Opening May 30, 2019
Directed by: Tate Taylor
Writing credits: Scotty Landes, Tate Taylor
Principal actors: Octavia Spencer, Juliette Lewis, Diana Silvers, Luke Evans
Maggie (Diana Silvers) settles into a new high school, after her mother Erica (Juliette Lewis) moves them back to Erica’s former, small, home town in Ohio (actually filmed in Mississippi) where she has a job in the town nightclub and bar. Maggie, a mature 16-year-old, makes friends quickly and soon there is a gang of five of them, Haley, Andy, Chaz, Darrell, and Maggie, hanging out on a rock pile and drinking. Actually, alcohol is difficult to acquire, as they are underage, but Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer) takes an interest and buys it for them. She remembers her own teenaged years hanging out, and suggests that they celebrate in the basement of her house. This generous offer spreads among the young people and soon the basement is full of dancing, drinking fun-lovers; Sue Ann enjoys observing them on a roll and they call her “Ma.” Actually, they are no strangers to Sue Ann; she went to school with their parents – with Erica, Andy’s father Ben, also Mercedes, as well as the local policeman. We see filmed flashbacks of them together as teenagers. Sue Ann, perhaps as the only black person in the group, was mobbed; her memories are more than sad. Does this explain why the happy party atmosphere becomes threatening? Why are the young people refused access to the top floors? Maggie realizes that something is terribly wrong here and refuses to return to Sue Ann’s house.
Octavia Spencer, as Sue Ann, has set a new measure of excellent acting, while young actress Diana Silvers also competently holds your attention for all 100 minutes. The team of five teenagers works well together and 16 songs blend into the story. Director Tate Taylor also plays Officer Grainger, who is forced to ring doorbells to keep the peace. The town, the high school, everything, look exactly like my hometown in Kirksville, Missouri. I could imagine going back and meeting former high school friends. Would they be harbouring a grudge against me? What would be their revenge? (Becky T.)