a woman with teased hair extinguishes a candle's flame with her fingers while a woman with hair in a scrunchie looks directly at the camera
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Breaker Upperers, or: All My Life I’ve Prayed for Some Movie Like You

It’s almost March, meaning Feminist February is drawing to a close.  I’m sad the month is ending, but happy to report we’re wrapping up this month on a positive note with dramatic break-ups, surprise Kiwi cameos, and all of the ’90s vibes you can stand.

The Film:

The Breaker Upperers

The Premise:

Two best friends find their relationship and shared business venture in jeopardy when clients get too close and an ex arrives in town.

The Ramble:

In addition to being besties, New Zealanders Mel and Jen are business partners in a rather unique profession.  Their job?  Deliver bad break-up news for those who go to extreme measures to avoid it themselves.  The duo can hardly be faulted for lacking creativity; their methods include song and dance, fake deaths, police investigations, and surprise pregnancies.

Though a rather cynical line of work, Mel and Jen run a profitable business and enjoy living their best lives free of romantic entanglements.

a woman with pigtail braids stands next to a woman in a cowboy hat who is playing the guitar and harmonica

That is, of course, until the day everything changes.  After Jordan, a sweet but clueless client, walks into the office, he disrupts the usually reliable business model.  Mel feels guilty for using Jordan’s unhappiness to make money and happens to find him quite attractive too.

Complications abound when Jen’s ex, who also seems to be the one that got away, arrives back in town.  His presence surfaces tensions between Mel and Jen as he was dating both women secretly when he broke Jen’s heart.

Despite Mel’s misgivings about the latest breakup case, the duo arrives at Jordan’s rugby match to cause a scene.  Jordan’s girlfriend Sepa is a tough lady, and not one to be trifled with.  As a result, when Mel pretends to be Jordan’s pregnant lover and Jen his mother, the plan does not go as expected.  However, at the end of the day, Jordan is single and Mel is free to have a fling with him.

a woman with cornrows surrounded by four other people looks intimidatingly at another woman

Meanwhile, the ladies’ history catches up with them as a client’s girlfriend approaches them at lunch for an update on her partner’s disappearance.  Mel and Jen demonstrate an impressive commitment to keeping up the facade that they are cops investigating the case, going so far as to show up at the police station in full uniform and posing as birthday strippers for a real cop.

Inevitably, the true nature of Mel and Jen’s work is revealed, leaving Mel feeling guilty.  A fight between our dynamic duo about Mel becoming too attached to clients and Jen avoid feelings altogether finally breaks up the band.

a woman dressed as a police officer swings her utility belt around while another woman in police uniform looks on

As both Sepa and Jen have been ditched and want their partners back, it’s time for a grand gesture to prove their devotion.  But is an expertly choreographed K-Ci and JoJo dance routine enough to heal old wounds and reunite these former besties?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

I feel this movie was made for the Blog Collab.  Obviously the pro-friendship/anti-romantic themes are everywhere in some of our favorite picks.  Also the weird, offbeat humor had me in tears.  Mel makes an especially cringeworthy joke about a superhero named Vulvarine during dinner with Jen’s parents that cracked me up.

My only criticism here is that Mel’s bisexuality seems to be mentioned purely for laughs.  I got tired of all of the jokes about Jen and Mel being romantically involved.  Friends, lovers, life partners–who cares?

Though this is not a musical, we get not one, but two incredibly ’90s-influenced song and dance numbers.  The first one, set to a Céline Dion song, is everything to me.  I pray to the powers of the universe that the next film with our two stars is a musical or just a series of music video parodies.

I love both of our leads, Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek (who also co-wrote and directed this film), but honestly Ana Scotney as Sepa steals the show.  She manages to inhabit the tough girl stereotype while lending the role a vulnerability hidden beneath the surface.  Sepa also gets my absolute favorite line of the film when the breakup with Jordan throws her for a loop:  “All the times we played Dragon Ball Z–does that mean nothing to you?”

Speaking of this film’s cast, there are some delightful cameos here too.  I know you can just Google the cast, but the fun of these appearances is in the surprise.

