Lift (2001)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Family Drama  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Josh Ralske

Lift is a compelling crime drama and a frequently moving tale of an intelligent young woman's struggle with career choices and family relationships. It's also a treatise on rampant consumerism and its influence on black culture. While screenwriter DeMane Davis and his co-director Khari Streeter occasionally lapse into predictable melodrama, their film is slickly produced and smartly written enough to overcome its flaws. Its chief asset is the strong cast, particularly the lead performance by the remarkable Kerry Washington (also a standout in Our Song and Save the Last Dance). Washington delivers a sharp, believable performance as Niecy, who exudes sophistication and class when she's ripping off high-end retail stores, but can't get a handle on her messy personal life. Eugene Byrd is also good as Angelo, Niecy's caring but immature boyfriend. At first, he seems like an irredeemable, irresponsible pothead, but as the film progresses, it becomes clear that his feelings for Niecy are genuine, as is his determination to clean up his act. But immaturity and jealousy too frequently get the better of him. Lonette McKee plays Niecy's brittle mother, and this is the central relationship in the film. Niecy seemingly steals primarily to provide her mother with expensive gifts, and when she recognizes the imbalance in their relationship, she finally considers changing her life. The film's boosting scenes are expertly shot and exciting, though the ironic use of classical background music is a bit much. Davis and Streeter also have a good ear for true-to-life dialogue. Lift is a solid, well-made drama. For the most part, the filmmakers and cast handle the complex material with thoughtfulness and skill. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2001 Urbanworld Film Festival.