Cauleen Smith's 1998 feature about two young women in Oakland serves as a gentle feminist response to all those boys-in-the-hood movies. Both Pica (Toby Smith) and Tobi (April Barnett) distrust and pity the men around them, who are either dangerous or ineffectual; it's up to the women to restore a sense of community to the neighborhood. The two leads give engaging but low-key performances, aided by Andrew Black's nervy camera movement, and the script, by the director and Salim Akil, has a good ear for girl talk and a real affection for its bonding protagonists. But the storytelling is sophomoric, hobbled by dull patches and a mostly amateurish cast. Like the soundtrack, which alternates between hip-hop and New Age, the film forges an uneasy compromise between grit and platitude.
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