By Ryan Farrell, Staff Writer
After Easter weekend marked the release of Selah and the Spades, a new streaming title on Amazon Prime. This private high school drama sets up an interesting world, but its format doesn’t allow it to flourish properly. While there are stellar performances from the main cast, it is not enough to overlook the confusing plot.
Selah and the Spades is set in the world of Haldwell High School. Five factions of female students are responsible for undercover activities that fuel their lifestyle. Selah is the most respected among the factions, however she is just as feared as she is cherished. Selah finds herself in her last semester of High School and is overwhelmed by the fact that there is no one to pass her power down to. As a result, she takes on an apprentice, an incoming freshman named Paloma. Despite Selah’s initial plan, Paloma finds herself rising through the ranks of the factions. Fearing that her apprentice may rise to her level, Selah turns insidious, determined to do anything to maintain her control.
The main setback of Selah and the Spades is the fact that it feels far too short. While each of these factions are differentiated, the main focus of the film is Selah’s involvement. Clocking in at around 97 minutes, it doesn’t give much room for world growth. The other factions seem to be interesting, but the only time we see them is when they are all communing or arguing together. Their individuality is teased but the audience is left curious. Each of these factions could have had strong development and distinction. It feels like this concept would have flourished better as a television series. In that format, there would be so much more room for exploration, making the world of Haldwell High School the exciting underworld that it was meant to be.
The performances found within Selah and the Spades are the most redeeming factor. Lovie Simone plays the infamous Selah and exceeds at being both feared and loved. She’s a manipulative character who demands an audience. While it would be more interesting to explore other characters, the main character is generally interesting. The only gripe is the fact that her motivations towards the end of the film are confusing and the film’s abrupt ending leaves little answers.
Jharrel Jerome was also intimidating as Selah’s brother Maxxie, her right hand man. His character was intimidating yet empathetic. In addition, Celeste O’Connor as Paloma is another solid performance. It is very interesting to see her transform from the new girl to an underground kingpin. It was evident that she was trying to hone Selah’s personality. Similarly to Selah however, her motivations towards the end create further questions, leaving little to be desired.
While these performances elevate Selah and the Spades, it ultimately is not enough to redeem the confusing storyline. It is cinematically competent, but it fails to develop the surrounding world.
Selah and the Spades is now streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime.