Parents' Guide to

Pink Skies Ahead

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Girl is in denial about anxiety order diagnosis; language.

Movie NR 2020 94 minutes
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While Pink Skies Ahead is an important look at the often-undiagnosed difficulties posed by anxiety disorders, the main character isn't terribly likable, nearly erasing the film's assets. The script, largely the autobiographical story of writer-director Kelly Oxford, pretends that Winona is just quirky and lovable, like Elliot Page as the title character in the 2007 comic drama, Juno. But Winona turns her own self loathing on those around her, making her hard to take and jarringly unsympathetic. Compounding the problem is Jessica Barden. She seems to be a competent actor, yet makes the unfortunate choice of beginning her performance at too high an emotional pitch, yelling through much of the dialogue, and leaving herself nowhere to go as the character's problems escalate.

Narratives about young people struggling on the verge of adulthood, as in Edge of Seventeen, Napoleon Dynamite, Clueless, Mean Girls, Euphoria, give us characters who are age-appropriately naïve, uninformed, rash, and struggling with impulse control, but by displaying compassion and empathy, by demonstrating some sense that other people don't exist simply to serve them, they usually remain likable and sympathetic. Winona behaves like a precocious 12-year-old with attitude problems, shoplifting only being one of her more infantile behaviors. "Go masturbate with a fork," she suggests to someone she doesn't like. While driving, Winona natters on as if to an old friend about why she dropped out of college, alluding to a poem she wrote mentioning toilet-flushing. She casually drops expletives. Then it turns out she's in the middle of her DMV road test, oversharing with a complete stranger, the guy grading her performance. Maybe that's exactly the way it happened in real life to the writer-director, but it's her job to make the script better and realer than real life, rather than cute and jokey, which disrespects the material. Nice performances are delivered by Mary J. Blige as the therapist and Henry Winkler as the pediatrician. It would have been great to have seen more of them.

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