Margarita with a Straw (Film) Review

An Indian coming-of-age tale this week and it’s a pretty nice one really. Certainly more joyful than the fucking miserable Duck Butter from last week. Thank God because I was not down for that much introspection again, not for a while anyway.

*Spoilers*

Margarita with a Straw (2014)

IMDB Synopsis

A rebellious young woman with cerebral palsy leaves her home in India to study in New York, unexpectedly falls in love, and embarks on an exhilarating journey of self-discovery.

My Review

Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is a rebellious songwriting teen who attends Delhi University. She also happens to have Cerebral Palsy. She writes music for an indie band which results in her falling in love with the lead singer. Unfortunately, when he doesn’t feel the same way about her, she is left devastated.

Determined to move on from her first real heartbreak, Laila fortuitously receives word that she’s been accepted on a scholarship at New York University. While her father (Kuljeet Singh) thinks it’s too far away, Laila’s mother (Revathy) is determined that she do what she wants and she moves with her daughter to Greenwich Village.

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Almost immediately Laila meets a hottie called Jared (William Moseley) who helps her in her creative writing course. At the same time she also meets young activist Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a blind girl of Pakistani-Bangladeshi descent. Enamored by Khanum’s passion and general badassery, as well as her attitude toward her own disability, she quickly falls in love and the two embark on a relationship. They also gladly take on caring duties for one another.

While Khanum seems cool with who she is, Laila finds it much harder to be free as the daughter of a very traditional mother. One who freaks out when she accidentally discovers Laila has been watching porn.

Laila is further confused when she doesn’t just stop being attracted to boys (especially Jared) and things become even more complicated when she has sex with him, something she immediately regrets. Not telling Khanum, the two return to Delhi together for Winter break to stay with Laila’s family. Shubhangini (Mum) still has no inkling of the true nature of their relationship and when Laila tries to broach the topic of her bi-sexuality with her, it backfires.

Will she muster the necessary courage to come out to her parents and find peace in who she is? And will she mess it up with Khanum?

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Unfortunately, the family are forced to come to terms with a situation far larger than any of them and this momentarily puts all their differences aside. There are some really touching moments in this movie, not least the ending where Laila takes herself out on a fancy date.

The central performance is amazing and Keochlin plays Laila very well but I was kind of disappointed to find out that she wasn’t really disabled. I’m not sure if this is the right reaction but for a moment there I got excited about true representation of disability on the big screen. When you think about this it’s no different to Daniel Day-Lewis starring in My Left Foot but I hoped we’d moved on a bit by now.

Laila is lovely and joyful though and it does have a very positive attitude. The film is not about disability really, it’s about a woman owning her sexuality, coming of age and gaining independence, and she just so happens to be disabled. I love that.

My Rating

3/5.

What did Jill make of this one? Would she lock it in the closet or help it to fly free? Find out here.

Duck Butter (Film) Review

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am really not a fan of ‘the disintegration of a relationship’ movies – or Doom Coms™?

This probably says an awful lot about me, that I can’t handle the truth, but there it is. Blue Valentine had me cringing and praying for it to end and there have been many films of the same ilk since. Duck Butter falls into this camp as far as I’m concerned and now I feel like I need my mummy and a big cuddle.

*Spoilers*

Duck Butter (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

Two women, who are dissatisfied with the dishonesty they see in dating and relationships, decide to make a pact to spend 24 hours together hoping to find a new way to create intimacy.

My Review

Alia Shawkat is one of my favourite actresses at the moment so it is truly a joy to see her face whenever and wherever it pops up. In Duck Butter, as actress Naima, she meets the soulful (?) Sergio (Laia Costa) in a club and the two quickly hit it off. Somewhere during this evening together the two discuss spending the next 24 hours together, the plan being to shag every hour on the hour in order to create a super intense intimacy. Phew.

Initially, Naima backtracks a little because she’s just taken a new job making a film with The Duplass Brothers and this upsets Sergio.

Side note: the whole film within a film, Naima working with Mark and Jay who are playing themselves thing is so fucking meta that it actually hurts a little bit.

