On The Outs

on July 13, 2005 by Bridget Byrne
Sympathy is not what viewers are badgered to feel watching "On the Outs," but that doesn't mean that this harsh portrait of a trio young women, trapped in a world shaped by the buying, selling, and consuming of drugs, doesn't earn our understanding and concern. Based on true stories gleaned from juveniles who live in broken homes and follow the creed of the streets and detention centers, Lori Silverbush and Michael Skolnik's film must live and die on the strength of its lead performers. Luckily, most of the time they are up to the challenge of delineating the complicated mix of defiance and despair brought on not just by the grim circumstances of their lives, but also by the choices they make, whether willingly or out of addiction.

Their addiction is not the same. Oz's need is for power, born of her belief that her own toughness can keep her free of the tragedy her mother's drug abuse has inflicted on her family. Judy Marte plays her with a tough insouciance that is the most winning of the three performances. Suzette needs attention and finds it with the wrong man. The simple sadness in Anny Mariano's performance is touching. Marisol, a severely addicted young mother, needs a cure, but can't accept the challenge, even when the threat of losing her daughter to foster care is thrown at her. Paola Mendoza's performance suffers a bit from the artifice of having to made her look so rundown by drug use, but still has its moments of real anguish.

The men in the movie are completely feckless, apart from Oz's handicapped brother. The filmmakers seem sure they are beyond all sympathy, but then it's not their story that's being told. Starring Judy Marte, Anny Mariano and Paola Mendoza. Directed and produced by Lori Silverbush and Michael Skolnik. Written by Lori Silverbush. A Polychrome release. Drama. Rated R for pervasive language, strong drug use, some violence and sexual content. Running time: 83 min.

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