Toe to Toe
Toe to Toe was part of the official selection of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. The story is simple: Jesse and Tosha are both lacrosse players at a Washington, D.C. prep school and although they seem predestined to be rivals, they become the best of friends. Each girl is completely different from each other. Jesse (Louisa Krause) is the wealthy yet lonely and promiscuous daughter of detached parents with Daddy issues. Tosha (Sonequa Martin) is the minority with a background of financial hardship but driven by her ambition of acquiring an Ivy League education on a full scholarship.
At first glance, the film could appear forced and stereotypical; unfortunately, that’s exactly what it turns out to be. There’s enough teenage drama to fill the entire four years of high school. Jesse and Tosha are faced with issues regarding STDs, harassment, racial conflicts, and everything in between. Add to that the dramatic suspense of being part of an athletic team and you have the basis for the movie. There’s a heavy use of socio-economic clichés and an especially artificial climax that almost obscures everything else about the movie.
At other times, though, the protagonists’ acting chops shine through and the movie becomes enjoyable. Both performances are well balanced. Krause manages to portray a promiscuous but self-aware character while Martin has enough poise and restraint to make her character vulnerable and relatable.
The movie’s setting is also quite enjoyable; the scenes outside the prep school and in the actual city are lively and more realistic. This is due to the fact that they were shot with local musical talent. The protagonists seem to feed from the city’s energy and only magnified their charisma and talent.
Yet, in a movie that seems so contrived it doesn’t seem enough to carry it through. Toe to Toe didn’t surpass being bland.