Director; Channing Godfrey Peoples. Starring; Nicole Beharie, Alexis Chikaeze, Marcus M. Mauldin. Unrated. Color. 99 Minutes.
Peaking early in life can be a burden for many. High school or college accomplishments can lead one to believe the world is in the palm of their hand. Welp, not exactly how that works. From there, many parents feel as though they are disappointments and, to a fault, attempt to live life again through their children. Ultimately, you cannot force your dreams on kids. Those are the biggest two pieces out of multiple dynamics working in the delightful dramady “Miss Juneteenth”.
A native of Texas, director Channing Godfrey Peoples went for formal training at Baylor University before crafting this story. Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated in the state to commemorate the fact that Texas did not recognize the freedom of slaves until two years after the Civil War ended. As part of the festivities and annual town parade in the capital city of Austin, a beauty pageant is held.
Nicole Beharie stars as Turquoise, a former Miss Juneteenth from years past. A scholarship to a heavily black attended university of the queen’s choice is guaranteed. I’m sure that is going to be honored after the parade is over just like all other pageants do. Hold for eye rolls signifying bullshit promises from these pageants…
Years after her glory days, Turquoise is cleaning toilets and cracking open beers at a local bar named ‘Waymans’. Owned by a no-nonsense yet good man played by Marcus M. Mauldin, ‘Waymans’ is a popular dive bar for the black community. Turquoise is just trying hard as a single mother to support and raise her daughter. Well, not exactly a single mother.
The problem is she is still legally bound to Ronnie (Kendrick Sampson) a total screw up. From illegal drug running, allegedly, to sleeping with anybody available, Ronnie is not the perfect father figure for 14-year-old Kai (Alexis Chikaeze). Ronnie shows up when convenient for a good night in bed with Turquoise, then he is out. Turquoise tries to hide this complicated relationship with Ronnie from her daughter, but teenagers are far more intelligent than adults think.
While the problems at home and work are complicated, there is potentially a ray of hope for Turquoise. The latest Juneteenth pageant is approaching. Turquoise wants Kai to compete and continue carrying the family torch. All Kai wants to do is to emulate and enjoy dance videos on YouTube. Mom wants her kin to be a part of the amazing parade. This mother daughter dynamic is the crux of this movie.
Mother Turquoise is trying to force her daughter Kai to participate in something she cares little about. Daughter Kai hates it yet realizes how hard her mother is fighting to raise her. Reluctantly, Kai agrees to go along for the show. All of the backstage catty nonsense with the girls preparing for the big show is meaningless to Kai. On top of that her mother is struggling to get the money together for the perfect dress, and her deadbeat father is not helping either. But in the end, Kai declares herself as her own woman. Something every teenager must do within their own moment.
In no way is “Miss Juneteenth” a standard beauty pageant movie. The film centers around growth from both ends of the age spectrum. Racial issues that still exist today are touched on in real ways as expected. Why beauty pageants are still a thing is beyond me. At least this one leaves a warm feeling in your heart. “Miss Juneteenth” admittedly starts off REALLY slow, my only knock. Yet it is no doubt worth the experience and a welcome respect to the holiday.
Suck Factor: 2 out of 7 (7 Means Your Movie Really SUCKS!)