Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

I Lost My Body, or: A Bird in the Hand

Sometimes life feels without direction or meaning. It happens to the best of us. At other times, your purpose in life is abundantly clear; for example, if you are a reanimated hand that has been separated from the body you used to be attached to. This story is the latter.

The Film:

I Lost My Body

The Premise:

The animated tale of a severed hand on a mission to reunite with the rest of Naoufel, a young man with a traumatic past.

The Ramble:

To say Naoufel hasn’t had the best day ever is an understatement: lying on the floor near his severed hand, covered in blood as flies buzz around him. Later, his hand busts out of a medical waste bag, determined to be reunited with him. What is Naoufel determined to do? You know, chill.

As a child, Naoufel was interested in music and exploration: he dreamed of being a concert pianist/astronaut. Things related to touch and to seeking out the unknown, you’ll notice. Naoufel’s happy childhood was cut short when his parents died in a car accident. At the time of the crash, he was recording sound, and is therefore still interested in listening to and recording the everyday sounds of the world around him.

Now a young adult, Naoufel lives with his uncle and cousin, neither of whom are particularly warm or supportive. An exceptionally bad pizza delivery driver, Naoufel is aimless, isolated, and feeling a lack of agency in his own life.

That is until our apathetic protagonist makes an unusual pizza delivery. Late as always, Naoufel is unable to open the lobby door leading up to the 35th-floor apartment. Though merely explaining the situation to the customer at first, the two begin an earnest conversation over the intercom. Starved of human interaction, Naoufel develops a crush on Gabrielle, the person behind the voice, and becomes determined to find her again.

Recalling from their conversation that Gabrielle works at a library, Naoufel makes his way there. He just barely misses her and, based on information a good coworker would definitely not share with a stranger, follows her to a carpenter’s workshop. When he arrives and is called out for lurking, Naoufel lies and says he is there regarding a notice for an apprenticeship. He’s especially keen to work for the carpenter, Gigi, when it becomes clear that Gabrielle regularly visits to bring him medicine. Even better, Gigi has an apartment available so Naoufel can move out of his uncle’s place.

Though initially using woodworking merely so he can be near Gabrielle, Naoufel demonstrates a knack for the process and enjoys making things. When Gabrielle helps Naoufel with a splinter in his hand, the two have an opportunity to bond. As it turns out, both are extremely interested in the North Pole and long to see that vast, white expanse of land.

This leads Naoufel to a grand romantic gesture: building a wooden igloo on a nearby rooftop. Gabrielle is impressed; however, when Naoufel uses the opportunity to reveal his identity as the delivery guy from all of those weeks ago who has been yearning to reconnect, she is skeeved out.

Meanwhile, the severed hand wanders around the city in search of Naoufel. Facing a harrowing journey, the hand is attacked by a pigeon, nearly trash compacted, brawls with rats, and is almost hit by a subway car. As a viewer, you will become way more invested in what happens to this poor hand than you may have thought possible.

So how did Naoufel lose that hand? And is he destined to keep missing every time he tries to reach out to another human being?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

First of all, I feel for that severed hand (no pun intended). I wasn’t even distracted by questions that later occurred to me, such as how the hand could “see” its surroundings and feel pain, and whether it could die again. No–I was that invested in what happened to this hand, and I was rooting for it to find Naoufel and become reattached.

Naoufel himself, though? He sort of drove me crazy. It’s difficult to watch him stumble along in a depressed stupor, and especially so because he feels life is beyond his control. While I relate to these feelings, they don’t always make for a particularly sympathetic character. Also, I hated his decision-making process in virtually every situation. Desperate for human connection and afraid to admit the truth? I get it. Tracking down a woman at work, following her, and then making up a lie so she’ll have to see you regularly? Whoa, man. Let’s not do that. Worse, even though it was beyond his control (and even awareness), I will never forgive Naoufel for not reuniting with that severed hand!

I will admit that this film is gorgeous to look at, and the symbolism is highly effective. The idea of touch as a way to connect people to each other and to the world around them is clearly important, and the animation focuses on not only the severed hand, but also the use of hands to touch, create, and interact. Naoufel is also very interested in destiny, as the forces shaping his life to this point have felt very much beyond his control. Though this review paints a somewhat bleak picture, I appreciate that there is hope in the film. Naoufel learns it is possible to break patterns and to change the course that seems to be laid out. Beautifully, he learns to be at peace with the idea of not feeling whole. Too bad the severed hand doesn’t get a say there.

