Toe to Toe
Time Out New York Project: Issue #752, February 25–March 3, 2010
Dir. Emily Abt. 2009. N/R. 104mins. Louisa Krause, Sonequa Martin, Silvestre Rasuk.
Slutty gilded lily Jesse (Krause) and determined minority Tosha (Martin) are female lacrosse players from opposite sides of the tracks who wend their way through numerous senior-year ups and downs. Their lives have enough drama (vicious bullying, race-baiting rivalries, chlamydia infections) for several seasons of Jersey Shore. The film is best, though, when it simply observes the girls riding the trains, walking the campus or attending go-go musical performances presided over by their semi-shared inamorata (Rasuk) and, in one scene, by The Wire alum Anwan “Slim Charles” Glover.
In light of the strong feel for location (the rich-poor suburban divide outside Washington, D.C.) and the two terrific lead performances, it’s a shame that Toe to Toe adheres so stridently to Indiewood clichés. Writer-director Emily Abt’s aesthetic is retrograde-progressive — most notably in a hysterical guilt-sex montage featuring a POV Jesse-cam screwed by a rainbow coalition of male horndogs — and the story also builds to a ridiculous moment of redemption more suited to an equal-opportunity remake of The Legend of Bagger Vance (in the Obama era, the blacks and the whites absolve each other). But Krause and Martin consistently rise above the material; we’ll hopefully see more of them under better, less Larry Clark–like circumstances.—Keith Uhlich