Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Isn’t It Romantic, or: Gratuitous Karaoke Moment

Last week’s film, which also has a title in the form of a question, was a romantic movie that failed to stir any love in our hearts. This week, our film promises to follow romantic conventions too, even as it picks them apart. Will that be enough to win over our cynical leading ladies (bloggers)? Two guesses.

The Film:

Isn’t It Romantic

The Premise:

Ambitious career lady Natalie avoids romantic entanglements until she’s trapped in a romantic comedy and must find love to escape.

The Ramble:

While growing up with an extremely jaded mother who was quick to shoot down her dreams of finding love, it didn’t take long for Natalie to become wholly disillusioned with the entire concept.

A successful, career-driven architect, Natalie has talent but lacks confidence. Everyone at the office takes advantage of her, easily persuading her to do their jobs and minor errands. Luckily, Natalie has two supporters at work: her assistant and bff Whitney (a hopeless romantic who spends most of her days watching rom-coms) and work buddy Josh (who believes in Natalie and very obviously likes her as more than a friend).

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Things take a dramatic turn when, attempting to recover her purse from a mugger, Natalie is knocked unconscious. When she wakes up in a beautiful hospital with gorgeous doctors who find her confusion charming, it doesn’t take long for her to realize she’s somehow been transported to a romantic comedy. Even worse, this is a PG-13 rom-com: no sex, no swearing, and definitely no nudity.

When trying to escape her personal nightmare, Natalie is hit by billionaire Blake’s stretch limo. Whereas Blake is an obnoxious client who sends Natalie on errands to bring him coffee in reality, in this version of the world, Blake is well-mannered and clearly interested in Natalie. Realizing she may have to play by rom-com rules to escape, Natalie believes she’ll need Blake to fall in love with her and agrees to a date filled with all of the rom-com tropes.

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With the help of her gay best friend Donny, who manages to appear when most convenient, Natalie will definitely have the support and over-investment in her love life we’d expect from a rom-com.

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Meanwhile, at work, Natalie finds Whitney has become her archnemesis, who is determined to sabotage her before the big presentation, whatever that may be. Fortunately, Josh is still around to help Natalie navigate her strange new world. This won’t last long as, when Josh saves model Isabella from choking, he is wrapped up in a whirlwind romance. After only a few days as a couple, Isabella and Josh host a fancy party at a beach house in the Hamptons–a party that is, in fact, a surprise wedding!

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What happens when it turns out Blake isn’t such a nice guy after all and Natalie becomes determined to stop the wedding? Might karaoke play a rather important role in all of this?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Not going to lie, this film earned a lot of points with me for its soundtrack, and even with its clichés, I love the Whitney Houston karaoke number. At the same time, the (gratuitous) karaoke scene also brought to mind Crazy Ex-Girlfriend‘s recent rom-com parody episode. CEG overall has an awareness that this film does not, undermining stereotypes successfully in a way that IIR doesn’t, exploring the emotional depth of its characters, and creating moments that offer genuine surprise and nuance.

IIR tries half-heartedly to do this with its opening scene in which Natalie’s resistance to romance is explained by her relationship with her horrible mother, who tells her love is a fairy tale that she doesn’t deserve (implicitly because she’s fat). There are a lot of problems here, but the one that leaps out to me is the implication from this scene that you have to be psychologically damaged to reject the possibility of (extremely heteronormative) romance in your life.

Let’s go back to the lack of self-awareness of this film. It makes me cringe that Natalie comments on the whiteness of rom-coms, yet our only character of color is Priyanka Chopra’s Isabella (who identifies as a yoga ambassador, which would require its own post to unpack). Adding one person of color to your film, workplace, etc. is NOT diversity.

Natalie is wryly funny at times, but it’s aggravating how many times she falls in ways that rely on the hilarious(?) optics of a fat body thudding to the ground. Don’t get me started on her “friendzoning” (barf barf barf) her bff Adam DeVine, whose face has always seemed very punchable to me. He’s just so mediocre that his success makes me angry.

