A Pleasant But Largely Forgettable Film
While Juanita does well to deliver a heartwarming slice-of-life picture, it fails to deliver much else. With a profound lack of drama, sleepy plotting and a host of cookie-cutter characters, Juanita fails to really establish itself as a feel good drama, blending into the mundanity of its road-trip trope a little more than it should.
The story itself revolves around middle aged Juanita. Breaking the fourth wall and speaking to the camera about her life, Juanita sheds light on her demanding job and even more demanding family including her kids and grand-kids who all share one roof. As she retreats to the comfort of her own fantasies with Blair Underwood, she makes the decision to go on a long road trip as a way of cleansing her mind and becoming a more rounded person in the process. What follows from here is a journey that’s as much about well-being as it is about the journey itself, as Juanita travels to Paper Moon, Montana and reinvents herself.
While Juanita does have some nice ideas about mental well-being and uses this as a good platform to showcase a strong, older black woman in the driving seat, there isn’t a whole lot else to get excited by here. The story itself is void of drama and throughout this 90 minute picture, there’s not much mention of her family at home save for a few moments toward the end where she learns everyone is getting on fine. I can’t help but feel Juanita may have worked better showing the family struggling and Juanita’s internal confliction over whether to go home or stay out in the wilderness. Unfortunately there’s none of this and instead, Juanita remains a sleepy little film that doesn’t do very much.
Aesthetically at least, Juanita does quite well to showcase a range of hand-drawn segments although a lot of this is kept to the start of the film. Throughout the film, various fantasies with Blair Underwood do well to mirror Juanita’s transformation, beginning in dark, grimy rooms before progressing to a brightly lit, beautiful beach as she makes a decision about her future.
As a pleasant little road trip, Juanita is a nice enough film but it never quite lives up to its full potential. It’s simply the movie equivalent of a really tame theme park ride – it’s nice enough but not something you’d go back to in a hurry. Despite some good acting and nice ideas, Juanita just doesn’t do enough to make it a film worth recommending.