On the Outs

By  · Published on May 9th, 2006

Sometimes a film comes a long that changes your perspective on your life or the place that you live. Sometimes a film comes along that makes you look deeper into your own world to find what is truly happening around you. And then sometimes a film comes along that makes you feel like the guy who writes the “Just Say No to Drugs” bumper stickers has never seen Urban America. On the Outs is an example of the latter. It is more than a story about the culture of the American streets; it is a story about the faults of humanity and our inability to resist temptation.

Alright, so I understand that the previous paragraph could set me up for a prophetic lecture on the rights and wrongs of our society. That is not the purpose of this exercise, though. The purpose is to set the stage for a film called On the Outs; a story of 3 girls and their struggle with addiction, lust and the loss of innocence that comes with life on the streets as a teenager. The story follows Oz, a 17 year old street wise drug dealer; Marisol, a crack addicted mother of one; and Suzette, a confused 16 year old girl who got caught up with the wrong guy in worst ways. The film follows these three young girls as they try fight their way through their world of addiction, with only small hopes of survival.

I was instantly drawn in to the stories of these three girls, and the unnervingly real world in which they live. Their stories are compelling, but also sad and terribly tragic. I can attest this to amazing casting job done with this movie. Judy Marte, heralded for her previous work in the film Raising Victor Vargas, was especially good as the cold but conflicted Oz. By herself, she could have carried the emotional weight of this film.

On top of the performances that made these characters so interesting was a production that seemed to be more like a documentary than a work of fiction. This is one of those times when a low production value helps a film. I found myself imagining that rather than watching a film, I was somehow getting to look directly into the lives of three troubled young girls. But there was even more to it, I felt like not only was I looking into the lives of these girls, but I was looking at a part of our society that so many choose ignore. That above all things made this film an emotional experience.

The only downfall of this film is that it jumps around a bit, making it a little hard to follow at times. But this is something that is easily overcome as the film wears on. The ending seems to clarify quite a lot of the confusion that is created in the beginning of the film.

While On the Outs may not go off and capture the mainstream audience, it should have a place in our society. This is the type of film that suburban moms and dads can show their kids to remind them how good they really have it when they complain about not getting that iPod that they wanted. There are parts of America that are like the world depicted in this movie, and a film like this does not sugar-coat; rather, it slaps you in the face with a dose of reality that most of our country would rather ignore. I would recommend this one to anyone who is looking for a film that will move them, and that will make them think about our society. If you are looking for pure entertainment value, I suggest you look elsewhere.

The Upside: A raw, gripping, and absolutely unnerving look at the culture of the streets in America.

The Downside: It gets a little jumpy and hard to follow in the beginning.

On the Side: This film earned a Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival.

Film Stats:
Starring: Anny Mariano, Judy Marte, Paola Mendoza
Directed by: Lori Silverbush, Michael Skolnik
Writing Credits: Lori Silverbush
Country: USA
MPAA: Rated R for pervasive language, strong drug use, some violence and sexual content.
Run Time: 86 min.
Studio: Fader Films (official site)

Technorati Tags: Urban America, Street Life, Cinema, Sundance, Jersey City, Drugs, Addiction

Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)