A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Saturday Church is a musical coming-out/coming-of-age story about the struggles of a teen boy who's gay and/or transgender. Expect to hear discussion of prostitution and see a suggested act of prostitution: A man pays a teen, unzips his own pants, and then touches a teen's chest. A teen steals a porn magazine and then masturbates (nothing graphic shown) to a picture of a naked man's bottom. Teen boys kiss. Language is very strong, with multiple uses of "motherf----r," "ass," "bitch," and more. There are threats, and the main character briefly fights physically with his aunt, including pushing and slapping. Locker room bullies taunt him and throw his gym clothes in a dirty toilet. An adult serves beer to a teen. There are references to crack and "smoking blunts," and brief cigarette smoking is seen. Like a good community theater production, the movie is amateurish but passionate.
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What's the story?
In SATURDAY CHURCH, New York teen Ulysses (Luka Kain) is unhappy. His father has just died; his mother, Amara (Margot Bingham), is forced to work double shifts to cover expenses; and mean Aunt Rose (Regina Taylor) has taken over the household. Ulysses is gay and drawn to dressing in women's clothes, though his little brother tattles when Ulysses tries on his mother's red high-heel shoes. Rather than face Rose's wrath, Ulysses heads to Christopher Street, where he meets colorful transgender friends Ebony (MJ Rodriguez), Dijon (Indya Moore), and Heaven (Alexia Garcia), as well as the kind, openly gay Raymond (Marquis Rodriguez). They take him to Saturday Church, a safe haven where the LGBTQ community can eat, find clothes, and dance. They also introduce him to the ball scene, which opens Ulysses' eyes even further. But after a blowout with Aunt Rose, Ulysses finds himself homeless for the first time -- and discovers what truly matters.
Is it any good?
Written and directed by Damon Cardasis, this coming-out story is fairly routine, but it sets itself apart from dozens of similar stories with its deeply felt musical fantasy sequences. Saturday Church isn't exactly polished; in truth, it sometimes feels very amateurish. It almost has the feel of a local community theater production, with everyone seeming to have put in everything they had. And, as is also often the case in community theater, passion and dedication help make up for lack of skill and sparkle.
The songs, co-written by Cardasis and Nathan Larson, and their accompanying dance routines range from poor to passable, but they're all performed with an immediate energy that can evoke smiles. Kain, as Ulysses, is another reason this works. Slim and angelic-looking, with expressive eyes, he's perfect for the role, and even if his Ulysses spends perhaps too much time sulking, he nevertheless captures a powerful kind of inner struggle. Bingham (Barbershop: The Next Cut) is another secret weapon, adding a layer of compassion to her harried-mom character. Saturday Church will certainly appeal to LGBTQ viewers, but it will also strike a chord with anyone who has a heart.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Saturday Church represents the LGBTQ community. Is it fair and accurate? Is it compassionate, or does it judge?
How does the musical aspect of the movie fit in with the story? Did you enjoy the songs, or did they seem out of place?
Did you notice any stereotypes in the movie? If so, does the movie further these stereotypes, or does it dispel them?
How are bullies depicted? What are some real-life tactics for handling bullies?
What is the Saturday Church of the title? Does it seem like a helpful place? Do you know of any places like that?
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