Yelling to the Sky

A heavy-handed, Precious-manqué teen-tribulation indie, Victoria Mahoney's Yelling to the Sky plops us down in an unlikely urban hood (shot in Brooklyn), where black mobs beat our gorgeous biracial heroine (Lenny Kravitz's daughter, Zoë), cardigan-shouldered preppies are the hallway bullies, and cops on drug busts get distracted by kids with water guns. The family dynamic is both oddball and a cliché: Kravitz's placid teen and her pregnant sister (Antonique Smith) are uneasy custodians of a mentally ill black mom (Yolonda Ross, drifting through the rooms like Miss Havisham) and a boozy, slap-happy white dad (Jason Clarke), who turns psycho whenever nothing else is going on. Ideas for drama are otherwise expended on bickering, getting into dope, and putting up with Gabourey Sidibe as a cartoonish bully-villain, at least until a nice local dealer gets whacked, and everybody decides, for various vague reasons, to sober up. Mahoney, a former actress who got her youthful break with Oprah on Brewster Place, got schooled in obviousness at the Sundance Lab, leaving the movie's only sprigs of authenticity to Smith, who radiates damage and family need like heat waves. (You'd think that Lenny at least could have taught everyone how to smoke a joint correctly.) Little more than a résumé film for all involved, it certainly feels more Park City than Bushwick. Michael Atkinson

 
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