But when she is fired for ‘creative differences’, she persuades Sergio to pick up where they left off – and so begins 24 hours in the life of Naima and Sergio.

Well, there’s not all that much to say other than it starts hot, heavy and sexy, and then the ugly aspects of each of the characters begin to show and the love slowly but surely dies. Perhaps a relationship doesn’t need so much fucking examination all the time?

Naima is obviously still stinging from her professional rejection, while Sergio has a complicated relationship with her mother. Both women are creatives and this lends itself to a passionate and fiery joint temperament. Honestly, I must cop to not really remembering much of the nuance, this is more like a walking nightmare. By the end credits I felt as though I’d gone through my own breakup and I felt sad and battered.

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Both performances are hyper real and it is easy to forget you’re not peeping in on an authentic relationship. Neither are that likable either with needy traits (that lord knows I have when I’m in the midst of a anxiety attack). I think it’s sometimes hard to watch because the viewer will see so many aspects of themselves mirrored back at them. At least that’s how I see it.

There are plenty of awkward moments including a very forced orgy instigated by Naima to mark the end of the relationship Sergio doesn’t seem to want to end. Honestly, I was keen for the end credits to roll – and it was a beautiful release when they did.

I can’t say the performances were bad and aesthetically it’s a hipster’s dream, it just didn’t have the something I expected. I felt no true sympathy for anyone and also, how cheated are we that we only get Mae Whitman for a few measly scenes? It’s a total liberty.

While reading up on this I did find out that this was originally written about a hetero couple. Apparently, the extended sex scenes made Alia and her male co-star uncomfortable so it was rewritten for two women – thank god for small mercies, eh?

My Rating

2.5/5.

What does my love think of this one? Would she last 24 hours with it or would she kick it to the kerb within 90 minutes? Find out here.

The Firefly (Film) Review

Jill and I settled on Gay July because we’ve always had pretty good success with LGBTQIA films within the collab – and there are some great ones on Netflix at the moment. So let’s kick back with this Colombian love story, shall we?

*Spoilers*

The Firefly (2013) or La luciérnaga (original title)

IMDB Synopsis

After the sudden death of her estranged brother, Lucia accidentally meets his fiancée and falls in love with her.

My Review

Lucia (Carolina Guerra) is estranged from her brother Andres (Manuel José Chaves) because he failed to attend his own father’s funeral. There’s A LOT of family turmoil going on since he also believes he killed their mother (she died giving birth to him). As a result, the siblings have not seen each other for three years and Lucia is unaware that her brother is marrying Mariana (Olga Segura).

On the day of the wedding Lucia has no knowledge of, Andres decides he can’t go through it without her and jumps in the car to go and get her. On the way he is killed in an accident and neither marries the love of his life, nor reconciles with his willful sister.

On learning of Andres’ accident, both women are devastated. Mariana flees the wedding in her dress and collapses in the middle of a busy intersection, while Lucia takes to her bed and is unresponsive for days afterward. Her husband Adrian (Andrés Aranburo) is present to a point but he doesn’t seem particularly sympathetic.

The beginning of the film tells us that Lucia is going to break up with him anyway so he’s already marked as surplus to requirements, so don’t worry. Mariana tells her family she is going to Mexico and holes up in Andres’ apartment – which is fortuitous as Lucia has the same idea. The women meet here for the first time. YAY!

The movie comprises a heap of flashbacks to build a picture of Andres’ past relationship with his sister, up until the point they fall out, and how he met and fell in love with Mariana. Which is happy/sad to behold, particularly when Andres ruminates the loss of his sister to Mariana.

Healing is painful but together they are able to take the time they need to start the process. This involves drunken dance parties and Lucia writing a letter to Andres seeking his forgiveness. Mariana then makes her burn it. They also visit the graveside.

Little by little the bond the women share begins to turn into something stronger and it’s bloody amazing. Mariana is surprised when she learns that Lucia is married because she’s never thought to mention it. Neither did she mention the fact that she can’t get pregnant despite their many attempts to do so.

When Lucia tells Mariana her relationship status is complicated, she cryptically asks her: isn’t life too short for that? You’re damn right, M – it bloody well is. This rhetoric is further bolstered when Adrian fucks off on a business trip right in the middle of Lucia’s grieving process and she realises it’s over.

