Billy Porter’s directorial debut, Anything’s Possible, is as much a John Hughes story to the current generation as The Breakfast Club was to mine, bearing the trappings of a story that will appeal to many generations. (Funny how as I typed this sentence, I started reading the production notes from the studio with a letter from Porter expressing a similar sentiment.)
There’s an ease with which we settle into the world that Porter visualizes. Andrei Bowden Schwartz’s cinematography is light and airy; there’s a vivaciousness with which Porter and he captured Pittsburgh, Porter’s hometown. Anything’s Possible is as much a love letter to the people of that fair town as it is a human story about a trans teenager falling in love for the first time.
That’s where Eva Reign and Abubakr Ali come in. Kelsa (Reign) is a well-adjusted trans teenager from a supportive and nurturing home, as does Khal (Ali). On the eve of their senior year at The Pittsburgh High School for the Creative & Performing Arts, Porter’s alma mater, Khal, musters up the courage to ask Kelsa out on a date, with hilarious drama ensuing.
The critical differences in generations are defined through technology, specifically Reddit, where the film’s screenwriter, Ximena Garcia Lecuona, found this particular story. Whereas Hughes would have had a conversational, confessional set in a quiet setting, Porter and Lecuona bring the conversation to the internet as Khal seeks help asking Kelsa out; Kelsa is confident in herself, Khal is not. Reign and Ali portray both characters with an unexpected and refreshing sincerity as two worlds collide.
The story takes the time to ask one of life’s most important questions – “What If?” – a question posed by the characters in the film. In reference to the film’s original title, the all-important question is aimed squarely at whether one takes a chance or risks acting on feelings and urges, a course Khal must choose to live his best life now or regrets later on in life. Kelsa faces responding similarly.
Porter could have tossed those questions posed in Anything’s Possible with throwaway humor. Still, there is an easy-going nature in the story adheres to with which Reign approaches Kelsa, an extension of the character’s and actor’s confidence, grace, and quick-wittedness. The love that develops between the two characters has an honesty to it as well, a byproduct of the fairy tale aspect of the storytelling.
There is one grievance I would air for the evildoers, or in this case, the wronged in the film. Friendships or family relationships – you know, drama? (or is it DRAMA!?) – are a bastion of high school life, now and then. One sequence, in particular, sets up a potential showdown between Kelsa’s and Khal’s best friends that never pans out; the story relents in a way, working as an attention getter, favoring the relationship instead of the continuing drama. Violence is never a solution, a fact that is not lost on me in the environment in which we live. Granted, this is also not the focus of the story. It is the one vestige of the story that it didn’t fully follow through. Friends will come and go; perhaps the most important lesson is to be who we are, be proud of that, and remember to take care of ourselves first. Otherwise, we can’t help someone else, a lesson I’ve had to learn this year.
I took Anything’s Possible rather personally because, in spirit, I am Khal and Kelsa. We can be kind to others, but we must always be kind to ourselves. Billy Porter is a fantastic talent, and his wings are only spreading further.
Anything’s Possible is now streaming exclusively on Prime Video.
Directed by Billy Porter
Written by Ximena Garcia Lecuona
Starring Eva Reign, Abubakr Ali, Renée Elise Goldsberry
95 minutes/PG-13/Orion Releasing, Amazon Studios