So much going on in D.C. prep school drama “Toe to Toe”! Troubled, promiscuous rich white girl befriends martyrdom-happy control-freak poor black girl, they fight over a boy who won’t take either seriously in the end because “non-Muslim girls are just for practice,” there’s lacrosse, Princeton, go-go, class dynamics, a needy lesbian videographer, and some wild family troubles, including one of indie film’s most unintentionally camp neglectful mothers, whose all-consuming job involves flying off to exotic locales to meet with government ministers, and who takes off in a cab while her daughter shrieks, wails and claws at herself while begging her to stay. Writer/director Emily Abt approaches her economically and racially diverse setting with a well-meaning anthropological thoroughness that seems to have included finding a way to work in every note she took when looking around, and it completely overwhelms her story — the course of the friendship that’s supposedly central to the film is more an afterthought to dramatic tangents. The two leads give solid performances despite muddy characterization, though, particularly Sonequa Martin as Tosha, a girl whose Anacostia upbringing has given her novelty value at the school she attends on scholarship, though no one appreciates how tough the life she leads once she heads home actually is.
“Toe to Toe” currently has no U.S. distribution. See all of IFC.com’s Sundance coverage here.
[Photo: “Toe to Toe,” Pureland Pictures, 2009]