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M asks her to move into Andres’ apartment but Lucia suggests a mini break instead. Well, that trip changes everything forever but again it isn’t plain sailing because Lucia is seriously confused. Which you can kind of understand.

Will she follow her heart and take all this as meant to be? And why is Mariana throwing up all the time? Hmmmmm.

My Thoughts

The Firefly is lovely but man is it melodramatic. There are times it plays out like a telenovela – my God, ladies CHILL. Mariana’s Miss Haversham-esque few days swanning around in her wedding dress may be understandable, but it’s a bit over-dramatic. And there aren’t really any surprises here, the tale plays out by numbers. I’m not necessarily criticising it for that, it’s just an observation.

What I do criticise is the fact that Andres’ best friend knew he’d gone to find his sister on his wedding day and as far as I can tell, never tells her. You’d think that would be kind of a big deal to hear, non?

The strength of this film, as with any love story, lies in the chemistry between our leads. The hand holding and the loaded looks, the pool kisses and the fun they have together is lovely to witness – and it doesn’t help that both women are warm and so bloody beautiful. So, sure it’s a little bit all over the place but its heart is in the right place – it’s a good take on grieving and growing, of loving again as though you’ve never been hurt and of grabbing those fresh starts when you can. I’m all for that.

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“I know you’re sad, but we need to talk about that horrible cardigan…”

What does the Queen of my Heart think of this one? Would she buy it dubious knitwear or leave it by the side of the road in the rain? Find out here.

God’s Own Country (Film) Review

Here at Collab HQ (it’s more of a state of mind than an actual place given that we’re camped on separate continents), we love to devastate ourselves. Sometimes we favour fluff just to get over the utter weep-fests we’ve put ourselves through.

Although this week’s movie might not have had that exact effect on me, it did leave me with a heavy lump in my chest. It was a movie I felt profoundly and I’m so glad we finally got round to it. Thank you Netflix for coming through.

*Spoilers*

God’s Own Country (2017)

IMDB Synopsis

Spring. Yorkshire. Young farmer Johnny Saxby numbs his daily frustrations with binge drinking and casual sex, until the arrival of a Romanian migrant worker for lambing season ignites an intense relationship that sets Johnny on a new path.

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My Review

Johnny (Josh O’Connor) lives with his dad and gran on a cattle farm in Yorkshire. Rural life is fucking tough, his father isn’t that well and Johnny dulls his pain and loneliness with booze and secret liaisons with boys down the local (I feel ya, Johnny). Delivered home puking most nights by furious cab drivers, Johnny’s folks just think he’s irresponsible and don’t understand him at all. This just exacerbates his feeling of isolation and when he does bump into friends from his past, he’s bitter because they’ve moved on and left him behind.

When it becomes apparent that the farm will need more help during lambing season, they hire Romanian migrant worker Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) who quickly becomes a god send, much to Johnny’s irritation. The pair doesn’t hit it off immediately and Johnny burns bridges in the first few days by referring to Gheorghe as ‘gyppo’.

While Gheorghe pretty much just gets on with it, even around the awkward energy between Johnny and his family, he doesn’t take kindly to Johnny’s racist attitude and nips it in the bud quickly. One weekend, away from the farm but very much on farming duties, the boys come head to head and the friction that’s been building between them explodes. What begins with a fight, ends in rough sex in the mud.

After this encounter, the two barely speak about it though there has been an unmistakable shift between them. Later that night, they fuck again, this time with a little more tenderness.

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Back at the ranch, the sex continues but it also becomes more than that. Johnny invites his lover to share his bed in the farmhouse but he declines, preferring to stay in the caravan.

As Johnny and Gheorghe get closer, Johnny’s father suffers another stroke and the future of the farm is placed in Johnny’s calloused hands. When he discusses the prospect of Gheorghe staying on and permanently running the farm with him, Gheorghe expresses some concerns, namely living and working together simultaneously.

This sends Johnny into a tailspin and he acts out enough to send Gheorghe packing. Gheorghe also suffers some predjudice in the pub which doesn’t help.

