We meet a hefty young woman who has the misfortune to be the daughter of a former beauty queen. Not only was her mother a beauty queen, but she has made a career of being a beauty queen from that moment on. Now she RUNS the The Miss Bluebonnet contest and also serves as the adult advisor. No one ever forgets that she was a beauty queen!

Director Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal"), working with a screenplay by Kristen Hahn ("Stargirl") which is in turn, based on Julie Murphy's novel, brings to the screen a predictable, yet unpredictable story. We are pretty sure where we are going, but surprised by what we find when we get there. Nicely surprised, I might add.

Part of Fletcher's cast:
  • Danielle Macdonald ("Lady Bird") Willowdean is whip smart but still subject to bullying from classmates. Her life was made joyful by a beloved Aunt Lucy who recently passed away. She is NOT fond of being called "Dumplin'."
  • Jennifer Aniston ("Cake") Life was unkind to Rosie when it blessed her with a daughter who clearly will not be able to follow in her lovely mother's footsteps. Oh well Rosie, check your weight and make sure you moisturize.
  • Odeya Rush ("Spinning Man") Ellen blunders into the Miss Bluebonnet contest because she accompanies her best friend, Willowdean when she registers. Ellen is loyal and steadfast.
  • Maddie Baillio ("Hairspray") Millie is the most irrepressible, upbeat contestant Miss Bluebonnet has ever enrolled. This plus-size dynamo is a good Christian though, so she hasn't told her mom.
  • Luke Benward ("Measure of a Man") Bo is the cook at the diner where Willowdean works. ALL the girls notice Bo!
  • Hillary Begley ("When Last We Spoke") Aunt Lucy was the saving grace in Willowdean's life. She brought joy, her love of dance, her circle of gay friends, and above all, her love of Dolly Parton, who wrote a few original songs for this little gem.
I'll take a moment to, once again, delight in the international nature of film. Danielle is from Australia, Odaya is from Israel, and Maddie is from Texas. I rest my case!

As we trudge our way through this PG-13 story (on Amazon Prime), we wonder how we will ever arrive at a happy ending that we can accept. We love the drag queens, we enjoy the bewilderment on the faces of the Bluebonnet directors, we relish the look on Rosie's face as she watches her daughter go through her paces and sure enough, we are able to accept the happy ending.

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See for yourself.
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Captain Fantastic

This R-rated drama begins with a primitive hunting scene. A deer, alerted by something, is being hunted with bows and arrows; the hunters seem to be children and sure enough, not only are they children, but they field dress it where it lays. Field dressing consists of disemboweling the animal to allow it to cool more rapidly so the meat doesn't spoil. They eat what they kill and they only kill what they eat. Yep. It's bloody.

Writer/director Matt Ross ("28 Hotel Rooms") takes us to the deep woods and introduces us to a man and his six children in a primitive dwelling. It's instantly clear that he doesn't cut them any slack. Their schooling and physical training are rigorous and the children seem to be flourishing.

Part of this highly capable cast:
  • Viggo Mortensen ("Green Book") nominated for numerous awards for this role, is the father, Ben. He is shaken by the news of his wife's death and is convinced their children deserve the opportunity to fulfill her last will and testament. His in-laws do not agree. 
  • George MacKay ("The True History of the Kelly Gang") Bodevan is the eldest. His wrenching scene makes it clear to us how na├»ve these children are and how unschooled they are in the ways of the world. 
  • Samantha Isler ("Molly's Game") Kielyr is hovering on the brink of womanhood but she looks out for her other siblings and can wield a hunting knife with the best. 
  • Annalise Bosso ("Electric Dreams") Vespyr is serious and concerned, both for her father and her little brood of brothers and sisters.  By now you have noticed that these children were named by a mother who wanted them to be individuals.
  • Nicholas Hamilton (The Dark Tower") Rellian is the rebel, dissatisfied with survival in the woods and yearning for a more ordinary life. Grandpa and Grandma's wealth is appealing. 
  • Shree Crooks ("The Glass Castle") Zaja doesn't view Civics as just a bunch of documents. Listen to her expound on the Bill of Rights. 
  • Charlie Shotwell ("Man Down") Nai reads and writes, like the rest of his home-schooled gang; the world looks fine to this little guy! 
  • Frank Langella ("The Americans") Jack is convinced that Ben killed his daughter, he refuses to believe in mental illness.
  • Ann Dowd ("The Handmaid's Tale") Abigail just wants to be able to see her grandchildren, now that her daughter is gone.
There are others but my list has grown too long. I was not exaggerating when I called this a highly capable cast. Every scene is impressive. But be advised. This is R-rated for good reason, expect full-frontal male nudity (Zaja says, "Clothes at the table, Dad!"), sophisticated humor, blood and gore. In addition, it has moments of delight; events in which we take great satisfaction with the children and their upbringing; plus we appreciate Ben's anguish over his wife's death.

Personally I had some reservations about the veracity of that primitive lifestyle, but I'm known to be very very picky.
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Here is a sample:
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