How She Move

Jan. 24, 2008
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Raya was on her way up from the projects and onto the path to medical school when her sister died of an overdose. In a middle class family this would have been tragic. For an African-American family whose mother works two shifts and father works whenever he can, it was catastrophic. Their fragile finances unraveled, Raya must return from the exclusive boarding academy her parents strained to afford to the ghetto high school she hoped to escape, with its unruly student body and bleak classrooms.

How She Move is her story. Running to a clip and shuffle hip-hop beat, it offers a slice of reality wrapped in enduring teen movie formulas going back as far as the 1930s. How She Move is an appealing story of basically good kids in a bad corner of the world. Many surrender to drugs and crime or at least an imitation of the gangsta life, a few are absorbed in reading and learning and others pursue the hoop dream of lucrative step-competitionsbasically break dancing, the next generation.

Raya (Rutina Wesley) works the latter two angles simultaneously. She studies hard to earn a much-needed scholarship while cutting on the floor with the boys in a step-dance crew for big prize money. Along the way she learns to give a bit of herself to the neighborhood while setting an example of striving. Denzel Washingtons Coach Tolson would have added her to the team in The Great Debaters.

Visually, the movies most spectacular scenes are the dances themselves, which occur often enough for HowShe Move to join the ranks of contemporary musicals. The rhythmic, gymnastic gyrations of step-dancing, with their careful street level choreography, often envelop the viewers perspective. Otherwise, the budget is almost as low as that of the characters depicted. The young cast is adequately unspectacular as they navigate a subculture where many forms of excellence are derided and downward peer pressure dooms its victims to foreshortened lives of little opportunity. The social commentary couldnt ring more clearly. A whole lot of people are killing themselves for things that dont even matter, Raya insists, reasonably. How She Move is all about escaping the dead end of Americas underclass. Its not a great film but makes its points effectively as it peers into places the comfortable middle class will seldom see.

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