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Posts Tagged ‘Alexis Chikaeze’

Nicole Beharie, Alexis Chikaeze

“MISS JUNETEENTH” My rating: B (VOD on Prime)

99 minutes | No MPAA rating

“Miss Juneteenth” is simultaneously a heartbreaking character study, a domestic drama and an almost documentary look at a specific community.

It is fueled by a subtle and unforced script by director Channing Godfrey Peoples, utterly believable supporting performances and a riveting lead turn from actress Nicole Beharie, who after a decade guesting on TV series makes her case for movie stardom.

Peoples has set her debut feature in an environment with which she is intimately familiar — a black community in Ft. Worth TX. It’s a world of black cowboys and barbecue and the annual Miss Juneteenth pageant, in which one beautiful and talented young African American woman will be crowned and handed a tuition-free scholarship to the black college of her choice.

In 2004 Turquoise Jones (Beharie) wore that victorious tiara, hoping to join the ranks of lawyers, doctors and educators who were past winners.

It didn’t quite work out. Today she is a waitress/janitor at a bar and rib joint, a job that just barely keeps a roof over her head and that of her 15-year-old daughter Kai (Alexis Chikaeze).

But Turquoise dreams — intensely if not realistically — that Kai will succeed in not only winning the title of Miss Juneteenth but in realizing the life her mama missed out on.

A lesser film would have made the movie a tragedy about the mother trying to force her offspring into a situation in which the child has no interest.  Kai is your average teen; she dreams of joining her schools’ booty-bumping dance squad, and can only roll her eyes at the demure, old-school beauty pageant behavior demanded by the Miss Juneteenth organizers.

Indeed, Turquoise is so controlling that she won’t let her daughter venture forth in shorts and T-shirt lest “somebody from Juneteenth see you like that.”

Kai could be forgiven for going rebel on her mother.  Thing is, the love between these two women  is so intense that despite her reservations (and the limits of her talents and poise), Kai slogs through the indoctrination and rehearsals out of sheer loyalty to Mama.

(more…)

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