Review: Miss Juneteenth

Title: Miss Juneteenth
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples
Starring: Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze
Runtime: 1 hr 39 mins

What It Is: Turquoise (Beharie) works long days to help make ends meet for her and her daughter, Kai (Chikaeze), as she struggles to move on from the past when she was crowned Miss Juneteenth. With Kai now old enough to enter the competition for herself, Turquoise enters her regardless of what her daughter actually wants. Having no interest in the pageant, Kai acts out and disregards what her mom wants of her. With Kai wanting to make something of herself on her own and Turquoise wanting to help her daughter build a sustainable life for herself, will have the shared experience of competing in the Miss Juneteenth pageant bring them closer together or put them more at odds with each other than ever before?

What We Think: Unfortunately, this is a film that didn’t meet all of my lofty expectations but calling it bad or even just fine would be a disservice. Watching it was an enjoyable experience and most elements of the film were sincerely captivating. However, I look back on it and wonder what actually happened during the movie. That’s to say there’s little going on in terms of plot and what is there doesn’t all get resolved nor was it exactly unpredictable. While the story isn’t the most original, it does shed some spotlight on important topics and does so in a compelling way. But the characters are the heart of this story and the performances really elevate them to be so much more than just tired stereotypes. Beharie legitimately deserves all the recognition in the world for what she pulled off here while Chikaeze complimented Beharie perfectly—their bond is truly the glue that keeps this movie together. I have nothing bad to say about the soundtrack, the cinematography, or the pacing; they all worked beautifully together to create an immersive viewing experience, one that felt a whole lot shorter than the actual runtime. While I definitely would’ve liked more to be able to chew on and to have experienced more emotions when watching the film, there’s not too much to complain about. It’s a solid effort with heart and should be on everyone’s radar.            

Our Grade: B, This film is like a solid plate of BBQ. There are better plates out there but time and care went into this one without a doubt, which isn’t something to overlook. (Sorry, I had to throw in the BBQ comparison because this film will make you want some). There’s certainly a lot of buzz around this film so I went into it with pretty high hopes. That’s rarely a good thing when sitting down to watch a movie (at least in my experience) and this film really never had a chance to be as exceptional as I hoped it would be. That’s not to say it’s a bad film. Let me be clear, it’s not. The buzz and high praise it has earned is all warranted but it’s not something that will blow you away. That said, watch it anyway. If nothing else, you’ll witness one hell of a performance from Beharie.    

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Author: Cal Gessner