Johnny’s nan Deidre (Gemma Jones) blames him for fucking up again and wonders how they’ll manage now. When Johnny goes to see his father about the future, he’s surprisingly understanding and gives his blessing for Johnny to do what he needs to to be happy – can you guess what that is?

Will Johnny do the right thing and make a success of his future finally? What do you think?

This film is gorgeous to look at but it’s all in the glances our lovers share, in the secret looks and the slightest of gestures. It’s in the loneliness, the isolation and the ache of not being able to be open to who they are – until they can be open with each other and I really felt it all.

The performances are heartfelt, while the pace of the film is quite slow which I didn’t mind. Not once did this feel like a slog and I think there’s a skill in that kind of film making. The movie very subtley addresses the topic of homophobia but more so in the fact that it isn’t talked about and everything has to be secret. While I don’t remember any out and out prejudice, this is only because Johnny’s not out publicly.

It was heart-warming to learn that perhaps Johnny’s family knew more than he thought about his ‘secret’ and that in their own sweet way they just wanted what was best for him. As for Gheorghe, we get little insight into his own life in Romania, something I would have liked but I understand wasn’t strictly necessary.

All in all this is a nice love story that felt authentic – and yes, it almost finished me.

My Rating

4.5/5.

What did my love think of this one? Would she take it down the local for a fumble or toss it out with the cold bath water? Find out here of course.

Ghostbusters (2016) (Film) Review

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It’s 2016 and I’ve just been to see a Ghostbusters film. What is this madness?

A lot has been made of the decision to “reboot” such an 80’s classic and with an all-female team of ghost hunters no less. If we’re frank, most of the comments about its impending release have been negative, or at least these are the easier ones to remember.

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This is my favourite picture of anything, ever ❤
The die-hard Busterites have been up in arms about their beloved films being tampered with in any way which I understand, yet it’s very hard to separate this train of thought from that of the misogynists who can’t bear the thought of women in any context other than draped over the bonnet of a car or making a sandwich. That’s before we even think about the racial slurs against Leslie Jones, whose only crime in life was to take a role and not be white.

I’m only touching upon this stuff because I want to focus on the way the film made me feel but the way Leslie’s been treated is appalling. And while I doubt justice can be served to an army of cowards hiding behind their keyboards, I hope she’s engulfed in love and continues to feel great pride in what she’s accomplished with this film. Because it’s fucking ace.

I’m not reviewing in the traditional sense, nor giving anything away because that would be foolish. I hope everyone goes to see this film, even if they have misgivings because it has been joyful to tap back into my childhood for a few hours. As with the whole Pokémon Go phenomenon, I think we’re learning recently that there’s a huge space in our lives reserved just for nostalgia. I blame Trump, British Politics and all the violence in the world, in no particular order.

But to the film. If I were asked to review in just three words, I would say:

Loved. Every. Minute

I did. I smiled like a dufus from beginning to end and threw my head back to laugh out loud a hundred times. Sure, sometimes I was guffawing at a fart joke but what else do you need on a balmy Hump day evening?

The writing overall is very strong and of course it is, it’s written not only by Paul “Bridesmaids” Feig but also Kate Dippold who has Parks & Recreation (2009) and The Heat (2013) under her belt. It is a female-centric film with gender reversal very much at the forefront but it’s done well and is never mean or dismissive.

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Chris Hemsworth‘s Kevin the Receptionist for example is objectified to the hilt but in the nicest possible way and even though his prettiness far outweighs his intellect, he never feels 2D and that’s skillful writing if you ask me.

The ladies are spectacular and I have huge affection for each of them. McCarthy is gorgeous, Jones is hilarious and wonderfully expressive. Wiig brings vulnerability to the role of Erin Gilbert while making me really buy into her childhood history with BFF Abby Yates while Kate McKinnon, lovely, lovely Kate, adds an injection of kook to engineer extraordinaire Dr. Jillian Holtzmann.

