Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Miss Juneteenth - Movie Review

The Movie: Miss Juneteenth

The Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples

The Cast: Nicole Beharie, Liz Mikel, Marcus M. Mauldin, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze, Mikayla Rivers, Jaime Matthis, Phyllis Cicero, Lisha Hackney, Deborah Peoples, Don Mooney, Tj Foster, Shelly Jones, Keyon Ivory, Akron Watson

The Story: A former beauty queen and single mom prepares her rebellious teenage daughter for the "Miss Juneteenth" pageant.

The Review:
This is such a beautiful story of a woman struggling to create a future while constantly dealing with her past and Nicole Beharie is an absolute delight in the lead role. She plays a single mom named Turqoise who is a former winner of the Miss Juneteenth pageant which is meant to vault a young woman to success and fortune. The crux of this story is Turqoise's perceived failure which leads to her pushing her 14 year old daughter Kai, played by Alexis Chikaeze in her debut feature performance, into entering the same contest as a sort of redemption which often puts the two at odds.

One thing I thought was very thoughtful about the story is how the mother and daughter clearly don't see eye to eye on a lot of things yet they are still able to find common ground and maintain a strong bond and love for each other. Director Channing Godfrey Peoples shows how the duo can argue and bicker and then switch gears to share a tender moment together which to me is a much more authentic way of presenting a mother daughter relationship than what we normally see in cinema. I also really love how grounded the story is in the culture of the families and friendships that are all tied into timeless traditions that create a real sense of place and history.

There is a lot of Southern charm that comes from the movie being set in Texas and steeped in black culture and history with one of the central locations being a BBQ joint/bar that is clearly the epicenter of the community. It was great to see the story play out with such normalcy and it just feels so comfortable like you want to spend time with the people and get to know them. The movie's title Miss Juneteenth definitely allows for some history lessons about Juneteenth, what it is, and what it means to black people. I'll be honest, I didn't really know or understand what it meant or the importance of it before the protests began earlier this year so it was nice to see it fleshed out in the context of this story.

The story itself doesn't really carry a lot of weight and the cast isn't really asked to do any major lifting when it comes to big emotional scenes or anything like that. What I mean by that is that the lessons that are taught aren't delivered with a heavy hand or with overly theatrical dramatics. I think this movie isn't really meant to have a big emotional impact as much as it's a big warm hug for those whose lives it resembles and also a hello, come see what we're really about lesson for people who may not know or understand some of the more intimate struggles that black people face on a day to day basis.

The Verdict:
Miss Juneteenth is like a big pile of cinematic soul food. Some of it is good for you, some of it is bad for you, and you know that one dish over there might kill you, but all of it together makes for a very filling and satisfying experience. That's what this movie is.

Check out the Podcast!

No comments :

Post a Comment

The Hot List