There are also a lot of issues with the film’s attempts to take apart the gay best friend stereotype. While Donny is played by a gay actor (I Googled it), it feels more as if the audience is laughing at him than with him. There are some funny observations about this rom-com staple, like the fact that Donny is unemployed yet somehow financially secure, and dedicates all of his time to improving our heroine’s love life. This film is good at exaggerating, but it doesn’t do particularly well at anything else.

That being said, I did get some genuine laughs from this. Rebel Wilson is quite charming here, though I wish she were a bit more sharply funny and subversive too.

Would my blog wife join in a karaoke duet with this one or leave it to wither away in fantasy rom-com land? Find out here!

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Life Rants, TV Reviews

If 10th Kingdom Had Been Made Today, It Would Have Been a Viral Sensation

The cancellation of Community.  Airing the American version of Prime Suspect.  The inexplicable, enduring popularity of Friends.  There have been so many NBC decisions I’ve found unacceptable from a cultural and personal standpoint.  Perhaps the one I will carry to my grave is the failure of the 2000 mini-series 10th Kingdom to gain traction–or to get the fucking sequel it deserved!

10th Kingdom was a fantasy/adventure show based on the premise that fairy tale characters live in another dimension and occasionally cross over to our world.  When the great-grandson of Snow White arrives in New York to escape his evil stepmother, waitress Virginia and her father Tony decide to help him.  As they are transported to the fairy tale kingdoms, all Virginia and Tony want to do is get home, but trolls, dwarves, wolves, and huntsmen stand in their way.  Will our heroes win out against evil schemes or is happily ever after a thing of the past?

It’s been close to 20 years since the show first aired and, rather than move on and become a productive member of society, I will cling to this injustice and air my grievances in the form of a blog post with a rather click-baity title, as internet conventions dictate.  (Internet conventions probably dictate that I tweet about this, but I just can’t.  Word limits cannot contain me!)

In honor of this series, which will forever live in my heart, let’s examine some reasons this timeless classic still deserves a second part…and some ways it maybe hasn’t aged so well.  Prepare for lots of SPOILERS ahead.

10 Reasons 10th Kingdom Deserves to be a Viral Sensation with a Million Sequels

  1. The cast!  Holy shit, the cast is incredible here.  Dianne Wiest, Rutger Hauer, Ann-Margret, Warwick Davis, Camryn Manheim, Siegfried from All Creatures Great and Small…I could go on!
  2. Once Upon a Time borrowed so many pages from this show’s formula.  Should we not reward it for actually being creative and not just a vehicle for Disney to further expand its empire?  Whereas OUAT took itself overly seriously and cranked up the angst, 10th Kingdom was always fun to watch and wove together different fairy tales much more seamlessly.
  3. Dianne Wiest!  I know I already highlighted the cast, but Dianne Wiest as the Evil Queen is everything in this.  She’s incredibly calculating, cold and thorough as a villain.  Yet I deeply relate to her schemes to turn more people into adorable golden retrievers and poison all of her party guests.  GTFO, everyone.  Also, true story:  I used to quote her lines to telemarketers in the days before caller ID.
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  4. Camryn Manheim as curvy Snow White — a casting decision that certain corners of the internet would still find offensive to their sensibilities.  In addition to being gorgeous, this Snow White is wise AF, and her spirit just kind of hangs around ice caves dispensing advice?  I’m on board with that.
  5. The dog!  One of the main characters is turned into a dog fairly early on, and he’s so so so cute!  The dog is ridiculously well-trained to cover his face with his paws, stand regally on his hind legs, and throw side-eye.  I’m not even a dog person and I’m obsessed with this dog.
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  6. The landscape — quite a lot of this series was shot in France, Austria, and the English countryside, and it makes for some gorgeous scenery.  The series could’ve just been our main characters wandering around Europe for 7 hours, and it still would’ve made for a decent show.
  7. Wolf’s mannerisms — probably one of the reasons I loved this show so much as a pre-teen was Wolf’s behavior:  closer to a puppy than a garbage 2000s man.  Boys, who needs ’em?
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  8. The swears!  I was sooooooooooooo cool that “what in the fairying forest?” and “suck an elf” made it to my regular rotation (at least in my internal monologue).
  9. The theme song!  It’s so very early ’00s, and I’m here for that.  You can call it cheesy all you want; I know full well it secretly gives you goosebumps.
  10. It’s just fun!  Admittedly this is maybe a reason 10th Kingdom wouldn’t work today; it’s much more committed to being a fun romp than getting overly dramatic and serious.  As much as I love a gritty drama, I appreciate the sweetness of this show and dedication to world-building that’s not always there in a sci-fi/fantasy show.

