Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Luka Kain, Margot Bingham, Regina Taylor, MJ Rodriguez, Indya Moore, Alexia Garcia, Marquis Rodriguez, Peter Y. Kim, Evander Duck Jr., Jaylin Fletcher, Stephen Conrad Moore, Alexia Garcia
Written by: Damon Cardasis
Directed by: Damon Cardasis
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 82
Date: 01/12/2018
IMDB

Saturday Church (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Real-to-Heels

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Written and directed by Damon Cardasis, this coming-out story is fairly routine, but sets itself apart from dozens of other, similar coming-out stories with its deeply-felt musical fantasy sequences.

In Saturday Church, New York teen Ulysses (Luka Kain) is unhappy. His father has just died, and his mother (Margot Bingham) is forced to take double shifts to cover expenses, while mean Aunt Rose (Regina Taylor) takes over the household. Ulysses is gay and drawn to dressing in women's clothes, though his little brother tattles when he tries on his mother's red high-heel shoes.

Rather than face Rose's wrath, Ulysses heads to Christopher Street, where he meets colorful transgender friends Ebony (MJ Rodriguez), Dijon (Indya Moore), and Heaven (Alexia Garcia), as well as the kind, openly gay Raymond (Marquis Rodriguez). They take him to Saturday Church, a safe haven where the LGBTQ community can eat, find clothes, and dance. They also introduce him to the ball scene, which opens his eyes even further. After a blowout with Aunt Rose, Ulysses finds himself homeless for the first time, and discovers what truly matters.

Saturday Church isn't exactly polished, and in truth it sometimes feels very amateurish. It has the feel of a local community theater, wherein everyone seems to have put in everything they had. Passion and dedication make up for lack of skill and sparkle.

The songs, co-written by Cardasis and Nathan Larson, and the accompanying dances range from awful to passable, but they are all performed with an immediate energy that can evoke smiles. Star Kain is another reason this works. Thin and angelic with pretty, expressive eyes, he's perfect for the role, and even if he spends perhaps too much time sulking, he nevertheless captures a powerful kind of inner struggle.

Bingham (Barbershop: The Next Cut) is another secret weapon, adding a layer of compassion to her harried mother character. Saturday Church will certainly appeal to LGBTQ viewers, but it's also good enough for anyone with a heart.

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