by Rob DiCristino
Boys State (2020)
That’s the preamble. That’s the setup. The real thrust of Boys State, though, is to illustrate the fragile thread by which our democracy truly hangs. Though most are only seventeen, the Boys State scholars mirror the full-grown politicians of today, running the gamut from sincere idealists to self-indulgent narcissists. One soft-spoken candidate is a first-generation American and gun safety advocate. His speeches quote from Napoleon and plead for human empathy. Another candidate is a bombastic, Ben Shapiro-esque cultural agitator whose primary campaign strategy is repeating dubious facts and complaining of bias in the parliamentary proceedings. There’s a floppy-haired prom king, a principled double-amputee, and a black party chairman weaponizing his self-described “church tricks” to corral a flock of Texas good ol’ boys. Together, they offer a fascinating window into what Americans believe, who they trust, and why they vote. They expose the superficiality of our institutions and the frailty of vision in the face of ambition.
A24’s Boys State is now streaming on Apple TV+.
Yes, God, Yes (2020)
Anyway, Alice’s journey takes her down a path that will be familiar to anyone who got through high school without imploding from shame and self-debasement. She’s managing impulses she doesn’t understand through subterfuge (hiding her vibrating cell phone from counselors) and rash action (jumping Chris’ bones after getting him alone). What may be less familiar to non-Catholics, though, is the degree to which Alice is made to feel bad about her sexuality. The puritanical counselors demand chastity without offering a reasonable alternative and make examples of students who fall short of their impossible standards. All sin equals eternal damnation, they say, and God is always watching. Sure, but then why is Father Murphy watching porn on his computer? Why is Nina going down on another counselor in the woods after lunch? Everyone else seems to be managing these urges in healthy ways, so why can’t Alice? Maine’s warm and often insightful screenplay challenges Alice and her peers to get a handle on themselves (Sorry, again) before it’s too late.
Vertical’s Yes, God, Yes is available through On Demand platforms now.