Girls State Movie Review: A24 Documentary Duo Revisits Mock-Government Program to Similarly Compelling Results

Girls State is Directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine

Review: Girls State isn’t quite the reckoning that Boys State was four years ago, but there’s still enough to reflect on as the events unfold at the Missouri campus. Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine deliver a lighter experience this time around with a movie that makes the case that society isn’t entirely doomed.

girls state review a24 documentary film
Girls State (2024) on Apple TV+

An inspired sibling documentary to 2020’s Boys State, Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s latest A24 release – aptly titled Girls State – manages to hit many of the same notes as the first. It’s boiling with similarly specific personalities and an innate need to inspire change, and the timely nature of their biggest issues, the impending decision of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade and the need for necessary gun reform during the steep rise of mass shootings around the country, serve as the prescient backdrop this time around.

And like Boys State, which portrayed the partisan divide as a canyon rather than a valley, Girls State provides much of this debate unfiltered and unflinching. The quote-unquote “protagonists” and seemingly decent people rarely win, because in politics, they’re lucky to make their way up the ladder past the local level.

The movie follows a handful of high school girls amidst Missouri’s latest Girls State event, teaching students about the processes of government – from electing officials to overhearing court cases and building a party platform. Like the events that it follows, Girls State is highly procedural. The small moments in between debates and assemblies amount to the best that the documentary has to offer.

Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine occasionally struggle to find the same voice for Girls State as they did for Boys State. The first installment feels like a bludgeoning gut punch resembling the scathing politics that occur daily in Washington D.C. and across the country in state capitals, while Girls State tries to end on a noticeably lighter scale, offering the preposition that we may not be all doomed after all.

Which doesn’t match our current political climate quite as neatly. Girls State makes a strong case that the learning experience itself doesn’t stir up the same ideas and debate as the boys are offered the opportunities for. The gap, whether social or fiscal, denies the former’s chances to pull as much from the week as the latter.

More Documentary Reviews from Cinephile Corner

And that’s the reason why Girls State doesn’t quite scratch as deep as Boys State does, which is able to mine more from the experience because Boys State digs at issues in the auditoriums and up on the stage. Girls State, conversely, becomes about the faults in the system itself. The need for more equality within the state’s programs becomes the central thesis.

The film’s best stretch comes towards the end, where Emily Worthmore turns her attention from her bid for state governor to an investigative piece about the gender gap taking place on the Missouri campus during that particular week. You see in real time a young teenager finding her niche and calling, putting into practice a hobby and career goal that she is so perfect for.

And for the most part, Girls State finds enough of these moments to push it over the finish line. Although it may not be quite the detailed critique of our social climate, the movie still paints a vivid picture of gender roles and expectations, where teenagers around the country are trying to reshape how to comfortably live in an uncomfortable world.


Genre: Documentary

Watch Girls State (2024) on Apple TV+ on April 5th

Join our newsletter

Girls State Movie Credits

girls state movie 2024 apple tv documentary


Directors: Jesse MossAmanda McBaine

Editor: Amy Foote

Reviews for Movies like Girls State (2024)