Often the best art entertains while encouraging (sometimes gently, sometimes forcefully) the viewer to expand their horizons and open their minds to new experiences. Think of the way Hamilton made us reframe and rethink the story of the birth of our nation. Often, art is ahead of society pulling us along into the present. And these are indeed strange times. Television and movies are becoming more and more expansive, more diverse, more representative of the communities being portrayed, and more reflective of our multifaceted society. At the same time our government is frighteningly becoming more restrictive, rolling back our progress in devastating and heartbreaking ways. The juxtaposition can give you whiplash. In this current climate, movies that tell diverse stories are more important than ever.
Enter Anything’s Possible a story about a vivacious high school student named Kelsa (Eva Reign) who dreams of turning her love for animals into a career as a nature cinematographer. On the first day of senior year, she meets the quiet and shy Khal (Abubakr Ali) in art class. Their attraction is immediate. Khal can’t quite work up the nerve to ask Kelsa out and things get even more complicated when Kelsa realizes her friend Em (Courtnee Carter) also likes Khal. This kind of angsty teenage love story, where emotions run high and the adolescent melodrama is turned up to 10, is a tale as old as time. In the press notes, first-time director Billy Porter even namechecks John Hughes, director of so many classic teen movies. What makes Anything’s Possible unique compared to those classics is that Kelsa is trans.
We meet Kelsa as she’s facing what so many high school seniors face: College applications and the stress of figuring out her future. While Kelsa’s dad is no longer in the picture (his loss), Kelsa’s mother Selene (the always fabulous Renee Elise Goldsberry) is loving, supportive and worried about her daughter going to college far away from home.
“What do they have that Pittsburgh doesn’t?” Selene asks about colleges that are in California.
“It’s what they don’t have. People that know me.” Kelsa responds.
Kelsa wants her mom to operate under her “law of averages”—is this conversation something the average mom would be talking about with her average daughter?
This is a very 2022 story; Kelsa posts videos on YouTube discussing her feelings about her transition while Khal answers Reddit queries. When Kelsa and Khal go public with their relationships we see their peers’ reactions in the form of texts and tweets. (“I stan.” “Love that for them.” “They are cute AF.”) Sometimes TV shows and movies that use current lingo and social media can feel like they are trying too hard to be of the moment. But it totally works here and immerses the viewer into Kelsa and Khal’s world.
Their sweet romance is one of dreamy first dates and shy first kisses. But Khal must deal with Otis (Grant Reynolds), his lifelong best friend, saying things like “That’s so gay” and “She’s a dude you know.” Meanwhile, Em says Khal is only dating Kelsa for the “woke points.” Kelsa’s other best friend Chris (Kelly Lamor Wilson) is always trying to fix Kelsa’s problems. “I don’t need you to save me,” Kelsa tells her. Kelsa’s most delightful quality is her secure sense of self.
Anything’s Possible is indeed revolutionary. But the revolution is in how typical its story is. While never didactic or patronizing, the movie should expand the horizons of some viewers and be validating for others who may see themselves on screen. But to be successful, the movie also has to be entertaining. And Anything’s Possible is.
Reign, who makes her film debut in Anything’s Possible, is magnetic. And her chemistry with Ali, also terrific in his role, is palpable. There’s such joy in Porter’s direction. The love for his hometown of Pittsburgh is also on full display, as the movie takes full advantage of filming on location using many of the city’s landmarks and sites as backdrops. The vibrant costumes are fabulous (I could almost hear Porter’s Pose character Pray Tell saying “she slays” as some of the outfits hit the screen) and even the more difficult setbacks Kelsa faces, like not being able to use the girls’ locker room, don’t supersede the joy in the movie.
By the time Anything’s Possible ends, some plot points are left unresolved. For some, it makes sense to not wrap everything up in a tidy manner. For others, it seems like there may be a scene or two that was left on the cutting room floor by mistake. We can hope that soon a movie like Anything’s Possible is so mainstream that featuring a trans lead isn’t notable at all. After all, in entertainment, anything is possible.
Director: Billy Porter
Writer: Ximena Garci?a Lecuona
Starring: Eva Reign, Abubakr Ali, Courtnee Carter, Kelly Lamor Wilson, Grant Reynolds, Renee Elise Goldsberry
Release Date: July 22, 2022 (Amazon Prime)
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).