I missed this title when I first browsed through the list of Sundance feature entries, when it was unveiled last month.
It's called Toe To Toe, the debut feature film for Emily Abt, described as "compelling coming-of-age tale," and "the debut film of the New Obama Cinema," and lastly, "an American movie that treats race and class with insight and enthusiasm equal to the excitement over President elect Barack Obama and his impact on race relations."
Labels like "New Obama Cinema" turn me off, but, I'll bite this time.
The film made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, at the Eccles Theatre, the largest of the Park City, Utah venues.
indieWIRE writer, Steve Ramos writes,
“Toe to Toe” is smart, honest storytelling about Tosha (Sonequa Martin), a driven African American student on full scholarship at a Washington D.C. prep school and her competitive relationship with Jesse (Louisa Krause), a troubled white student from wealth.
... “Toe to Toe” is the most driven of the American movies so far at Sundance; a well told, swift-moving story with standout lead performances, solid commercial elements and high prospects for enthusiastic word-of-mouth.
While much about the relationship between Tosha and Jesse feels honest and believable, Abt does occasionally fall into the trap of dramatic exaggeration in order to heighten the film’s emotional climax (there is a lesbian subplot that feels out of place). It’s a common misstep for someone tackling his or her first feature drama. To Abt’s credit, the film’s poignant moments far outweigh its stumbles. By “Toe to Toe’s” surprising finish, one walks away with new thoughts and feelings about race, diversity as well as questions about how today’s teens will address class and race differently from their parents.
Abt moves us with her storytelling, and as a welcome bonus, makes us think;
“Toe to Toe” is complex and multi-layered and I expect unanimous praise for Martin and Krause, both beautifully confused as two teen friends battling to overcome the troubles in their lives. I also expect praise for Abt, the storyteller who holds all the angst, successes and setbacks together, making this girl’s tale capable of engaging all audiences.
If that doesn’t earn Abt a shot at directing future feature dramas, nothing does.
Certainly not the best review of a film, even though it is undoubtedly a positive one. However, it feels rather empty, despite its verbosity.
Here's a decisively negative review from Neil Miller over at Film School Rejects:
In general, I have a rule about walking out of movies. I just don’t do it. For some reason I have always held tight to the belief that it is respectful to the filmmaker — especially in an environment such as Sundance — to give the movie its fair shake. This rule brought much pain to my life last year, with films such as Downloading Nancy and Funny Games leaving me on the edge of despair, yearning to rip my eyes from my skull. And while writer/director Emily Abt’s melodramatic soap opera Toe to Toe didn’t have me reaching for acid to pour on my face, it will go down as the first film of Sundance 2009 that had me eying both my watch and the exit door.
You can read the rest of his "D" review HERE.
By the way, Emmy-winning actress Leslie Uggams co-stars.
Stay tuned for updates on it...