Miss Juneteenth Review

A Tremendous Debut

By Liselotte Vanophem

If you look at a beauty contest, you might think that winning one of those has only a positive effect on the winner and even runner up. They become more famous, maybe head for a successful career change or get a financial windfall. Well, there are sadly also negative effects of winning a content like that. You might be forgotten only a few months after winning, the changes might not be as significant as thought, or it was just a ‘five minutes of fame.’ Well, for Turquoise Jones, it sadly had some more negative impact than positive ones. Because of that, her story reaches much further than just ‘winning a beauty contest.’ That story is now being told in “Miss Juneteenth,” the latest movie from writer/director Channing Godfrey Peoples. With this film, Peoples delivers a tremendous debut filled with important topics and great chemistry between the characters.

As mentioned, life after becoming Miss Juneteenth wasn’t as glamorous as thought. Jones (Nicole Beharie) won the crown, the money, and gained fame, but then her life took a very different turn. Now, she’s a single mom who has to provide food on the table, pay the bills, and keep a close on her teenage daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze). She lives in a small town in Texas where everyone knows her as ‘Miss Juneteenth. Winning the competition gave her a full ride to the college of her choosing, but sadly, Jones never made it to college.

Instead of becoming someone ‘important,’ just like the competition’s previous winners, she’s a waitress and bartender at Wayman’s BBQ and Lounge. She wants to make sure that her daughter gets a better life than she got, and because of that, she pushed Kai to become Miss Juneteenth as well. However, Kai has other plans for her life due to which a wedge is occurring between mother and daughter. Will they meet each other halfway, or will the difference in dreams become too hard to overcome?

“Miss Juneteenth” is the first full-length feature from director Peoples, and Peoples decided to turn her directional debut into a poignant, beautiful film that excels in its simplicity. While it’s about a former beauty contest winner, the movie focusses more on family, life, emotions, and different characters. When a movie involves a beauty content, there’s also the dialogue about how contestants should look and how they should act in the contest. However, Turquoise and Kai show that it doesn’t have to be like that and that change can (and needs to happen).

The casting department did a fantastic job by casting Beharie (“Monsters and Men,” “42”) as Jones as she’s superb. Not only when delivering poignant dialogue but also during the more silent scenes, she can bring a lot of emotions to the table thanks to her facial expressions. Chikaeze performance as Kai is also remarkable, especially because this is her first movie. She gives a very grown-up performance as the young woman who doesn’t only have to fight against society, anxiety, but also the dreams of her mother. The film is all about the dynamic between Turquoise and Kai. Thanks to the stunning performances of Beharie and Chikaeze, the dynamic is top-notch.

“Miss Juneteenth” is a film that needs to be seen because of essential topics as it shows strong black women who are more capable than they initially thought. It’s told in a quiet, emotional, and beautiful way, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Originally published at https://www.ocmoviereviews.com on September 21, 2020.




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