Step Movie Review
Step is a potential Oscar contender for Best Documentary Feature - it has a 95% fresh rating and has earned plaudits from critics left and right. Which makes its existential nothingness all the more frustrating.
The doc, directed by Amanda Lipitz, follows a group of senior high school girls in Baltimore as they prepare for college - as well as their step dance team competition - amidst social unrest in the inner city.
The liberal in me should praise Step for showcasing young women of color and their efforts to overcome the challenges set forth by their socioeconomic situations, but the movie watcher says, I just don’t care. The doc presents nothing new or particularly interesting, doesn’t really try to take on racial issues in a meaningful way, and frankly is just sort of boring to watch. While Lipitz introduces us to several endearing characters, from a girl striving to be accepted into (and more importantly, get the scholarships to afford) a prestigious university to another hoping to get her grades up enough to even make it into college, there just isn’t a lot to sink your teeth into.
The only truly entertaining and engaging part is the step dance competition at the end, but I didn’t sign up to watch Step for its dance sequences.
The problem with the doc is that it isn’t clear what it wants to be. As a dance movie, it has its moments, but Lipitz doesn’t go into much detail explaining what step dance is (I’d never heard of it) or what it takes to be successful. Other than dancing in a gym, what preparations go into making this showcased team any good? And as a movie about black girls in the inner city, or poverty in general, it does a good job of making it personal - but not so much at taking a deep dive to explore the circumstances these students face.
Perhaps high expectations did me in, or perhaps it’s because I’m white, or perhaps it’s because Step isn’t as good as reviews would suggest, but this documentary, while competent, is an easy one to forget because there isn’t much to remember.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.