Friday, January 25, 2008

How She Move

How She Move—2 1/2 stars
By Andrea Warner

Set in the world of “step”, an African dance style that combines stomping, contortions, and vigorous thrusting, How She Move is a much better movie than its grammar-challenged title would indicate.

Move tells the story of Raya Green, an aspiring medical student whose sister’s death from a drug overdose forces her to leave boarding school and move back home to the Toronto projects she desperately wants to escape. To get the money she needs for boarding school, Raya must re-enter the fiercely competitive world of “step”, win the Step Monster dance-off, and claim the $50,000 prize.

The requisite demons for Raya to overcome are mostly standard: the ex-best friend, the boy next door, and her parents’ crumbling marriage. What sets Move apart is how it highlights the close-knit world that communities like these crime-addled projects really are: the ghost of Raya’s sister hovers over almost every scene, and every character in the film is tainted by the tragedy in some way. You feel lingering traces of pain, fear, anger, and grief at every turn.

Move also boasts some fine performances from relatively unproven young actors, particularly newcomer Rutina Wesley as Raya. In Wesley’s hands, Raya is smart but selfish, infused with subtle layers of intelligence, determination, and sad guilt. Vancouver’s Brennan Gademan is a treat as the young genius, Quake, who uses his brains to choreograph a show-stopping finale. The majority of the actors are fierce athletes, and the dance moves throughout the film, choreographed by HiHat, are impressive physical feats that get the adrenaline flowing. When a showdown between Raya and her rival, Michelle, becomes a “step-off”, the impulse is to laugh, but if you don’t ask too many questions, How She Move might be the film for you.

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