Holtzmann, FYI has caused the internet to implode with lust, as gay and heterosexual women the world over are crushing hard all over her character. While her sexuality is not openly stated at any point, we’ve given enough material to reach our own conclusion. My conclusion is that it’s fucking awesome to see four interesting woman helm a movie without a sniff of patronising love story on the horizon. In fact, scrub that, the love story is about their unswerving loyalty to one another.

Twitter also remarked that this is probably the first film you’ll see that doesn’t make you feel bad about your body and it’s true. I loved seeing big bodies onscreen and I, for one, am stoked Melissa McCarthy is out there being an attractive, sexual and funny fat woman who gets shit done while being someone I can identify with.

(Also, two posts on this blog mentioning Kristen Wiig and McCarthy in a row. You’re welcome).

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Honestly, I’m not here to criticise this movie in any way, I’m just not going to do it. The effects take me right back to 1984, the acting is hammy where it needs to be (the main villain) and the music, oh god that theme – it’s still everything. The cameos were also fun but I don’t want to spoiler them.

I’ll sign off here just by saying that I’m glad this is such a strong film. Those haters are going to hate regardless but I’m delighted it touched me the way it did. So far I’ve heard nothing but praise for these modern-day Ghostbusters, which was respectful to its forefathers by taking its own path and I’m closing my ears to anything but because I don’t care.

I ain’t afraid of no troll (I am).

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Film) Review 

vic-and-flow-posterBlimey. We don’t half think outside the box on some of our choices, eh?

This one could be considered one of our most art-housey perhaps, though it’s not as strange as I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, nor is it anywhere as quirky as the amazing The Foxy Merkins (which I realise I only gave a 4/5 rating which seems like a travesty in hindsight as I think of it fondly, and often).

However, I’m glad it was chosen as this is not something I ever would have picked of my own volition, so thank you for that, Jillian.

We’re regrettably nearing the finish line of Feminist February and I think it’s been a corker. I now feel some pressure to chose well for next week (checking the calendar shows me that we actually have two more feminist picks before we round it up, so there’s still hope of going out with a bang).

But for now, to the movie. As always, take care of *spoilers*.

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (2013)

Director: Denis Côté
Stars: Pierrette Robitaille, Romane Bohringer, Marc-André Grondin

IMDB Synopsis: Vic + Flo Saw a Bear is a darkly mysterious tale of two lesbian ex-cons, Victoria and Florence, trying to make a new life in the backwoods of Quebec.

My Review:

Victoria has evidently just been released from prison, having received a life sentence. I could be wrong but I’m sure whatever it is she did is never revealed (I might have been texting).

While this may be the sentence she’s received, Victoria is not destined to spend all that time behind bars. Instead she has moved to the back-and-beyond of rural Quebec to live at her brother’s place, a former sugar mill.

Her brother is not really around but does pop in once to see Victoria, who has taken it upon herself to take over the primary care of her Uncle Émile Champagne (Georges Molnar), much to the annoyance of his current carer, Charlot Smith (Pier-Luc Funk) and his horrible father, Nicholas (Olivier Aubin). Émile is in a wheelchair and cannot communicate at all.

Vic also receives bi-weekly visits from her parole officer, Guillaume who means well but is rather serious and by-the-book (but also super cute). While Victoria adjusts to her new life in the sticks, where she gets from A to B by golf cart, she pines for her lover Florence.

One day Florence arrives at her new abode and to say she’s a little underwhelmed by the amenities would be an understatement. She’s unimpressed with almost everything and it soon becomes painfully apparent that this woman has a touch of the Madame Bovary about her.

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“I do all my best brooding in the nude.”

Flo visits the one local bar and goes home with a man she meets there (they don’t play Scrabble, knowwhatI’msayin’?). It’s a fleeting liaison (because it turns out he’s not available either) but it still happened. She also starts to make Vic paranoid by talking about how hot Guillaume is (true, but still). Vic begins to worry that she isn’t enough for Flo and although Flo says the right things, she doesn’t try that hard to convince Vic.

Meanwhile, Uncle Émile is moved into ‘proper care’ following a complaint about the level he’s been receiving at home from Vic. This comes from The Smiths, who have it in for Vic, possibly because of her previous conviction. So Émile moves on and the women are left alone in the woods.

