Selah and the Spades movie poster
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Selah and the Spades
Selah and the Spades movie poster

Selah and the Spades Movie Review

There is a certain type of movie I truly hate to review: the type that fails to grab me early on, ultimately feeling like an endless slog regardless of the running time. Amazon’s new straight-to-Prime release Selah and The Spades falls squarely in this unflattering category.

The feature debut of writer/director Tayarisha Poe, Selah and The Spades is set in a private boarding school where the student body is split into five sections. Selah (Lovie Simone), a senior, runs the Spades, who supply alcohol and pills to other students. With graduation looming and her right-hand man Maxxie (Jharrel Jerome) distracted, she turns to newcomer Paloma (Celeste O’Conner) to pass on her wisdom and power.

However, Selah sort of sucks at letting go of said power.

The movie is marketed as a “searing character study” involving “teenage politics,” but Selah, at the very least, indicates that those two don’t work very well together. As a character study, it isn’t very searing, and as an examination of teenage politics, it simply isn’t compelling.

The heightened, perhaps exaggerated world of a school where teachers and administrators are nearly nonexistent sets the stage for some potentially explosive intrigue, but Poe shows she has little interest in exploring the dynamic between the five factions--to the degree that she probably shouldn’t have even bothered to introduce them in the first place.

Poe’s real focus and passion lies in Selah herself, hence the title. That’s all fine and good, but Selah’s journey isn’t a particularly fun one. Selah herself is wholly unlikeable, and her slow realization and ultimate acceptance of lost power is about as interesting to watch as paint drying in the rain. The entire film lacks spark and energy.

It’s a shame, because Poe has assembled a fine cast. Simone is terrific as Selah all things considered, and O’Connor is equally good. Jerome (Moonlight) isn’t utilized to his full potential.

I hate to slam a filmmaker’s debut, and with Selah and The Spades you can see Poe has a lot of potential. But the story lacks a hook, let alone an argument as to why someone should invest 90 minutes in it. Sadly, it never clicks--never even shows life--which makes those 90 minutes feel very, very long. And certainly not worth it.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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