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'Woman' Not Fully Realized

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 1, 2004; Page WE35

This grim tale, adapted from a novel by Bishop T.D. Jakes, is about the troubled life of Michelle (Kimberly Elise), who was raped at age 12. The assailant is her mother's boyfriend, Reggie (Clifton Powell), who swears to Michelle's mother, Cassie (Loretta Devine), he never touched the girl. Cassie forces herself to believe Reggie because she doesn't want to lose a man; and Michelle grows up to become a crack addict and prostitute. She comes back home, an adult now, and finds herself facing an unrepentant Reggie. Her vengeance is inevitable and because it is so, we are forced to twiddle our thumbs through the story until it happens.

It's refreshing to see an African American movie that goes for dramatic originality instead of drive-by gangsta fare or insufferable ensemble comedy. But Michael Schultz's movie hinges almost diagrammatically on that act of child abuse, like a made-for-TV melodrama.

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Despite some strong performances, particularly from Elise, and all manner of stylistic flourishes by Schultz and screenwriter Stan Foster, the movie feels stage-like and a little too self-conscious. It also spends a little too much gratuitous time with scenes of an actual revival meeting featuring Jakes. There are good scenes and less-assured moments, rich characters and cliched ones. Ultimately, the movie's too uneven to be totally satisfying.

WOMAN THOU ART LOOSED (R, 99 minutes) --Contains obscenity, rape and other violence. Area theaters.

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