Michelle Rodriguez is galvanizing in Girlfight, but she also embodies a culture in transition, one ready to explode. Sarah Kerr reports. Photographed by Bruce Weber.
Is oddly familiar, this scene. A young woman dressed in jeans and a T-shirt leans back against a row of lockers and stares at the camera, to the sound-track accompaniment of frenzied flamenco castanets. And somehow you know that a famous movie moment is being evokedan icon is being paid tribute to, but you can’t identify which one… it could be… but of all the unexpected people in the world: Marlon Brando?
Michelle Rodriguez, star of one of this fall’s most anticipated films, Girlfight, doesn’t actually look like Brando (though there is a faint resemblance in those drowsy, almond-shaped eyes). What reminds you of the actor in his great early roles is the sense that through Rodriguez’s simmering performance you are witnessing a milestone, a subtle shift in the culture.
Rodriguez plays Diana Guzman, a high school senior living in the projects in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The product of a neglectful home, and angry about it, she is drifting more or less nowhere until chance sends her to a boxing gym. Here, in this province of single-minded boys and their sexist, grizzled, old male teachers, she shyly begins to train. And it turns out that she’s pretty good, maybe even championship material. Girlfight’s promising young director, Karyn Kusama, keeps the tone raw, Rising Latina star Michelle Rodriguez. Dress by Michael Kors.
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