Amazon’s teen romcom “Anything’s Possible” makes the grade
Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Billy Porter’s classy , heartfelt directorial debut “Anything’s Possible” doesn’t work miracles. But it does work, and in ways more interesting than the average streaming teen romcom with one eye on heart, the other on life lessons for the young and the smitten.
For one thing, the heart stuff — the budding romance between its main characters — beats in refreshingly human rhythm here. Trans high school senior Kelsa (Eva Reign) has been cautious about dating while in her transitioning phase. One of the seniors in her art class, Khal (Abubakr Ali), is sweet on her, and knows her story; on YouTube Kelsa has shared her experiences and insights while maintaining a more cautious brand of socializing in their Pittsburgh high school hallways.
In art class, ka-boom: Sweet, charismatically awkward Khal paints an impressive portrait of Kelsa, while she paints him. Thus begins a genuine connection. Smartly, screenwriter Ximena García Lecuona takes the casual, straightforward approach to Kelsa’s transition. The interplay between the characters, and between the actors, feels authentic and winning. When the couple goes public, “Anything’s Possible” maintains its charm, although a lot of the obstacles and narrative crises in the second half — dominated by how the relationship is handled by their respective best friends, i.e. badly — veer toward predictability.
Director and Pittsburgh native Porter, a Tony Award winner for “Kinky Boots,” makes the film a Pittsburgh valentine, shooting all around a highly photogenic city without turning into a tour guide. The best of the dialogue has real snap to it. Early on, Kelsa tells her loving, highly protective mom (Renée Elise Goldsberry, excellent) she wants to go to college either in LA or New York, nothing in between. “What do they have that Pittsburgh doesn’t?” her mom wonders.
“It’s what they don’t have,” Kelsa says: “People that know me.”
That teen itch to remake oneself and start anew is universal. The movie stays carefully in tune with Kelsa’s doubts about why Khal wants to be her boyfriend. She’s concerned “about people only pretending to like me because they want to be woke or something.” Khal isn’t like that, but he has his own issues, namely a people-pleasing tendency that has a way of squelching his own needs.
A lot of “Anything’s Possible” deals with typical high school difficulties, amped up by the wrong videos going viral or friends suddenly turning enemies. Porter and his ingratiating actors do all they can to humanize the material. The movie works because a lot of that material is engaging and genuinely humane to begin with.
“Anything’s Possible” — 3 stars (out of 4)
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MPAA rating: PG-13 (for language, thematic material, sexual material and brief teenage drinking)
Running time: 1:36
How to watch: Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Michael Phillips is a Tribune critic.
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