Was my blog wife okay with this one getting handsy or did she promptly sever all ties (and hands)? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

JT LeRoy, or: Wigging Out

Perhaps appropriately, 2020 is in with a non-committal shrug. Will it come with the shiny potential a new year brings? Meh.

The year promises to be in line with our first pick for the Blog Collab 2020 as it is similarly likely to feature apathetic hipsters, inappropriate gaslighting attempts, and ’90s nostalgia out the wazoo.

The Film:

JT LeRoy

The Premise:

Based on a true story, a woman in ’90s San Francisco pretends to be the made-up persona of a trendy writer.

The Ramble:

Savannah is a young woman looking forward to the possibilities of living in a new city–San Francisco, specifically–with her brother Geoff and his live-in girlfriend Laura. Both are part of what is most likely a painfully grungy underground band, and Laura is not-so-carefully guarding a secret: she is the writer JT LeRoy, behind the edgy pseudo-memoir everyone is talking about. Her biggest secret? JT is a persona she has made up, pretending to be him on the phone and always making excuses for his refusal to be seen in public.

After reading the novel for herself, Savannah feels deeply connected to the words and persona of JT. The book is supposedly based on JT’s real experiences as the child of a sex worker who provided services to men at truck stops. Laura asks Savannah to pose for a picture as JT by donning a wig (one of so many featured) just this one time. Famous last words.

More and more, Savannah appears as JT LeRoy for magazines and in public appearances. The persona of JT is naturally awkward and standoffish, working conveniently well for Laura’s purposes. Posing as his manager (with a rather cringey British accent), Laura effectively answers any question that comes JT’s way.

Though uneasy with the arrangement and constantly convinced she’s about to get caught, Savannah does enjoy trying on the role of JT. She has extra incentive to keep up the charade when she meets director and actress Ava, who is keen to get the film rights for the novel. However, this does complicate her personal life and relationship with her boyfriend.

When the book’s publishers agree to send JT and his manager to Paris, Savannah has the chance to get closer to Ava. But is there a real connection there when Savannah is pretending to be a 19-year-old boy with a traumatic childhood? Laura suspects not and, worried about her loosening control over the situation, tells Savannah that Ava only cares about the film rights.

Meanwhile, Laura is neglecting her relationship with Geoff, as well as her commitment to the band. But the JT act is going swimmingly. JT LeRoy is such an avant garde hipster that any challenges to his identity or history are easily shaken with a blasé shrug.

Once the film begins rolling, Savannah feels more conflicted about lying to Ava about who she is, and the existence of JT altogether. Despite pressure from Laura, Savannah decides to give up the act. However, after the film is completed and accepted into the Cannes Film Festival, Savannah agrees to make one final appearance as JT. We all know how that goes…right?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Laura Dern in all of her ’90s grunge finery alone makes this film worth a watch. LD, like she does in basically everything, looks GOOD. And her ever-rotating quirky grunge looks are so delightful here.

However, considering the madness of the story itself, it’s a bit of a letdown that my only real question here is “So what?” We don’t get a whole lot of insight into why Laura and Savannah hatch the JT LeRoy scheme. There are some half-explanations about Laura’s past in a group home, her mystical connection to the character of JT, and her need for recognition as an author without being fully in the spotlight. Savannah’s motives are similarly superficial–and if that’s truly the case, making this film seems like a waste of time. I hoped for an inside look into what made these two tick, but it falls flat. Even their relationship isn’t particularly convincing, and the two seem to annoy each other more than anything else.

I’m disappointed that, like its subject, this film takes the too-cool-for-you hipster brush off approach rather than pausing to offer a thoughtful reflection.

Would my grungy blog wife party with this one, unwashed hair and all, or slowly put on her oversized shades and walk away? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Slay Belles, or: You Can't Take the Christmas out of Santa

Where would we be without passion projects? Certainly, I’ve wasted a healthy share of my life watching awful B films that have clearly been scraped together by a few dedicated souls. On the other hand, these are the films I remember as they’re so strange, so unpolished, and perhaps tacky, that they fall outside of the norm and make their own special statement. This couldn’t be more true for this week’s pick; there’s a lot I would change about this film, but I’m sure it will be difficult to forget.

The Film:

Slay Belles

The Premise:

Off to explore an abandoned theme park for their livestream, a group of friends is caught up an ancient battle between Santa Claus and Krampus.

The Ramble:

Just before midnight on Christmas Eve, Santa and three women have seemingly tied up and threatened a police officer. Why in the world would Santa commit such an outlandish crime? Let’s rewind to 12 hours earlier.

All prepared to work her regular shift for the holidays, responsible one of her friend group Alexi is pleasantly surprised when gal pals Sadie and Dahlia have made arrangements to cover her shift. The duo of Sadie and Dahlia are minor social media stars, relying on their Adventure Girl videos to make their money. When they’re off to adventure, the two don colorful (and quite skimpy) outfits and explore abandoned buildings.

Today’s outing is to Santaland, an abandoned amusement park, and Alexi is thrilled to be along for the ride. However, the ladies certainly have their priorities in order when they stop at a grungy roadside bar. Hoping to drink in peace, the locals are less than impressed with the Christmas cheer the three women bring along. Along with the bitterly sarcastic bartender, the ladies meet police officer Sean. He warns them to be careful as they explore because of a string of deaths possibly caused by a bear. Spoiler: it’s not a bear.

Determined to enjoy their day, the ladies don their festive apparel and record their adventures. Little do they know, they are being watched on camera…and by a sasquatch-like creature. After an encounter with the creature, the group seeks shelter in a cozy cabin and attempts to convince the police dispatcher of what they saw.

Before long, an older biker appears, claiming the cabin belongs to him, aka Santa Claus. As the women believe him to be a deranged stalker, Santa has to work to prove he’s the real thing–and that the creature is none other than the Krampus.

Santa admittedly epitomizes the Baby Boomer stereotype when he tells his sad tale: Krampus, who is inextricably connected with Santa, is no longer needed to scare morality into children. Just like Krampus, Santa is no longer needed either. Santa honestly utters the line “You can take Santa out of Christmas, but you can’t take the Christmas out of Santa.” However, now that Krampus is on the loose, Santa again has a purpose. But, since the two are connected, Krampus needs to be stopped but not killed.

In order to lure out the Krampus, our leading ladies will need to behave badly, which is as cringey as you might expect. Somehow, the plan works, and Krampus is in the gang’s clutches–but, inevitably, he escapes (though not before a dramatic lightsaber-style fight with Santa). The group loops Sean into the plan rather unwillingly, though he’s quite forgiving of being tied up and held at gunpoint, all things considered.

Though armed and fully prepared to put the plan in motion, things do not go as anticipated. The sudden arrival of Mrs. Claus changes everything–but is she as ready to save Christmas as legend would have us believe?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Spoilers below

I’ve got to admit I enjoy some of the creative ideas here and their potential to create a quirky Christmas horror. The surprise reveal of Mrs. Claus is genuinely unexpected, and I instantly loved her character even though her purpose was largely to cackle madly. I connected with her intense hatred of Christmas and found myself rooting for her. And this is the only Christmas film I can think of that ends with a decapitated Santa.

On the other hand, it’s impossible to ignore how incredibly low-budget this film looks and feels, as well as the truly horrendous acting and dialogue. The soundtrack is unforgivable too, featuring a bunch of obnoxiously loud, shitty dubstep (even for dubstep).

I expected our leading ladies to be way more badass considering this film’s title is Slay Belles. For most of the film, they exist to demonstrate the absurdity of social media stardom. Sadie gets especially tiresome as she giggles incessantly about being naughty and waits for her shitty boyfriend to message her back.

Also, there are so many scenes featuring the incompetent police force and dismissive dispatcher; though ostensibly comic relief, these scenes get old so very fast.

But credit where credit’s due: the filmmakers clearly had fun with this and were willing to take their wild ideas and run with them.

Would belle of the ball Christa pause for a selfie with this one or chase it off with a bat? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Rare Exports, or: Dick the Balls, er, Deck the Halls

We started December on the blog truly expecting we could make it through an entire month of Christmas cheer. I made it perhaps 20 minutes into our first cringingly upbeat film before promptly changing my mind, and I can report similar stats for Christa–and she even shares a significant number of letters in her name with the holiday!

If you can’t escape your true nature, embrace it. Is probably something a Batman villain has said, but it holds up! We’re delighted to celebrate Christmas the Blog Collab way with bloodshed, sinister happenings, and horrible American billionaires. Wait, aren’t we trying to escape reality?

The Film:

Rare Exports

The Premise:

After an American drilling operation disrupts the way of life in a small Finnish town, a young boy tries to prove the evil version of Santa is on the loose.

The Ramble:

In a remote part of Finland, a mysterious American drilling operation has struck gold. Metaphorically, at least–what they’ve really found is a 65-foot-thick layer of sawdust. What’s so great about that, you ask? The sawdust seems to be evidence of a massive icebox for a sacred treasure, apparently with a time limit. Things kick into gear as the crew works to reveal the treasure before December 24th.