Is this my blog wife’s bff for life or would she hire the breaker upperers to make sure she never has to face it again?  Find out in her review here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Whip It, or: The Bo City Rollers

Bookshop owner-operators, scantily clad entertainers at a sports bar, Texas roller derby girls–what else could these characters have in common but Feminist February?

The Film:

Whip It

The Premise:

When she secretly joins a roller derby team, teenaged Bliss finds a second family but puts her other relationships–and skeletal system–at risk.

The Ramble:

In addition to her rather unfortunate name, teenager Bliss has inherited the burden of her mother’s expectations:  specifically, her expectation that Bliss will take the beauty pageant scene by storm as her mother did.

After an incident with blue hair dye gone awry, it becomes clear that Bliss’s mother takes pageants much more seriously than her daughter.  In fact, even Bliss’s younger sister seems more excited about competing despite her young age.

Though stuck in the small Texas town of Boden, it’s not all bad.  Bliss has her fellow waitress and bff Pash to keep her company and get into all of the best kinds of trouble with.  As long as she has her bestie, Bliss seems resigned to her fate as a perpetual beauty contestant.

two girls at a diner talk next to the bar, both wearing pink aprons with pig faces on them

That is, until one day while shopping with her mother, Bliss sees a group of giggling women swan in on roller skates.  From flyers they pass around, Bliss learns these are derby girls and decides she will find a way to get to the derby in Austin.

Under the guise of attending a high school football game, Bliss and Pash drive to Austin to check out the roller derby.  Bliss is immediately interested in both the sport and a generically cute guy.  After derby girl Maggie Mayhem invites Bliss to try out on Tuesday, she schemes to cover up her absence with her parents, find a route to Austin via public transport, and conveniently forget the rule that players must be at least 21.

Trying out for the Hurl Scouts is no cake walk–the women are fast, intense, and fully ready to body check competitors in this contact sport.  As a speedy skater, Bliss is a perfect contender for the role of jammer, the only one on each team who can score points.  The jammers will attempt to lap the other team members, scoring a point for each lap.  Fellow team members will help their jammer along while trying to sabotage the other team’s jammer–frequently with physical contact that can leave a vicious bruise.

two women in helmets crouch next to each other, preparing to race in a roller derby rink

Despite Bliss’s speed, she timidly avoids altercations with her competitors–kind of a problem in a contact sport.  However, she does join the team and earn her derby girl name, Babe Ruthless.

It’s only after joining the team that Bliss learns the Hurl Scouts are notorious in the league as constant losers.  As the song goes, girls just wanna have fun, and the team really leans into its reputation.  They certainly aren’t improving their odds by ignoring their long-suffering coach and refusing to carry out the plays from his painstakingly created play book.

While bonding with the team after hours, Bliss runs into the cute guy again at a party.  She learns that he, like every other 20-something dude since the beginning of time, is in a shitty band that thinks it’s destined for greatness.  Oliver, which I think is actually a nice name and better than this dude deserves, and his band do seem to have some success as they do have an album.

a teenage boy and girl lie next to each other on the hood of a car parked by a field

With Bliss as jammer and the coach’s plays guiding their games, the Hurl Scouts begin to enjoy success too, winning against some of the other teams for the first time ever.  Everything seems to be falling into place for Bliss, who also gets serious with Oliver in an underwater sex scene that looks logistically very difficult to accomplish.

a group of women toast a teenage girl at a diner, holding up a poster of her

However, things inevitably begin to unravel after the police break up a derby that violates fire safety regulations.  Caught with beer in hand, Pash is arrested.  Bliss, who escapes with Oliver, doesn’t realize the trouble her bff is in.  To make matters worse, Bliss’s parents learn the truth about her roller derby nights as a result, Bliss’s rival Iron Maven discovers that her fiercest competitor is just 17, and Oliver will shortly be off on tour with the band.

Having alienated everyone she cares about and put the Hurl Scouts’ chance at victory in jeopardy, will Bliss be able to make things right while following her dreams?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

The cast here is absolutely stellar:  Ellen Page (even though she sometimes falls into the trap of playing the same character over and over again), Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Wiig, Eve, Alia Shawkat, Drew Barrymore…I could go on.  Additionally, this is Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut.  Not sure if Drew decided against sitting in the director’s chair again because I can’t think of another reason we live in a world with no more director credits for her.