Guillaume has come round to both women since meeting Flo and is happy with the progress they have made, even if he does expect more in the way of integration into the ‘community’.

He needn’t worry too much though as Vic makes a friend called Marina St-Jean (Marie Brassard), who is a little over-familiar but overall quite fun. She takes a shine to Vic and goes out of her way to help her nurture her garden (not a euphemism, but you do wonder). She also asks permission to ride her quad through Vic’s land when she needs to. Vic says it’s cool.

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Waiting for their next delivery of sensible shoes

Did I mention that Vic is 61 and Flo is considerably younger (like, late thirties maybe)? This has a lot to do with why Vic is worrying so much about losing her girlfriend, who evidently, like most girls, just wants to have fun.

One day, Marina awkwardly brings up with Vic the fact that Flo owes money at the bar. It turns out Marina also manages it when she’s not working for the Canadian version of the council (which is how she originally meets Vic). Vic pays Marina the £215 Flo owes and although she’s annoyed, she doesn’t think much of it.

Flo doesn’t let it slide quite so easily and storms down to the bar to confront Marina. Trouble is, there is no Marina and no unpaid bar tab. So what does that mean? Well, it turns out Florence has something of a past of her own and it seems to involve a woman called Jackie (who Vic knows as Marina), still following?

Jackie is hench as fuck and has her own henchman (Ramon Cespedes), who doesn’t even have his own name on IMDB, just ‘Jackie’s Assistant’. We don’t know what Flo did but it involved some sort of betrayal a decade before (pretty sure they don’t tell us what she did, could be wrong again). Perhaps she broke Jackie’s heart?

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“I’m so jealous of your amazing hammock! IKEA?”

Eventually, Jackie catches up with Flo and the main thing I felt about this is disappointment that Marina/Jackie is horrible and therefore not the perfect match I hoped she’d be for Vic. But hey-ho. Jackie, or rather her assistant then does something terrible to Flo which renders her immobile for several weeks.

Vic doesn’t absolutely hate this development as it means Flo is unable to go seeking something better and she reacts accordingly, more affectionate and loving, etc. Flo picks up on this because she’s a smart cookie and the couple fight. Flo can’t understand why Vic can’t live more in the moment which basically means, stop questioning her and let her do whatever the shit she wants, when she wants.

Sounds legit.

Poor Uncle Émile doesn’t fare too well in this film and The Horrible Smiths pay Vic a visit to shout at her for being shit after he passes away. I don’t really think this is that fair as Vic did look after him. Sure, she’s not really a hearts and flowers type but she isn’t cruel, that I can see.

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“I thought we agreed I’d wear the denim today, Vic?”

The pair go on a day trip with Guillaume to see some trains and some fish, and while Vic goes for a smoke (of course, another smoking flick!), G and F discuss Vic, and their relationship. Flo says she’s going to take Vic down to the lake for ‘a talk’. Guillaume tells Flo that Vic reminds him of his mother.

Flo gets better, things start to look up and then something really horrific (and weird) happens to the pair. I won’t give absolutely everything away but it’s fucked up. Let’s ponder some questions instead, shall we?

Questions:

What will become of our lovers? Will they end up together, or will Florence spread her wings and fly far away? These questions will be answered I guarantee it, whilst even more will pop up and slap you in the mush while you’re trying to figure what the fudge is going down.

My Thoughts:

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“Let’s put all our vests together in one collection, it’ll be ‘armless.”

Hm. This was surprisingly compelling for a film that doesn’t contain that much action. It’s basically a meditation on love and desire, and wanting something you’re so terrified of losing that is stops you from really living and enjoying that thing. PHEW.

The central performances are fine. Vic is all chocolate eyes and frown lines, and I sort of identify with her fear of ageing and leaving her lover behind (or being left behind). I mean, not literally but ageing is a big thing on my mind of late and there’s nothing anyone can do to slow it down.

The ending is crazy and almost jars against the slow pace of the rest of the film, but actually it works okay. It’s very dark and I sort of adore Jackie. I wish we got more of her.

