Movie Review: ‘WHITE GIRL’ plays like a bad party you can’t leave

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Kip Mooney // Film Critic

WHITE GIRL | 88 min | R
Director: Elizabeth Wood
Cast: Morgan Saylor, Brian ‘Sene’ Marc, Justin Bartha and Chris Noth

Have you ever been to a party that just got more and more awful and all you wanted to do was leave? That’s what it’s like to watch WHITE GIRL.

The feature debut of writer-directed Elizabeth Wood tries and fails to balance being harrowing and disarmingly funny, though there are individual scenes that succeed at each.

Morgan Saylor (HOMELAND) plays Leah, the titular white girl, who moves to a new apartment in Queens and spends an incredibly destructive summer getting involved in drug trafficking and an affair with her boss (Justin Bartha). If you cut out the scenes where she’s having sex against a wall or snorting cocaine, this movie would only be about 20 minutes.

Leah falls for her drug dealer Blue (Brian Marc), who gets busted for selling after an all-night party. She then takes over his business to raise enough money for a credible defense attorney. This is where the film could have had an impact, making a point about how poverty traps defendants even if they have a decent defense.

Morgan Saylor and Brian 'Sene' Marc star in WHITE GIRL. Courtesy of FilmRise.

Morgan Saylor and Brian ‘Sene’ Marc star in WHITE GIRL. Courtesy of FilmRise.

But nope, the movie sails right by that so Leah can have an all-night bender/sell-off that proves you can be a terrible drug dealer and still make a ton of money, so long as you’re an attractive woman with drugs. White girl problems, indeed.

As Leah quickly learns, though, it’s not all fun and games. With Blue in jail, his supplier (Adrian Martinez) comes around, torturing Leah to get her assurances that Blue hasn’t ratted him out and he’ll be getting his money. Look, I’m all for actors branching out, but I just can’t buy Martinez, who’s almost exclusively played the funny fat friend in everything, as a menacing villain.

In fact, every man in Leah’s life – Blue excepted – is strictly there to use and abuse her. That might be why she’s so willing to risk life and limb to get him out of jail. Otherwise, I don’t buy that their days-old relationship is solid enough for her to go through hell to save him. Nor do I buy that she’s a true-hearted woman out to right an injustice.

WHITE GIRL feels like it’s supposed to be a cautionary tale, but the only one I can tell you is to avoid watching the film.

WHITE GIRL opens in limited release on Friday.
Dallas: Angelika Dallas

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.