Spying on the worksite are youngsters Pietari and Juuso, who put two and two together rather quickly. Juuso is already rather cynical, but Pietari is quite concerned that Santa may be dead. Pietari takes a familiar course of action to anyone determined to win an argument: he researches the hell out of Santa. However, he doesn’t like the information he finds, learning that, according to many legends, Santa is less jolly and more bloodthirsty than he’s been lead to believe.

Meanwhile, Pietari’s rugged mountain man father, Rauno, is gearing up for a reindeer hunt. He makes a living butchering and selling reindeer meat, and Pietari avoids the shed where the gory work is done by all means necessary. Rauno is a tough but tender dad who makes Christmas a low-key event but is fiercely committed to keeping his son safe–especially as Pietari seems oblivious to the dangers of wolves and other unseen forces lurking in the woods.

After the reindeer hunt turns out to be a dud, Pietari blames himself. It seems something has escaped from the dig site and slaughtered all of the reindeer. The adults blame wolves, but Pietari worries he and Juuso unleashed something sinister when they cut a hole in the fence to sneak into the site.

Fired up and demanding answers, the group heads to the operation’s HQ, only to find the area abandoned. As it turns out, the dig has been abandoned as it’s horribly backfired–whatever mystery is buried in the ice has a heartbeat and malicious intentions.

Shortly after, Rauno’s business partner finds a naked old man dead in an illegal wolf pit the two dug. The two leave the old man lying in the butcher shed as they determine what to do with him. Before they’ve made a decision, the old man begins to come back to life.

Around the same time, the children of the small Finnish town sense they are being watched. Oddly specific things go missing: radiators, potato sacks (but not the potatoes), and the old hairdryer that once belonged to Pietari’s deceased mother. Finally, all of the children except for Pietari disappear.

When the old man wakes up properly, he’s a bit–make that extremely–aggressive. Suspecting he’s related to the drilling operation and its consequences, Rauno and his friends (including Juuso’s dad) interrogate the old man. Though they learn nothing, they realize he may be Santa Claus. Sensing an opportunity, they offer to sell him to the Americans because that would be something Americans would buy, honestly.

The, uh, “American” with a rather pronounced Finnish accent leading the whole operation is absolutely ecstatic. He’s all too keen to meet the real Santa for reasons I’m not super clear on.

When the two parties meet to make their trade, things don’t go as planned as the men realize their Santa isn’t the real thing. The real Santa is apparently much more sinister. Throw into the mix dozens of naked bearded men, and it’s likely to be an emotionally damaging evening, rather than the nice lumberjack convention this could’ve so easily been.

Will Pietari come up with a clever plan, saving the day while also managing to prove he can be a rugged mountain man when the situation calls for it?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I have to give this film credit for imagination; the title refers to the rare export of Santas from Finland, which the entire film leads up to (spoiler/not really a spoiler?). There are many twists and turns along the way, and the film doesn’t often go in the direction I’d expect. And the cinematography is stunning; all of those dramatic, snowy mountains.

However, I find this film falls just shy of its potential–in part because of how surprisingly…wholesome it is? True, this is the only Christmas film I can think of featuring full-frontal male nudity. And, like, a lot of full-frontal male nudity. But I was expecting horror, and we didn’t get a lot on this front. We didn’t even get to see the real Santa except as a chunk of ice with horns, and I would’ve at least liked a glimpse! The beginning of the film is quite creepy, but the last half or so is almost as sickly sweet as some of the Hallmark-style Christmas movies we’ve watched this month. The emphasis is on Pietari gaining confidence, saving the day, becoming a man, etc. And let’s talk about that, shall we?

There are some super uncomfortable messages about masculinity here. One–Pietari is maybe 10 or so? And yet there’s a lot of focus on him huntin’/shootin’/fishin’ to prove how manly he is. As a character, he was adorable and I never wanted him to grow up. Maybe just let a child be a child? And the men make a rather clumsy attempt to interrogate the old man, which just comes across as mean-spirited even if he is an evil Santa. I also can’t remember any women in this film at all, which is…problematic, to say the least. The idea of a rugged manly community feels like the ultimate ideal in this movie, rather than an unsustainable way of life destined to doom your chances of survival pretty damn fast.

I admit there are definitely parts of this film I’ve taken too seriously, as it’s very darkly funny. But my brain cannot get around the fact that the Finnish dude bros in this film are supposed to have successfully started a business built around selling people. It’s unclear to me if this is something to be frowned upon; the characters involved are all depicted in a pretty positive light. Even if you take this exclusively from the horror movie angle, you should not be selling an ancient evil for profit! It will come back! Period.