10 Things That Are Problematic AF about 10th Kingdom

  1. Lack of characters/actors of color — admittedly this problem hasn’t gone away, but the issue in 10th Kingdom becomes more pronounced in light of the increasing number of shows today written, directed by, and starring people of color.  The only characters of color are trolls, which is…uh, not a great look.  I also want some LGBTQ fairy tale characters in this.
  2. Jokes about women’s issues — when Wolf is on trial for murder, the argument Virginia sets up in court implies the victim was asking for it.  There’s a lot to unpack here surrounding victim blaming and rape culture.  There are also a few times when Wolf’s monthly transformation is compared to menstruation and it pisses me off.
  3. Representation of the Roma people — literally the only thing they’re here to do is tell fortunes and put curses on people.  It’s such a stereotypical representation (which probably wouldn’t be any different today, honestly) and most of the actors just appear to be vaguely Italian.
  4. Tony — I don’t even know where to start.  First of all, when he’s given 3 wishes, the first one is to enslave his boss’s family, and he feels totally fine hitting on his boss’s wife, who is hypnotized to believe she’s his slave?!??!  SO FUCKING PROBLEMATIC.  His character in general is insufferable in a ’90s sitcom dad kind of way, and he causes like 95% of the issues our heroes encounter.
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  5. The special effects are so bad.  Like, even for the time they were bad.  The human/dog transformation stands out as especially horrendous, but there are also some pretty tacky effects when certain characters are invisible or speaking through mirrors and other reflective surfaces.
  6. Virginia’s wardrobe!  Seriously, skirt + hoodie has never been a thing, so no early 2000s fashion excuses!  As a side note, it also feels extremely dated that Virginia is this sad loser who still lives with her dad at 21 since this seems to be much more common than not today.
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  7. The overacting — in particular, there’s a scene in which people are being poisoned that just hurts to watch.  And not because I feel pity for their plight; I just really want the cringey over-the-top acting to end.
  8. The weird sexual vibes — there’s a scene where Virginia is petting Wolf’s tail that I just don’t get (I mean, I do, but I wish I didn’t).  Also, there’s an awkward amount of attention given to Virginia being a virgin.  Wolf is a virgin too, but that gets so little time compared to the fuss that’s made over Virginia’s lack of sexual experience.
  9. No dragons!  This might not be as glaring if the series didn’t have an entire subplot based on finding Dragon Mountain where THERE ARE NO ACTUAL FUCKING DRAGONS.
  10. The singing ring.  This is absofuckinglutely unforgiveable.  Virginia receives an engagement ring with a pearl that SINGS about true love in an incredibly aggravating falsetto.  This is a dealbreaker as far as I’m concerned, though probably a really good way to annoy the fuck out of your coworkers.

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    Fuck you, you smug little motherfucker.

In spite of its flaws, in my heart I still feel 10th Kingdom deserves a sequel or at least some form of atonement for its vague, cliffhanger-y ending.  If we live in a world where Zoolander can get a sequel 15 years later that no one asked for, who’s to say it won’t happen for a beloved fantasy series with a sprawling, multi-talented cast that’s overly fixated on the sexual experiences of its characters and not quite as subversive as it thinks it is?  HBO, are you listening?

What TV cancellations have left you emotionally devastated and in all likelihood changed the course of your life irreversibly?