From a femme POV, all the men apart from Guillaume are completely ineffective or steaming pieces of shit. Or they’re completely disposable sex objects (excellent). This is a woman’s film but it’s anything but sweet and fluffy – it’s hard, thought provoking, ugly, poignant and sad.

My Rating: 3.5/5. Odd and by no means terrible.

So where does Jillian come in on this? Is she trapped in a wooded clearing of indifference, or is she so happy she could restart the sugar mill and live happily ever after in virtual isolation? Find out for yourself here, bitches, don’t make me get my assistant onto you.

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (Film) Review

ive-heard-the-mermaids-singing-movie-poster-1987-1020204047Week one in our long-awaited Feminist Film Month (if you don’t count last week’s Tootsie) and Jillian chose this quirky tale of Polly, an ‘organisationally pared’ temporary secretary and full time kook.

I’ve personally been looking forward to starting February off right for lots of reasons, not least because January sucked full arse. I know my blog wife feels the same way.

So let’s all put our hands together in a slow clap for this new month and keep that momentum going until at least the Spring, yes?

But to our film, which is Canadian and, incidentally, voted 9th in 1993’s Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time (thanks Wiki!).

As always *Spoilers Ahead*

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987)

Director: Patricia Rozema
Stars: Sheila McCarthy, Paule Baillargeon, Ann-Marie MacDonald

IMDB Synopsis: Scatterbrained Polly gets a job as a secretary in Gabrielle’s art gallery.

My Review:

I identify with Polly in many ways, not least because she loves people watching and seems not to have any real direction. That’s so me! We begin this film with Polly speaking directly into the camera, telling us about the job interview she has at Gabrielle’s gallery which leads to an ‘incident’. She doesn’t use that wording but alludes to something that’s happened to her, or because of her.

It’s not really said but I get the impression that Polly is recording herself rather than talking to somebody else and is a little reminiscent of Miranda July in one of my favourite films, You and Me and Everyone We Know (2005) – although I think that’s just in my head.

At the interview, Polly meets Gabrielle, a rather serious French woman who takes Polly on to work in her gallery. During her introduction Polly admits that she isn’t very good at temping and has been described as ‘organisationally pared’. Gabrielle’s gallery is rather small but she definitely knows her stuff and Polly is quickly enamoured.

Polly FYI lives alone in a great little apartment and tells us that she has done so since the age of 21, when both her parents died. She is now 31. She enjoys taking photos and riding around the city on her bicycle. She is also prone to fantasy and often drifts off while waiting for her photographs to develop in her home dark room.

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“Say cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssse!”

I love her for these flights of fancy which see her in a variety of scenarios that made me LOL for the most part.

Polly is a great character and has an immensely likeable face. It’s so expressive that if the entire film were just of her enormous eyes and face, I’d still have come out satisfied.

One afternoon at the gallery, shortly after Gabrielle has offered Polly a full-time job, despite the fact that several past employers have criticised her work and she herself admits typing isn’t her strong point, Mary turns up.

Mary is a leather jacket wearing painter who clearly shares a history with Gabrielle. When the women go off to talk in one of the gallery rooms, Polly listens and watches them on CCTV, which may or may not be a video camera planted inside a sculpture.

She is intrigued to learn that the women are former lovers and that Mary is still very much into Gabrielle, even though Gabrielle proclaims herself too old for her. They kiss, even though Gabrielle is currently seeing a man.

Polly admits in her video diary that she is falling in love with Gabrielle, hence her fascination but doesn’t really want all the kissing and stuff. Her admiration for her boss seems chaste and it’s not clear what Polly’s own agenda is. She doesn’t even seem particularly jealous of Mary, just curious about the whole relationship.

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“BTW you’re wrong.”

One of my favourite scenes occurs shortly after Polly discovers this new facet to her boss, as Gabrielle is walking a potential (male) buyer around the gallery. The two are discussing a collection of paintings by the same artist, and Gabrielle’s enthusiasm and obvious knowledge on the subject manages to sway his opinion, which is very strong (of course it is, he’s a man). Gabrielle does this in such an impressive way that by the end of scene I was nodding my head triumphantly, along with adoring Polly.

