t necessarily poor, but they might as well be, as cabinets fall apart as often as the characters’ own composures.
0
Yelling To The Sky

If you’ve seen enough movies, you’ve seen “Yelling To The Sky.” There’s a slight disappointment that, as a bleak inner-city coming-of-age film, this picture is part of its own subgenre. Not only because of the familiarity to some audience members, but also due to the fact that these pictures consistently reflect a serious divide within the middle class. In this picture, the characters aren’t necessarily poor, but they might as well be, as cabinets fall apart as often as the characters’ own composures.

Our first scene establishes that duality, as pretty but unassuming high schooler Sweetness (of course!) is attacked on the street in broad daylight by bullies, both male and female, poised to do serious harm. With no provocation, the audience is thrust into the everyday violence of Sweetness’ life, calibrated to each raised fist. “Precious” star Gabourey Sidibe is present, almost as shorthand, as a vicious bully who can’t resist a cheap sucker punch. When Sweetness’ big sister descends with her own brand of justice, the thugs and hangers-on disperse, quickly establishing the tenuous social hierarchy of the block. The big reveal? Big sister Ola is also nursing a pregnancy.

Yelling To The Sky

Home life promises no relief for besieged Sweetness, as she merely sidesteps her distant mother, who might as well be a ghost. Mom floats from room to room, often speaking very little, seemingly unaware of her surroundings. It’s not mental illness, but rather some form of shellshock, never explained. Dad isn’t much better, having returned from war more than broken. The divide between him and his daughters is considerable, not because of his skin color (he is white) but because he ambles around the house drunk on no particular schedule, his randomly abusive treatment acts as a way to restore a twisted hierarchy that Sweetness and Ola cannot abide by any longer. Ola has the excuse of a supportive boyfriend ready to whisk her away. Sweetness isn’t so fortunate.

What follows isn’t the expected hitting of the books, or perhaps an after-school athletic diversion. Instead, Sweetness embraces a heel turn, casting her lot with two faceless sidekicks and becoming an entrepreneur in the drug trade, and a shot-calling bully. Her support systems continue to fall away as she gets high off her own supply. There’s no assistance from her parents, and her sister has one foot out the door. Soon to graduate, Sweetness makes an all-too-late visit to the guidance counselor (Tim Blake Nelson), only for him to throw up his hands in helplessness. Even solidarity with the local drug dealer (Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of The Roots) goes nowhere: a come-on is rejected with business-like formality, stymieing her last considerable hope for a friend.

Yelling To The Sky

There are few places for this narrative to turn that are both authentic and unfamiliar, but writer-director Victoria Mahoney eschews them anyway, in the hopes that the film’s emotional gravity is enough to sustain the picture on its own. At moments, she’s correct: Zoe Kravitz gives a sensitive, inward performance as a teenager self-consciously forcing herself into inorganic directions. And there are several highlights amongst the supporting cast: the evolution of Sidibe’s monstrous bully, particularly as she’s placed on the defensive, hint at the possible counter-cultural cachet Sidibe might soon wield if she fills her CV with outlandish supporting roles like this, like a modern-day combination of Mary Wornov and Grace Jones. And Jason Clarke, so strong in this year’s “Lawless” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” is appropriately lived-in as Sweetness’ transient father, who shows the greatest on-screen change of anyone in the film as soon as he realizes the beast he’s become.

It’s unfortunate that “Yelling To The Sky” is a paperweight, hitting narrative beats with a workmanlike competence that yields no room for surprises. A drive-by hit here, a toking-up montage there, all amidst the consistent revelations of authority figures undermining their status. Poor Sweetness feels trapped not in an urban nightmare but in a Moebius strip of story outcomes that feel arbitrary, creating no rising action beyond, “here comes another shitty development.” Kravitz is game, but it’s doubtful any actress would be able to create a memorable characterization with this sort of amorphous allegiance to indie storytelling. [C+]

This article is related to: Yelling To The Sky, Zoë Kravitz, Gabourey Sidibe, Jason Clarke, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates