Settling in to watch a Steve James documentary can be like taking your place at a 15-course prix fixe dinner from a master chef. From the outside, you can worry it might be excessive, but if you trust the chef and know they have ingredients they want to cook with, you can be confident that 14 courses would be too few and 16 would be too many.
The Hoop Dreams documentarian has been making a push into TV in recent years and his 10-part Starz series America to Me was my favorite show of 2018. James’ latest series, the four-part City So Real, arrived at Sundance this year without distribution, but I can’t imagine that will last very long. Though it lacks the sort of young viewer hook that Starz hoped would make America to Me a hit, City So Real is another gripping topical smorgasbord from James, using the 2019 Chicago mayoral election as a peg to cover such a wide range of subjects it actually lives up to its ambitious subtitle, “The American City at a Crossroads.”