Girls State, Wicked Little Letters | Film Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Culture » Film Reviews

Girls State, Wicked Little Letters

Special screenings include Tumbleweeds, Screendance, Nicolas Cage festival and more


Girl State - APPLETV+
  • AppleTV+
  • Girl State

Girls State
Filmmakers Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss open their companion piece to 2020's Boys State with what initially feels like a cheeky admonishment not to compare the two subjects—until it becomes clear that the differences between them is a huge part of what the film is addressing. Like Boys State, the subject is a week-long camp for high-school students focused on politics and governance—this one in Missouri—with a focus on seven of the 500-plus participants. The 2022 Missouri Girls State is taking place concurrently and on the same campus as the 2022 Missouri Boys State, which inspires some of the young women to question the differences between the programs. It also happens to be taking place just days before the Supreme Court Dobbs decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, and the specter of that impending decision permeates nearly every conversation as the participants share their own beliefs, run campaigns and decide mock court cases. The principal subjects are all engaging and interesting, each in her own way, but McBaine and Moss understandably come to focus on Emily, a conservative-leaning student with a passion both for politics and journalism. Her evolution is subtle but compelling, helping Girls State address not only political divisions and how they can be overcome, but also how Boys State feels like a role-playing game for high-achieving résumé-packers, while Girls State presents its participants with real-world lessons in how for them, active participation in politics could be a matter of life and death. Available April 5 via AppleTV+. (NR)

  • Sony Pictures Classics
  • Wicked

Wicked Little Letters
Director Thea Sharrock and screenwriter Jonny Sweet lead off their fact-based dramedy with one of those cheeky "this story is more true than you'd think" title cards, which can be a tip-off to a story that knows its quirks might not otherwise be taken seriously. But how seriously this movie wants to be taken is a question that remains unanswered. In the 1920s British seaside town of Littlehampton, spinster Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) begins receiving anonymous vulgar letters—and suspicion naturally falls on her next-door neighbor, tart-tongued recent Irish immigrant and widowed single mother Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley). The filmmakers wisely don't turn this into a whodunnit, revealing the background for the letters at around the halfway point, which allows more freedom to explore the strong performances. There is, however, a disconnect between the clear subtext involving rigidly gendered societal expectations and the often-goofy comedic tone, with inept constables and various broadly-rendered supporting characters. And it feels odd that Wicked Little Letters wants to thrash conservative attitudes toward gender, yet casts a Black actor (Malachi Kirby) as Rose's lover and a South Asian (Anjana Vasan) as a "woman police officer" while never once directly addressing race. The result is often entertaining, but a story that keeps pulling its punches, like someone who tells caustically satirical jokes then keeps following up with "just kidding." Available April 5 in theaters. (R)

April 2024 Special Screenings
Tumbleweeds Film Festival: The Utah Film Center's annual family-friendly film festival returns in 2024 to the Viridian Event Center (8030 S. 1825 West, West Jordan) April 19-20, with two days of programming including feature and short film screenings, workshops on the filmmaking process and special guests.

Screendance Cultural Tour: The University of Utah's School of Dance and Tanner Humanities Center present a festival showcasing choreography and the moving body on screen. Programming includes feature-length and short films, animation, panel discussions and more, April 9 – 11 at Broadway Centre Cinemas.

"Cage Match" Nicolas Cage Retrospective: Greatest hits from the 40-year film career of Nicolas Cage come to the Broadway Centre Cinemas on Friday and Saturday nights in April. Titles include Wild at Heart (April 5), Mandy (April 6), Adaptation. (April 12), The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (April 13), Con Air (April 19), Valley Girl (April 20), Pig (April 26) and Raising Arizona (April 27).

Spider-man series: A two-decade history of the popular Marvel character returns to the big screen this month. Beginning with the original 2002 Tobey Maguire Spider-Man on April 15, local theaters—including the Broadway Centre Cinemas and Megaplex Jordan Commons—will feature all seven Spider-Man features for one night only over subsequent Mondays, including Spider-Man 2 (April 22), Spider-Man 3 (April 29), The Amazing Spider-Man (May 6), The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (May 13), Spider-Man: Homecoming (May 20), Spider-Man: Far from Home (May 27) and Spider-Man: No Way Home (June 3).