Miss Juneteenth | Chicago Reader
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Miss Juneteenth

A small-town beauty queen reckons with big dreams in Miss Juneteenth. Nicole Beharie plays Turquoise, a hardworking mother striving to give her daughter a better future than she had, with powerful and elegant vulnerability. As a former pageant winner, she is the whole package—stunning, smart, hardworking, and empathetic—yet life has humbled her to cleaning toilets and crippled her self-confidence. Unresolved generational trauma looms thickly over the future of her daughter Kai (a sparkling and earnest Alexis Chikaeze) and drives Turquoise into a quiet existential panic. This screenwriting and directorial debut of Channing Godfrey Peoples is deceptively quiet and pared down. The simplicity of the story showcases the setting: a dusty Texas town inhabited by plain old Black people. She turns the camera with love on characters who might otherwise be peddled as broadly comedic or as common thugs, stripping away the legacy of caricature in favor of domestic normalcy, throwing open the window wide for a new, easy, languid breeze of Black cinema. The celebration of Juneteenth is that of overdue freedom, and Peoples paints a gentle portrait of waiting patiently through setbacks for the tiny triumphs that can transform the life of a humble poor Black woman and make her feel like Miss America.

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