A Look Back at Tribeca 2023 | Festivals & Awards
Movie Reviews

A Look Back at Tribeca 2023 | Festivals & Awards

Waitress, The Musical – Live on Broadway

One of the more highly anticipated films at the festival was “Waitress, The Musical – Live on Broadway,” a filmed version of the stage musical based on the 2007 film by Adrienne Shelly about an unhappily married and newly pregnant waitress who channels her frustrations and anxieties into the pies she bakes for the diner where she works before embarking on an ill-advised affair with her obstetrician. As a record of both the production and the performance by pop star Sara Bareilles, who wrote the songs, in the central role, it is satisfactory enough, especially for those who are already fans of the show. However, while the songs themselves are pleasant enough—especially the ones that are performed by Bareilles herself—none of them are particularly memorable or make the case that this was a story that needed to be musicalized in the first place. A bigger problem is that the songs help add more than 40-odd minutes to what was a pretty slender story to begin with and which struggles to support the weight of the new stuff. After watching it, most viewers will likely come away from it with a taste for a piece of the pie and a desire to stick with the original film.

Other documentaries at the festival elected to observe social issues of all stripes, with several illustrating the ways, past and present, in which people have attempted to make inroads in fields that are usually thought of in strictly lily-white terms. “Invisible Beauty” takes us on a fascinating and often enraging look at the life and work of Bethann Harrison, one of the first Black models, and how she fought against racism in the industry by using her power as a model, agent, and activist to fight for diversity. Along the same lines, although in a vastly different field, “The Space Race” offers an eye-opening look at the lives of the first Black astronauts and their struggles to break barriers and prove that they had the so-called “right stuff” as well. “Breaking the News,” from directors Heather Courtney, Princess A. Hairston, and Chelsea Hernandez, tells the ultimately inspiring look at a group of journalists, mostly women and people of color, who come together in the hopes of creating a new independent media outlet that will focus on news involving politics, race, and gender in ways that established news outlets have consistently overlooked over the years—the result debuted during the coronavirus panic but soon gained enough attention, thanks to reporter Erin Haines’ coverage of the killing of Breonna Taylor, to prove that there was a market for new news voices. 

Break the Game

Two other compelling and often-touching films find their subjects using elements of popular culture as a way of helping to come to terms with their transitioning. In “Break the Game,” which earned director Jane M. Wagner the New Documentary Director award, world-record-holding gamer Narcissa Wright loses much of her online fan base when she comes out as trans. While trying to come to terms with her new life, she endeavors to try to win them back by live-streaming herself setting a new speed record for the “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” game. “Chasing Chasing Amy,” inspired by a well-received TED Talk delivered by Sav Rodgers about how the film essentially changed his life when he saw it at the age of 12, finds him exploring the film’s complicated legacy—especially its basic premise about a gay woman falling in love with a straight guy (one written and directed by the straight Kevin Smith) and how it was produced by the now-reviled Harvey Weinstein (who took praise for the film at Sundance at the same time he was raping Rose McGowan)—and the unexpected parallels that it would share with his relationship with his own girlfriend, Riley. Although uneven in some parts, this documentary is ultimately a strong and important examination of the ways that popular entertainment can touch and move us in unexpected and deeply personal ways.

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