As well as Bliss’s coming of age story, I love the focus on the ladies here and their relationships.  Bliss and Pash’s relationship is everything to me, and the rapport among the Hurl Scouts is so uplifting.  The film approaches Bliss’s difficult relationship with her mother realistically but doesn’t paint Brooke as a one-dimensional monster, which is refreshing.  As for the men, if you’re not here to support Bliss, you’re not welcome at all.  Men are definitely on the sidelines in this film.

However, there are a few issues that stood out to me with the film too.  The entire storyline with Oliver feels unnecessary.  I know the sexual awakening scene is basically a requirement of any coming-of-age film now, but I gave zero fucks about it.  At least this film doesn’t idealize teenage romance with what is essentially a mediocre white dude who plays guitar slightly above average.

I also felt like I was missing some further explanation of Brooke’s insistence on Bliss’s beauty pageant participation and opposition to roller derby.  Is the pageant supposed to pay for Bliss to attend college?  Did pageants mean so much to Brooke that she thinks it’s important for Bliss to carry on the tradition?  I would’ve liked a bit more depth as the (spoiler) reversal of her parents’ strong anti-derby stance feels a little too convenient.

The roller derby name “Jabba the Slut” deserves its own corner of appreciation, though.

Would my blog wife roll with this one or knock it out of the ring?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Support the Girls, or: Double Whammy

Small business owners, determined managers–we really expected Feminist February to uplift and inspire us.  However, both of our first picks this months have been something of a bummer.  You’ll see what I mean with this week’s pick, in which even a title with a clever double entendre fails to deliver on the promise of lighthearted fun.

The Film:

Support the Girls

The Premise:

The caring manager of a sports bar experiences a hellish day that forces her to reevaluate her priorities.

The Ramble:

To say Lisa isn’t having her best day ever is an understatement.  The manager of the struggling bar Double Whammies–a local twist on the Hooters franchise–begins the day with the news that thuds emanating from the attic are those of an attempted burglar who got stuck in the building’s vents.

a woman with a clipboard talks to a woman wearing a crop top and nametag

Today is the day of a big fight that the sports bar is counting on making big business.  Before the real work begins, Lisa squeezes in a car wash fundraiser to “support the girls” that isn’t quite approved by the bar’s owner.  After receiving the news that one of her former girls is in trouble after running over her boyfriend in a rage, the caring Lisa is determined to help her out with the funds raised in the car wash.

Lisa is incredibly protective of her girls, treating them more like family than employees.  She is especially close to cool and collected Danyelle and bubbly Maci, both hardworking ladies who are equally willing to support their boss.

a group of young women in matching crop tops stand around one of the tables in a sports bar

As you may imagine, some of the customers are creepy, hostile, rude, aggressive, or all of the above.  Lisa suffers no fools and is quick to throw out anyone caught behaving inappropriately.  The regular customers bring challenges of their own, including overly nosy and observant lesbian Bobo (but personally I fucking love Bobo).

Complicating things further, the cable at the bar is suddenly cut off.  Despite Lisa’s best efforts, the cable provider doesn’t seem inclined to speedily restore service.

When owner Cubby arrives on the scene, not only does he lecture Lisa about the cable, but he also points out the questionable legality of the car wash fundraiser.  Cubby seems determined to burst Lisa’s bubble as he shows her the location of a soon-to-be-opened competitor that could close down Double Whammies.  After a road rage incident and a fight in which Cubby fires Lisa (yet again), she decides to finally accept the termination of her job.

a man stands with hands on hips in a sports bar as a woman talks to him

Luckily, Lisa’s husband is willing to pick her up and take her back to work to get her car.  Unfortunately, the car ride will also involve a rather serious conversation about their future together as a couple.  While her husband is depressed and seems to have more or less given up, Lisa is a workaholic and fails to make time for their relationship.  Prognosis?  Not good.

Finally, Lisa receives disappointing news about Shaina, the girl she worked hard to raise money for at the day’s earlier car wash.  The disillusionment is final and thorough.

