The term “uplifting” is often overused, but it’s apt when describing “Step,” a documentary about a step dancing team from an all-girls high school in inner city Baltimore. Don’t expect lots of dance footage, however. “Step” instead focuses on the personal struggles of several team members, all of whom face unique challenges. The film shows how the work and discipline of the dance team help the girls in their academic and personal lives.
It’s virtually impossible not to get caught up in these girls’ lives and enthusiastically root them on. That makes the climatic dance competition all the more compelling. “Step” is an involving documentary in step with the times.
Oscar-winner Brie Larson stars in the big screen adaptation of Jeannette Walls’s best-selling memoir about her difficult upbringing in a family run by two very eccentric parents. Larson is fine as the adult Jeannette, but young actresses Ella Anderson and Chandler Head are equally good as the childhood versions. How well this movie works for you may relay on your reaction to Woody Harrelson as the family’s iconoclastic, alcoholic patriarch and Naomi Watts as Jeannette’s spacey artist mom.
Director Destin Daniel Cretton takes a sincere approach, but the movie never achieves the authenticity he achieved with his earlier collaboration with Larson, the touching film about at-risk teens, “Short Term 12.” Chalk up “The Glass Castle” as a near miss.
Also opening this week, “The Only Living Boy in New York” is a drama starring Callum Turner about an aimless recent college grad who winds up having an affair with his father’s mistress. Kate Beckinsale, Pierce Brosnan and Jeff Bridges co-star. “Annabelle: Creation” is yet another horror film in the “Conjuring” franchise. “Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” is a sequel to the 2014 animated tale featuring Surly Squirrel.