Review: Sisters step it with style

“How She Move” is a girl-meets-stomp story that dazzles as a dance showcase, stumbles as an urban melodrama, and serves up enough agreeably natural current among its dynamic young protagonists to emerge above the middling mark.

The latest release representing the mini-mini-genre that has given us dance-as-transformation fare as diverse as “Saturday Night Fever,” “Shall We Dance” and last year’s step-dance-themed “Stomp the Yard,” the film adds more “step,” plus grit and Canada, to the picture. Director Ian Iqbal Rashid (“Touch of Pink”) supplies style and energy. All the movie needs is a fresh story.

Raya (Rutina Wesley), a studious Toronto teen, is forced to leave her high-achieving private school and return to her crime-plagued old hood after the drug-related death of her sister makes it impossible for her working-class parents (Melanie Nicholls-King, Conrad Coates) to pay her tuition. Viewed as a stuck-up preppie, Raya tries to assimilate by joining the step-dance crowd. The response proves uneven: Tough girl Michelle (Tre Armstrong) becomes Raya’s rival. Love interest Bishop (Dwain Murphy) admires Raya’s “serious step” and puts Raya on his all-male dance team.

Raya’s goal: to receive her share of a $50,000 dance-contest prize and use it as her ticket to medical school. Her shakiness as a team player nearly dooms those ambitions.

Visually, Rashid creates a stylishly low-budget, gritty-chic look. Tonally, he presents his characters’ interactions with engaging naturalism. Whether Bishop’s team is rehearsing atop a car or Raya and Michelle are getting sisterly, something genuine and vital is happening.

The dancing adds superb juice. As the characters display their moves, a solid picture of the specifics of “step” surfaces. The flashy, costumed numbers, choreographed by Hi Hat, are enjoyable and vibrant.

Unfortunately, however, there’s not much of a story here. Annmarie Morais’ refreshingly girl-focused but sadly cliched screenplay subjects Raya and company to so many contrivances as they stomp and slap their way to glory that you can’t feel invested in their situation or their transformation. The most interesting characters — Raya’s Jamaican immigrant parents — get frustratingly little screen time.

Credits

How She Move

Starring Rutina Wesley, Tre Armstrong, Dwain Murphy and Melanie Nicholls-King

Written by Annmarie Morais

Directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid

Rated PG-13

Running time 1 hour 38 minutes

artsentertainmentOther Arts

Just Posted

Pharmacist Hank Chen is known for providing personalized service at Charlie’s Pharmacy in the Fillmore.<ins> (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)</ins>
Left: A Walgreens at 300 Gough St. is among San Francisco stores closing.
Walgreens closures open the door for San Francisco’s neighborhood pharmacies

‘I think you’ll see more independents start to pop up’

San Franciscans are likely to have the opportunity to vote in four different elections in 2022. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Electionpalooza: SF school board recall will kick off a flurry of local races

‘It’s going to be a lot of elections and a lot of decisions for voters to make’

Four young politicos were elected to city government on the Peninsula in 2020. From left: Redwood City Councilmember Michael Smith; South San Francisco Councilmember James Coleman; Redwood City Councilmember Lissette Espinoza-Garnica; and East Palo Alto Councilmember Antonio Lopez.<ins> (Examiner illustration/Courtesy photos)</ins>
Progressive politicians rise to power on the Peninsula. Will redistricting reverse the trend?

‘There’s this wave of young people really trying to shake things up’

The fate of San Francisco nicotine giant Juul remains to be seen, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to allow certain flavored vape products on the market. <ins>(Jeenah Moon/New York Times)</ins>
How the vape king of teen nicotine addiction rose and fell in San Francisco

‘Hey, Juul, don’t let the door hit you on the way out’

Most Read