Being a geeky nerd, I secretly always wanted to be part of the cool crowd. You know that crew who makes everything look and sound cool because they are the ones doing or saying it? You don’t sweat it too much in high school, because college is right around the corner with all of its infinite possibilities and opportunities to fit in. While at Howard University, I desperately wanted to pledge a sorority that was founded on our campus as my attempt to become more involved in community service. When I inquired, my feelings were crushed when discovering the reasons for me not being a good fit, thus solidifying my nerd status.
As the”Queen Bee” of that particular Greek org delivered the news to my face, her minions looked on with an almost gleeful smirk on their faces I shall never soon forget. Everyone knows a ‘Queen Bee.” You know the one who is always so fluffy and light that you wonder if they might have a dark side. At the same time, you are confident you don’t really wanna be introduced to that side of their personality. Ever!
Baby, like Pretty in Pink, Clueless and those other teen flicks we love to love, Selah and Spades will soon join the ranks. The Spades, who supply students with illegal alcohol and pills is run by Selah (Lovie Simone) at Pennsylvania’s Haldwell Boarding School. As the school year concludes, Selah freaks over the reality of losing control of The Spades, with her sophomore protege Paloma (Celeste O’Connor) who is now taking names and making waves of her own.
Director/Writer/Producer Tayarisha Poe takes her fascination and love of mob life flushing it into a rural setting where the white kids are definitely not in control. Poe, a definitive up and coming filmmaker, provides fully fleshed out characters of color like we have never seen on film. We have girls who are large in charge in an environment that we normally would see Black people as secondary fill-in characters. Selah is smart, gorgeous and comes from a well-to-do middle-class family. She’s not a drug addict or troubled child, but she is jealous hearted, which when pushed too far makes her as dangerous as any Mafia Don. Paloma is a photographer who uses her skills to undercover seduce and get her way.
Lovie Simone’s steely eyed portrayal of Selah will make your blood run cold, yet keep you riveted. Celeste O’Connor exudes a quiet sexuality that is subtly nuanced that she too, will compel audience members. Jharrell Jerome, fresh off his Emmy win for ‘When They See Us’ reminds us how stellar his acting prowess is regardless of the role or film. Gina Torres’ as Selah’s mother is solid, strong, yet elegantly portrayed as only the energy and presence of Torres can bring to the role. An almost unrecognizable bearded Jesse Williams as the headmaster is always just one footstep behind Selah and her shenanigans to keep him off the scent of their campus transgressions. Loved it!
Selah and The Spades will piss some parents off and will sound the alarm for others. But, what this film will also do is give you a front row seat to some spectacular performance, writing, directing and producing from a name I’m confident we will see for decades to come. Find out for yourself when it premiere via Amazon Prime Video on April 17th.