Our Editors’ Picks From the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival
Before they make their big debut in theaters nationwide, most movies get their start on the festival circuit. Whether it be a standing-ovation-inciting premiere at Cannes, or a warm reception amid the chilly temps at Sundance, the year’s most-exciting films often have their first shot with a curated group of critics and press. For the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival, POPSUGAR was fortunate enough to secure a front row seat for the NYC-based event’s screening of feature narratives, shorts, documentaries, and buzzy series premieres.
While some of the films have already attracted attention (like Pixar’s latest, “Elemental”), others are hoping to make the leap from art house to buzzy.
Here, POPSUGAR highlights the films that make our best of the fest list, whittled down from an impressive 109 selections screening at Tribeca 2023. Keep scrolling for our picks, including “Cinnamon” and “The Line.”
Hailey Kilgore is an absolute star as the anchor of this Blaxploitation-esque film that rolls romance, comedy, betrayal, and suspense all into one thrilling tale. Written and directed by Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr., “Cinnamon” follows the high-stakes journey of Kilgore’s Jodi, a gas station attendant and aspiring singer who goes to great lengths to make her dreams come true when she meets her hustling boyfriend Eddie (David Iacono). In an attempt to get away from her dead-end job and start a new life together, the Bonnie and Clyde pair scheme up a heist to set them up for their quest. But when their staged crime goes terribly wrong, they find themselves tangled with a ruthless family who stop at nothing to show the couple they picked the wrong crew to mess with – and that’s just the beginning of this nail-biting story. What follows is a surprising chain of secret-revealing events, all ending with a deadly showdown between Eddie and the family’s leader James, played by Jeremie Harris, whose performance is brilliantly diabolical. Kilgore’s passionate performance makes a strong case for why she deserves more leading movie roles. Let’s hope this is just her first of many. – Njera Perkins, associate editor, celebrity and entertainment
“Cinnamon” mixes action, comedy, and music in a movie that’s unlike any other. It’s anchored by charismatic performances by Hailey Kilgore and “The Summer I Turned Pretty”‘s David Iacono, who play lovers desperate to break out of their small town and make it to the big time. But their plan goes awry and entangles them with the type of people you definitely don’t want to mess with. The movie also features chilling performances from Pam Grier and Jeremie Harris. This was Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.’s directorial debut, and I can’t wait to follow his career. – Victoria Edel, staff writer, TV and movies
As a graduate of a Southern private university with a large Greek life presence, I witnessed firsthand just how intense fraternity members can be under the guise of brotherhood. It’s startling how much control a group of young adults can exert over their community with the promise of social superiority. And, sadly, it’s dangerous. While at my school there were often rumors of fraternities forcing hopeful pledges to swallow goldfish and other upsetting tasks of that ilk, to my knowledge, none of these “required” feats resulted in death. That tragically hasn’t been the case at many colleges – which “The Line” subtly points to in its conclusion, showing news coverage of the hazing death of Penn State student Timothy Piazza. In “The Line,” members of the fictional frat Kappa Nu Alpha, including Tom (Alex Wolff) and Todd (Lewis Pullman), are in the process of recruiting new brothers from the freshman class (aka pledges). One recruit, Gettys (Austin Abrams), isn’t quite buying into the respect his elder brothers feel they deserve as he’s put through a series of increasingly dehumanizing tasks. When he runs afoul of one of the other members, the consequences are ultimately tragic. While past Greek life explorations on the big screen have bordered on hokey, “The Line” is a haunting look at the hate and danger some sects of these national fraternities breed. – Lindsay Kimble, entertainment content director
"Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed"
Too young to experience Rock Hudson’s career while it was happening, I only knew him as a name, a story. The details of his life were turned into sharp, easy bullet points. Stephen Kijak’s documentary paints a portrait of a complicated man who lived during a difficult time where he had to make hard choices basically every day. The documentary’s use of footage from his film performances was particularly interesting, as Hudson almost spoke to himself through time. – VE
“Maggie Moore(s)” had me at John Slattery, John Hamm, and Tina Fey, but it’s so much more than its star power. A story drawn from reality (“Some of this actually happened” precedes the movie’s events), “Maggie Moore(s)” follows Hamm’s small-town New Mexico police chief Jordan as he investigates the murders of two women named (you guessed it) Maggie Moore within just 10 days. While Jordan is in the dark to the culprit, that’s not so much the case for viewers – the hapless perpetrator at the center of these crimes is revealed in real-time as the deaths occur. Hamm is mostly the straight-man in this comedy-drama, with his sidekick deputy Reddy (“Ted Lasso“‘s Nick Mohammed) getting most of the chuckle-inducing lines. It’s a satisfying crime tale, bolstered by Hamm’s chemistry with frequent costar Fey (who plays Rita, one of the Maggie’s neighbors). A good tune-in for true crime fans and “Fargo” acolytes. – LK
"Your Fat Friend"
I’ve been a fan of Aubrey Godren – this documentary’s main subject – since she started writing anonymously under the name Your Fat Friend. I didn’t know that this movie’s director, British documentarian Jeanie Finlay, was also following her from around the same time. She captures Gordon’s struggles as she opens up to the world about her experiences as a fat person, first anonymously and then, finally, as herself. The most interesting part is the way Gordon’s parents react to her journey and how they make sense of the role they played in all of it – good and bad – as her parents. – Victoria Edel
The upcoming Paramount + documentary “Milli Vanilli” finally provides a redemption story for the disgraced duo Milli Vanilli, which went up in flames as the biggest lip-syncing scandal in pop music. Group members Fabrice Morvan and Robert Pilatus took the brunt of the shame, even having to give back their Grammy best new artist award in 1990. In “Milli Vanilli,” we go behind the curtain, which reveals an opportunistic producer tugging at the strings that exploded into controversy and an unfortunate commodification of Black artists. As a ’90s kid, this was a Tribeca must-watch for me. – Jada Gomez, executive editor
Disney-Pixar’s “Elemental” sees animated versions of the Earth’s elements tell a beautiful story about immigration and interracial (interelemental?) romance. In the film, a fire girl named Ember is determined to succeed at running her first-generation father’s store after he gave up everything to move to Element City to start his family. But when she crosses paths with a water person named Wade, their unexpected connection forces her to reevaluate everything she knows about love, family, and what she wants for her future. While the plot, at times, feels undercooked compared to Disney’s other releases that touch on similar topics (no governmental conspiracies here like in “Zootopia”), it’s emotional through line about following your heart packs a punch both children and adults will get choked up over. You might want to bring a few tissues along with you to this movie. – Noelle Devoe, senior editor, TV and movies