Things begin to develop when Polly is invited to Gabrielle’s home for her birthday party. She arrives really late, carrying a big box and all the other guests have already scattered, leaving just Gabrielle and Mary. Mary takes herself to bed while Polly and Gabrielle stay up. Gabrielle is sad and confesses that she’s upset because the one thing she wants she will never have. That thing is talent.

Polly is surprised to learn that her boss is a secret painter and asks to see her work. Gabrielle is hesitant but shows her anyway. Polly is absolutely blown away by the paintings (which are displayed to the viewer as blank glowing canvasses, thus allowing us to visualise this art as we see fit). And as Gabrielle passes out on the couch, she makes the decision to take a piece.

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“Oooh this lovely piece will look wonderful in the downstairs toilet.”

Back home with the painting, Polly is inspired by Gabrielle’s secret talent and selects some of her own photographs to send into the gallery under a pseudonym. She hopes that they’ll impress Gabrielle as much as Gabrielle has impressed Polly.

Gabrielle’s painting, meanwhile, is taken into the gallery without her permission by an encouraging Polly. Polly tells Gabrielle she shouldn’t be so shy as she’s clearly brilliant and that one of her associates has already been in and gushed about it.

Quickly, Gabrielle’s names gets out there and she becomes an instant hit on the art scene. She’s delighted, and quickly sheds her humble demeanor.

Polly, unfortunately feels rejected when her photos come into the office and Gabrielle dismisses them halfheartedly as “simple minded”. She calls in sick and stays home burning every one of her photographs.

I’m going to leave this here as all is not as it seems and if you watch I want to leave some things sacred. But to the questions section!

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“I really hate your stupid scarf right now.”

Questions:

Will Polly gain her artistic confidence back? Will she continue to love Gabrielle? Is Gabrielle all she seems?

My Thoughts:

As I wrote those questions I remembered that the ending was quite harsh but definitely proved that Polly is no doormat, despite her sweet and quirky outer appearance. Gabrielle quickly turns in Polly’s eyes (and therefore ours) from the be all and end all, to something hope-crushing and it’s all there displayed on Polly’s trusting face.

I thought this film was really something special, not least because of Sheila McCarthy (who I swear I know from more films). She plays Polly in an wide-eyed way that doesn’t grate and that’s an achievement in itself. Her daydreams could easily begin to irritate but don’t, even when she’s conducting an orchestra at just the wrong moment.

It’s okay that Polly doesn’t have a plan for life, or any friends or family because she’s something else. Otherworldly? I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Polly.

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“I can’t wait for Keep Fit class later.”

Gabrielle too is a pleasure to watch, and I like that she wears her age well (whatever that actually means). This being the eighties there are lots of giant leather belts, big earrings and arm cuffs – and she rocks them all. As an ageing woman, her lines are clear to see but she’s stunning and interesting, so much more for those things. She also casts quite the shadow as an idol fallen from grace but maybe doesn’t deserve the comeuppance that she receives.

I really liked Mary, and particularly in a scene she shares with Polly, after Polly has given up on her photography dreams. Mary finds a discarded picture taken by Polly and Polly dismisses it, using Gabrielle’s exact words to put it down. Mary accuses her of being harsh, and what does any of that matter if she likes the picture? It’s a wonderful way to look at art.

All those comments synonymous with the art set, what do they matter unless you like the piece? And what if you like a piece nobody else does? It’s still art to you. They don’t explore this much and I would have like Polly to be bolstered by their conversation.

It is all very female-centric of course, which is why it was chosen and hardly any men appear. Or if they do they are only there to illustrate the points of the women. Polly admonishes one in particular when he patronises Gabrielle, labeling her lucky to have got where she has when she first starts becoming famous. That was a triumphant scene.

All in all, I would recommend this film quite highly. I just really like the tone. Plus, the scene where Polly follows the kissing couple around and almost gets busted for peeping on them in the woods made me DIE. Why does this scene remind me so much of The Foxy Merkins, Jill?

My Rating: 4/5.

Did my honey Jillian hear the mermaids singing or was it more of a damp squib to her? Find out here.