Will Lisa swallow her pride and go back to the bar or step forward into an uncertain future?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really expected to like this one more than I did; however, I may have myself to blame.  Given the double entendre title, the movie posters with confident-looking Regina Hall, and perhaps just wishful thinking, I expected a positive, upbeat comedy about the ladies of Double Whammies banding together through tough times.

The film takes a much darker and more realistic approach to the emotional toll of treating employees as family and allowing work to consume your life.  While Lisa cares deeply about the girls she employs, the owner doesn’t share her concern, and this emotional investment disadvantages her.  Ultimately, it makes Lisa much more inclined to fight losing battles that cost her a lot personally and emotionally–battles that even the owner doesn’t seem invested in.  And honestly, her efforts to support her employees in tough times aren’t always appreciated; Lisa’s good intentions as a manager tend to go too far.

The bond between Lisa, Danyelle, and Maci is great, though.  And Bobo 4 life; would watch a sequel about these 4 ladies.

Would my blog wife support this one or let the ladies hang freely?  Read her review here to find out!

a woman with crossed arms leans against a bookcase in a shop
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Bookshop, or: Shelf-Employed

Hallelujah, it’s Feminist February! Not only is this month a celebration of ladies in film, but it’s also the birth month of the Blog Collab! This week, we vicariously fulfill our dreams of opening the quaintest fucking bookshop ever to exist.

The Film:

The Bookshop

The Premise:

A woman in 1950s England faces local opposition to her plans to open and operate her own smalltown bookshop.

The Ramble:

Recently widowed Florence Green is devastated by her husband’s death. However, as stiff upper lip is the English way, she tries to make the best of things by achieving her lifelong dream of opening a bookshop.

a woman reads alone in a field near the beach on a cloudy day

In order to do so, Florence must overcome a surprising amount of opposition from the members of her sleepy coastal town. Only one person in town seems to be much of a reader, so the bank finds little reason to believe her venture will be a solid investment. This leaves Florence to rub elbows at fancy rich people parties which, in true book nerd fashion, she is painfully terrible at carrying off.

Unwittingly, Florence’s bookshop plans have set up queen bee of the town Violet as her archnemesis. Violet has grand plans of her own for the historic building that happens to be Florence’s home: she envisions a grand arts center, despite the small town not having much art and culture to go around.

Even with the scheming of Violet and her toady Milo, Florence manages to convert her home into a cozy little bookshop. The shop is a true labor of love as Florence is the only employee until she hires an assistant, 11-year-old Christine. Though Christine gives zero fucks about reading, she’s nevertheless a dedicated and hardworking employee. The two bond over their determination to keep the bookshop alive and thriving.

a girl looks at postcards with interest while a woman observes with crossed arms

Meanwhile, Brundish, the only reader in town becomes more and more invested in Florence’s success. In addition to being the only game in town, Florence has the knack for tracking down the perfect book for Brundish. After introducing him to Ray Bradbury, she asks for his opinion on selling Lolita in her shop despite its questionable morality.

an older man talks to the camera from behind several piles of books

Deciding to go all-in for Lolita, Florence stocks 250 copies and scandalizes the entire town. Has she finally gone too far? It seems likely when Florence is forced to close the doors on the shop. Though Brundish stands up for her against Violet, in a tragic twist, Florence ends up losing her last remaining ally.

Is there any hope left for Florence and her little bookshop?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

As a feminist being into it when ladies are small business owners, I wanted to like this. As a book person, I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally wanted to like this. Florence is basically living my dream life here with her small bookshop in a beautiful little coastal town. But honestly, most of this movie is boring AF and I couldn’t even get invested in the whole cute little bookshop fantasy. And this time it’s not the chemical inbalances in my brain because I have pills for that.

The characters are not super compelling either. Even Bill Nighy’s character is just kind of blah, and that makes it difficult to invest in any of the character relationships. The relationship between Florence and Christine is supposed to be the heart of the film, but it falls flat and fails to create the wistful ending it aims for.

Not to be too spoiler-y, but this film could also be called Christine: That Escalated Quickly.

The landscape and adorable little shops and cottages are lovely, though.

Would my blog wife invest in this one or scheme to shut it down? Read her review here to find out!