Billy Porter Updates the John Hughes Rom-Com With Directorial Debut ‘Anything’s Possible’
Anything’s Possible, Billy Porter’s directorial debut, is a vibrant high school love story that’s sweet-natured, breezy, messy, exasperating and trailblazing. This Pittsburgh-based romcom is John Hughes updated for an era of wokeness and a slap in the face of cynicism. Its heart isn’t just on its sleeve; it’s in its title and its outlook on the divisive world we live in, and it may well be used as a flag to wave for the left and a whipping post for the condemnation of the right. Why?
Because Kelsa (Eva Reign) — the nature-loving, college-bound protagonist — is trans.
That’s not the only update from the much-loved (and racially insensitive) Hughes canon. River Point High School may be the most diverse depiction of a modern U.S. educational facility ever in a film. And the students — including Em (Courtnee Carter) and Chris (Kelly Lamor Wilson), Kelsa’s BFFs, and the kind, compassionate Khal (Abubakr Ali), whom Em is crushing on though he’s drawn to Kelsa — communicate mostly through digital prisms like texts and Reddit. (Khal, when hanging with his friend Otis [Grant Reynolds], imparts relationship advice on Reddit to hopeful and frightened lovers, and turns to it to help negotiate the fraught new territory he’s discovering.)
Once Khal, from a conventional Muslim family, makes his intentions clear to Kelsa, Anything’s Possible becomes a petri dish of hot-button issues. Em becomes the high school embodiment of “hell hath no fury” and embarks on a war over — what else? — public restrooms. Otis, who’d have no problem if his best friend were gay, still can’t wrap his head around trans identity. And Kelsa, whose primary instinct is to survive her high school years with as little drama as possible, is the center around which everything turns. She’s not interested in being representative; she just wants to be.
“I was so, so hyped to start working on [Anything’s Possible],” Reign has said. “I really just thought about how much I needed a story like this when I was younger. I kind of tried to be like my own hero from way, way back when, just to show the story of this young Black trans girl who’s confident, who’s fierce, who’s still figuring a lot of things out but has a lot of hope for what the future looks like.”
If the future looks like Kelsa, who doesn’t need anyone to be her savior, we’re in good hands. And Porter — with a sharp, truth-telling script by Ximena García Lecuona — brings his rebellious, humanist spirit to bear in his direction.
“We know what’s happening to the trans community with legislation and laws,” Porter has said. “We see what’s happening in the rollbacks of civil rights of people’s personal freedoms and rights. We see what that is. And so this tale is about saying NO. And holding our government officials accountable for their really partisan and unfortunate and fucked up ideas of what they think they should be doing in this world, it’s fucked up. And the answer is, NO, period. As artists, we get to present the facts; we get to be in a space where we can reach into the hearts and minds of people and change the molecular structure. That’s what I’m trying to do. The power of art is to be the vessel of change. That’s the power we have. That’s why we’re the first people to be attacked when shady policies want to be employed. It’s always the artists that are shut down first because we speak truth to power without fear, because we have the power to heal civilizations.
“It’s what Toni Morrison talks about: This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There’s no room for fear. We have to be here and we have to be present and we have to tell the truth. That’s the responsibility of an artist to me.”