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Yes or No, or: Honestly, Just Make a Decision

Pick a film about young love, they said.  It will be a refreshing romp with no cringey stereotypes about Mexican-Americans, they said (looking at you, Peppermint).  This is how we ended up with a film with significantly fewer racist vibes, but with way more indecision, teen angst, and heavy-handed gender norms.  Don’t get me wrong–there are some sweet moments in this week’s film, but I also would’ve welcomed just a touch of Jennifer Garner’s take-no-prisoners decisiveness for our leads here.

The Film:

Yes or No

The Premise:

A college student who is initially horrible to her tomboyish roommate is conflicted when she begins to develop romantic feelings for her.

The Ramble:

Pie is a college student who wears a lot of cute skirts, is close with her mom, and cares for a pet fish (named “Really” for some inexplicable reason).  Though she has a fun group of friends she rolls with, Pie can’t keep a roommate–she’s constantly annoyed by lights, sounds, and the lifestyles of her roomies.

When Pie meets her new roommate Kim, their relationship seems doomed to go from bad to worse.  Kim is a tomboy, and is very masculine in dress and appearance.  A true Millennial, Kim doesn’t like to label herself and has varied interests:  she cooks, plays ukulele, and grows plants in the dorm.

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Though Kim is a laid-back and considerate roommate, Pie is uncomfortable with her appearance and non-traditional gender norms in general.  Pie is super rude, making obnoxious comments about Kim looking like a boy and even drawing a dividing line in their shared room to keep their spaces separate.  But is Pie’s strong reaction to Kim’s style really about an extremely repressed attraction to her roomie?  Spoiler:  YES.

In return, Kim is basically the sweetest human being to live and too pure for this world.  Kim constantly brings Pie desserts from her aunt’s restaurant, shares the food she makes in the dorm, and even tidies up Pie’s side of the room.  When Kim sees Pie’s friend Jane crying in class after being dumped, she offers her a handkerchief.  This causes an aggravating love triangle that continues throughout the film, but is still a nice gesture.

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Kim and Pie’s relationship finally reaches a turning point when Pie’s side of the dorm floods in a storm.  To make matters worse, the power goes out–and Kim is incredibly afraid of the dark.  While Kim bunks down on the floor and lets Pie sleep in her bed, Pie lights so many candles that it’s a fire hazard and distracts Kim from the dark.

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Just as Pie and Kim are getting close, Pie’s boyfriend Van shows up out of the blue.  Or, rather, a boy Pie insists isn’t her boyfriend but effectively is.  Pie repeatedly dodges plans to go out with Van in favor of Kim, but before you feel too bad for him…he later manages to lose all sympathy when he says some nasty things to Kim about the natural order.

Meanwhile, Jane is increasingly attracted to Kim–a feeling which is very much unreciprocated.  It’s so awkward to watch, and there are times when I wanted to scream at Kim to just tell the poor girl she’s just not into her.  At all.

After an incredibly uncomfortable double date with Pie/Van and Kim/Jane, our two leading ladies get into a major fight.  You’d better believe there’s a really sweet make-up scene and FINALLY some action.

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Though Pie is ready to call Kim her girlfriend in secret, she’s not ready to make their relationship public.  When Pie’s mother comes to visit, she’s keen to hide her romantic feelings for Kim and doesn’t respond at all when her mother goes off about women who dress like men.  Hurt, Kim abruptly leaves, returning to her family’s farm.  Will Pie embrace her love for Kim or is it too late for this romance to blossom?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

OH MY GAWD, the angst.  The ANGST in this film.  It gets so tiresome watching Pie act like an asshole, be conflicted about her feelings, hurt Kim, and then make up with her.  I tried so hard to be sympathetic to Pie as she was experiencing feelings for the first time that her horrible mother told her were unnatural.  And I acknowledge that I am a shallow, food-motivated human, but Kim did nothing but give her cake–doesn’t that deserve at least a basic level of courtesy?

Also, poor Jane!  It hurts to see her throw herself at Kim all the damn time and, while obviously Kim doesn’t owe her affection, it would have saved a lot of pain if she’d just been upfront that she isn’t attracted to Jane.  There’s even a joke(?) about Jane’s suicide in this film, which is in extremely poor taste IMHO.

