Blue is busted for possession, and Leah—out of nowhere—begins a frenzied quest to move mountains of coke, literally to get him out of jail. She's only known him for five days or so when he gets busted, so her maniacal devotion to him makes little sense, since she also barely seems to perceive him outside of the drugs he provides. Wood's style is immersive and raw, although to what end is not clear. The characters are envelope-thin except for Blue. Leah is a cipher, made up only of impulsive addict behavior. Maybe addicts are just their addiction, but it makes for somewhat dreary viewing when the lead character has no apparent personality. The scenes of wretched debauchery pile up, and in a film only 88 minutes long it's a tough slog. It's difficult to perceive what story is actually being told.
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Leah Morgan Saylor , the doll-faced blond protagonist of this movie, written and directed by Elizabeth Wood , is an ebullient New York City college student with an appetite for marijuana, cocaine and casual sex. When she and her equally wild best friend Katie India Salvor Menuez move to a seedy apartment in Queens, she thinks nothing of running downstairs and asking the boys hanging out in front of the building where she can find some pot. But Ms. Wood has said that it is semi-autobiographical. Leah entertains no expectations of a serious relationship with Blue. Yet when he is arrested for drug dealing, she goes to considerable lengths to help him try to avoid prison.
Leah, a reckless hedonist with no impulse control, eagerly accepts his offer. He begins to kiss her, and she initially reciprocates. Then he flips her roughly against the wall and pulls up her skirt. We see her expression change; she struggles and makes sounds indicating discomfort before freeing herself from his grip. Watching the scene, I felt like I was witnessing something violating and inappropriate, an encounter somewhere in the gray area between consent and complicity that many women know all too well. Other critics responded differently to the scene. I also think there can be a generational and gender gap when it comes to receiving scenes like this, and that some young female viewers might have a more nuanced understanding of what consent looks like than their older male counterparts. Yes, throughout the film, Leah frequently has sex willingly and quickly.
Bright-eyed, apple-cheeked, her hair a halo of platinum, frizzed-out curls, Leah seems the picture of Midwestern innocence. White Girl , as the title suggests, is about the way first impressions, skin-deep snap judgments, determine our lives. When we first meet her, Leah, with Katie, is moving into her apartment, hauling a sofa up the stairs as a gang of jeering Puerto Rican gangbangers watches from across the street. Spent, the roommates take a break, smoke a bowl, languorously cuddle in the way stoned young girls sometimes do. Fawn-like, pot-addled, dressed in the skimpiest of outfits, they seem prone, easy targets. And so writer-director Elizabeth Wood, who based White Girl on her own hard-partying exploits as a Midwestern college student in New York City, lures us into her trap. Cut to the two of them unceremoniously fucking on the roof of her building. An increasingly coked-up Leah convinces him to start selling to the deep-pocketed partiers at the Chinatown nightclub where her lecherous boss Kelly Justin Bartha hangs out. Once Blue gets a taste of Manhattan money, he doubles down, procuring thousands of dollars of product on credit from his supplier, the wild-eyed, blood-thirsty Lloyd Adrian Martinez. The impunity with which she deals—excepted from any consequences, she cavorts around the club topless, dancing up on strangers and dangling baggies of blow in their faces—is matched only by the impunity with which she tries to fuck her way out of any sticky situation.