Leah (Morgan Saylor), a feisty blond college sophomore, has just moved into a Ridgewood apartment with her equally pot-loving friend, Katie (India Menuez). When they run out of weed, Leah approaches the Hispanic guys loitering on her street to try to score some. She subsequently falls hard for Blue (Brian Marc), a baby-faced dealer with a long criminal record and the tendency to use the word “shawty” in every sentence. They start seeing each other, promptly giving Blue access to the white cokeheads from Leah’s internship who are willing to pay three times as much for a baggie than regular folk. (Apparently, magazine editors and writers are making bank these days.) In the excitement of what feels like an endless source of cold cash, cocaine lines, and impromptu unprotected sex, Katie and Blue neglect the existence of undercover cops, and when one apprehends Blue on the street, Leah is forced to deal with reality for what seems like the first time.
White Girl portrays New York City as a drug-fueled playground of debauchery for those—i.e. white people—who fancy themselves immune to the law and to consequences in general. For Leah, life is a party to which she’s not only invited, but has VIP access (she apparently never gets carded). There’s no struggle or reflection here, just ecstasy—which isn’t to say she doesn’t suffer, only that the film doesn’t make room for her suffering to be articulated. Non-whites are also part of this economy of never-ending phantasmagoria, not just out of enjoyment, but as a means for their own survival, supplying the raw material for white escapism and suffering the blow when things go south.
Writer-director Elizabeth Wood crafts an entertaining and unapologetic tale of female risk-taking, filled with clever camerawork, but her characters remain shallow. We never get a sense of Leah beyond her pharmaco-pornographic acting out. She’s never really alone, or pensive, or sober. She snorts coke in nearly every scene—even if she does get creative with it, at one point snorting a line off of her boss’s (Justin Bartha) dick. We learn little to nothing about her besides her binging. Blue is also largely reduced to a white person’s fantasy, or fetish, of the handsome neighborhood dealer, not a fully fleshed-out character. By the time a lawyer (Chris Noth) gets involved in her illegal activities, White Girl inadvertently veers toward comedic, almost B-movie, terrain. We eventually get to see a zombie-like Leah on her first day of school, off of the dance floor and outside of dingy bathroom stalls. It’s a brief moment of cinematic bonding between character and viewer cut short by the final credits, making us wish that this were actually where her story began.