At least Gail has a running buddy, her fellow African-American teacher Liv (Amber Gray). Liv is up for tenure, but that promotion is threatened when Jasmine files a motion against her for flunking her over a paper. The assignment was to look at The Scarlet Letter through the prism of race. Jasmine can’t imagine how to frame that, so she gets an F despite her paper being well-written. Her White classmate, however, spun a ridiculous amount of malarkey even she didn’t buy into, and obtained a B+. I started to wonder: Was Liv’s grade an attempt to prove to the tenure committee that she wasn’t giving preferential treatment to one of the school’s only minority students?
I had even more questions about her relationship with Gail. It’s supposed to be friendly, but it’s really icy, even when Liv is offering her a modicum of support. “You feel like a house n—er,” she says at one point, pointing out how Gail is essentially a diversity hire to make the school look good. Her tenure is very likely that as well, but it’s in jeopardy. In satiric fashion, Diallo shoots Gail’s White colleagues on the tenure committee so garishly they look like R. Crumb drawings. When Gail is among them, she looks visually smaller and more realistic.
You may have forgotten about that witch, but the movie sure hasn’t. She’s haunting Gail, too, leading to several scenes where Hall has to act terrified while hearing a bell or seeing a pile of maggots—this movie likes maggots. To her credit, she gives a decent performance despite how poorly her character is written. There’s a missed opportunity for Gail to be a friend to Jasmine, considering she also knows what it’s like to be a rare minority on campus (“there were three of us and we kept getting mistaken for each other,” she tells Jasmine). Instead, for reasons I can’t comprehend, Gail tells Jasmine she should return to the school after she’s nearly killed by supernatural forces. “You can’t escape it,” she tells her, with the “it” being racism. Maybe not, but you shouldn’t go back to the place it definitively resides, either.
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