A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Miss Juneteenth is a drama about a former beauty queen named Turquoise (Nicole Beharie) who hopes that by enrolling her daughter (Alexis Chikaeze) in a local pageant, she can ensure her an easier life. Though pageants are a somewhat old-fashioned way for young women to seek approval and attention, Miss Juneteenth understands and celebrates both the symbolic importance of the Juneteenth holiday and the hopes and dreams of pageant participants. Turquoise's looks are mentioned frequently, but it's made clear that her most valuable asset is actually her genuine, supportive relationship with her daughter. Several characters smoke cigarettes, and Turquoise manages a bar; many adult characters drink to the point of sloppiness. In one scene, characters kiss passionately in bed before the camera cuts away, next showing them in the morning as they lie in bed in their underwear. A character works in a funeral home; two dead bodies are shown, looking as if asleep. A parent violently slaps an adult child; two men almost get in a fistfight over a woman. Language includes "f--k," "motherf--king," "s--t," "hell," "damn," and the "N" word (said affectionately by a Black character). The meaning of Juneteenth is explained, and viewers will get a greater understanding of the holiday's history and significance. Characters demonstrate courage, humility, and empathy.
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What's the story?
Fifteen years ago, Turquoise Jones (Nicole Beharie) was the winner of the prestigious MISS JUNETEENTH pageant in Fort Worth, Texas. But her days of wearing a crown are long gone: Now she works long hours to support herself and her headstrong teenage daughter, Kai (Alexis Chikaeze), as Kai's irresponsible dad, Ronnie (Kendrick Sampson), comes and goes. Kai is finally old enough to take her own turn in the Juneteenth pageant, but she's less than thrilled about the prospect. Will Turquoise be able to propel her daughter to a brighter future than she herself had? Or will the pageant be the straw that pushes mother and daughter beyond their limits?
Is it any good?
Turquoise's lovely journey from misguided to triumphant is impressively unimpressed with surface appeal. Miss Juneteenth opens on Turquoise in a nostalgic mood as she carefully removes her pageant crown from its special box and holds up her winning dress. Kai can finally follow in her footsteps, and even though the very next scene shows Turquoise scrubbing a filthy toilet at the hole-in-the-wall bar where she works, nothing can dampen her mood -- not even Kai's lack of enthusiasm about entering the competition. Turquoise keeps gamely pushing the rock up the hill, putting down a deposit for a custom-altered dress even as her power's turned off, finding the money for Kai's pageant fees by taking on extra shifts doing makeup at the local funeral home.
It's hard to watch her struggle -- and even harder to see how her own poverty conspires against her, how cars break down and expenses crop up. Even though Turquoise saves everything she can, she just can't get ahead. The day she wore the crown and walked the stage, she tells her unimpressed daughter, she felt like she was walking into a new life. But even though beauty queendom gave Turquoise minor bragging rights in a not-always-glamorous life, her win was no magic path to a shining future. And all of her glittering dreams for Kai are keeping her from seeing her very real daughter, who has dreams of her own. Their lives may not be perfect, and there's no fairy godmother who'll wave a wand and take them away. But slowly, realistically, Turquoise begins to understand that what's truly most valuable in her life is a genuine relationship with her daughter -- and so she takes steps to ensure a happier future for both of them, no crown required.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotypes in the media and where stereotypes come from. Did you consider any of Miss Juneteenth's characters to be stereotypical? Why or why not? Why is it important to have non-stereotypical characters and representations of people that ring true?
How does the beauty pageant serve as a metaphor for other struggles and competitions in the film -- say, between wealth and poverty? How does the pageant represent Turquoise's struggles in her life?
- On DVD or streaming: January 19, 2021
- Cast: Nicole Beharie, Kendrick Sampson, Alexis Chikaeze
- Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples
- Studio: Vertical Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Character strengths: Courage, Empathy, Humility
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
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