However, Kim as a character is everything (minus the whole Jane situation).  She’s so sweet and has not a malicious bone in her body even though people are pretty shitty to her throughout.  While she admits she’s attracted to Pie eventually, she doesn’t expect her to reciprocate.  She continues to do nice things for Pie because they’re friends and she’s, IDK, a nice human being.  Taking notes, bros of the world?

And I will admit the chemistry between our two leads is so good, and the sexual tension is intense.  This film seems to take a lot of cues from a K drama, drawing out the romance in those subtle touches and significant stares.  Effective this may be, but at a certain point I just wanted our leads to hook up already.

Would my blog wife bring this one slices of cake or move on with a firm no?  Find out here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Peppermint, or: So Vanilla

I love any month when we do what we want on the blog–which to be honest, is every month.  This time around, doubly so.  It’s free for all month, so be prepared for a series of film selections connected only by our unpredictable impulses.  First up is a film that makes me glad my impulses typically involve watching bad movies and eating cheese rather than going on murderous rampages.

The Film:

Peppermint

The Premise:

After witnessing the murder of her family, a woman seeks vengeance against the drug cartel responsible.

The Ramble:

Present day:  a badass Riley North fights with and ultimately kills a gang member in his own car, leaving him for police to find.  She asks before he dies if he remembers her…

Flashback to Riley’s happy home life 5 years before.  Riley is a busy mom working full-time and trying to dodge her passive-aggressive neighbor.  After no one comes to her daughter Carly’s birthday party, the family goes out for pizza and fun at the local carnival.  Seem like a fun night out, eh?

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What Riley doesn’t know is her husband Chris has been exploring alternative sources of income, including serving as a getaway driver for the robbery of Mexican drug lord García.  Having discovered that Chris is considering messing with García, a hit is put out on him…a hit that is carried out at the carnival.  In a matter of moments, Riley has lost her family and suffered a serious gunshot wound to the head.

Upon waking from a coma, Riley is able to identify the perpetrators of this crime, but Diego “Guillotina” García’s influence prevents any consequences for his crew.  Having bought the judge, district attorney, and some of the police force, García ensures the killers go free.  Riley, understandably distraught, loses it in the courthouse and is remanded to psychiatric care.  After managing to escape custody, Riley disappears…for 5 years anyway.

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5 YEARS LATER…

Mysteriously, those involved with the murder of Riley’s family and the sham trial have all shown up dead.  It would appear Riley has used the past few years productively, accumulating identities and becoming skilled in hand-to-hand combat, weaponry, and explosives.

As García’s cartel puts a price on Riley’s head, the police attempt to find her and bring her into custody.  Riley seems to be taking out the gang one by one, first taking out a PIÑATA STORE that serves as a front for the operation.  SERIOUSLY.

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Next stop:  giant secret warehouse full of drugs.  Will Riley have the chance to complete her vengeance or will the cops get there first?

The Rating:

1/5 Pink Panther Heads

I don’t know what to say except I hated this.  Jennifer Garner is pretty badass taken at face value, but it’s problematic AF that 95% of the people she’s killing are Mexican-American.  She even hangs the corpses of the 3 gang members responsible for her family’s deaths from a Ferris wheel, as if no one who made this film had any clue about the racist tradition of displaying the bodies of victimized black and brown people?!?!?!  This film just feels like one giant hate crime.

In addition to all of the racist stereotypes this film employs, it’s also just a badly set up revenge film.  I watched Riley see her entire family murdered and felt no pity for her.  There’s also a weird impersonality to the murders, so it’s difficult to get any sense of satisfaction as Riley seeks vengeance–it’s definitely horrific that Chris and Carly died so senselessly.  Yet drug cartels senselessly kill many other, ahem, non-white people all the time.  It’s not a great look that Riley’s entire family is murdered and she still doesn’t care a whole lot about other victims of gang violence.

Add to this that the entire dialogue of this film is a bunch of police drama clichés put together, and it’s downright painful.  This is a film that’s much more vanilla than peppermint.

Would my blog wife take this one around the Ferris wheel or rain down bloody vengeance upon it?  Find out here!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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 here!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?  Find out here!