Would my festive blog wife give this one a Santa suit to cover itself or send it back to the pit it came from? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Let It Snow, or: The Spanx of Weather

As we discovered last week, there is no trace of romance in my wintry heart–though I blame our film’s deliberate lack of intelligence and originality for my stoic reaction. This week’s pick on the Christmas Collab throws teens into the mix. Surely things can only improve as a result?

The Film:

Let It Snow

The Premise:

The stories of teens in a small town at Christmas time intertwine as they experience romance, friendship, disappointment, and the magic of the season.

The Ramble:

Laurel, Illinois: the folksy Midwestern town that seems perpetually covered under a dusting of fluffy snow and probably smells of just-baked gingerbread. As the magical holiday season begins, the teenagers of this town are in for a roller coaster ride of emotions. Even more so than usual.

Among the local teens are Angie and Tobin, who have been besties since the age of 5. Just as Tobin works up the nerve to let Angie know he likes her as more than a friend, sensitive college jock JP enters the picture. Instead of enjoying a chill day watching movies together, Tobin ends up attending JP’s party, a questionable and somewhat dangerous mix of broomball and beer.

Unfortunately for Tobin, JP seems to be the perfect combination of sweet, conventionally handsome, and masculine in a non-toxic sort of way. After stealing a keg from the college party, the trio are on the run from the twins (rumored to have a criminal record) hosting the event. As the day goes on, Tobin’s tolerance for Angie’s new romantic interest wears thin, and the two friends end up fighting.

Meanwhile, bffs Dorrie and Addie are focused on romances of their own. Dorrie is excited to begin a new relationship with Kerry after a single but perfect date. On the other hand, Addie is laser-focused on keeping her boyfriend’s attention though he doesn’t seem especially worth the effort.

When Dorrie dishes out harsh truths about Addie’s poor decisions and addiction to drama, shots are fired (effectively). Additionally, Kerry shows up with her friends during Dorrie’s shift at Waffle Town and refuses to acknowledge her–even when Dorrie brings her an adorable Harry Potter-themed plate of waffles. What gives?

Just outside of the city limits are local girl Julie and famous singer Stuart, both traveling by train. When the snow strands them, the two make their way to the old standby for breakfast, Waffle Town. Lonely during the holidays, Stuart tags along to Julie’s Christmas celebrations, which include a rather New Age pageant and assembling a miniature Christmas village. Though Julie enjoys spending the season with her family, she is conflicted: just as she has been accepted to Columbia with a generous scholarship, her mother has been diagnosed with a serious illness.

Truly, Waffle Town is the thread tying these stories together–along with the party aspiring DJ Keon plans for that evening. Add to this mix Tin Foil Lady (played by darling of the blog Joan Cusack), local legend and weirdo, and we’ve checked off all items on the list of quirky and charming Christmas characters.

Will this assortment of characters get the merry Christmas season they’ve wished for?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

You know, not that much happens in this film–and what does happen is predictable AF (and most likely forgettable AF). That being said, I didn’t hate this, and here’s why.

The emphasis here is decidedly on romance, but it’s not the only type of relationship valued in our film. Friendship is important too, as well as family, self-respect, and open-mindedness. Addie, who admittedly annoyed the bejeezus out of me, begins to recognize toxic patterns and behaviors, which I always find incredibly cathartic. The Julie/Stuart story line is also a bit aggravating as it’s the most melodramatic and least believable. Nevertheless, I was actually rooting for most of the characters to arrive at their (inevitable) realizations–even the ones who annoyed me.

Biggest complaint is the character names are impossible to keep track of except for the ones wearing name tags in Waffle Town. I dare you to fight me on this.

Would my wintry blog wife hop on a sled with this one or leave it out in the cold? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Knight Before Christmas, or: Orange You Glad It's December?

It’s Christmas time on the Collab, so prepare yourself for picturesque snowy scenes, story lines so sweet they’ll give you a cavity, and one or two sarcastic quips. Make that a lot of sarcasm, especially when so many of our Netflix offerings for Christmas are…quite different from our usual fare.

The Film:

The Knight Before Christmas

The Premise:

A medieval knight is sent forward in time to present day Ohio, where he meets an unlucky in love teacher.

The Ramble:

Merry Olde England, 1334. Not that this matters–what’s important is that you know our opening scene is medieval AF complete with chain mail and full tankards of ale all around. The Christmas celebrations here revolve around hunting, though the hunt will be short-lived for knight Sir Cole with probably a dozen middle names and a surname I forget. When he encounters an old crone in the woods, Cole is thrown forward in time with a prophecy regarding his destiny: the knight has until the end of Christmas Day to figure things out or he never will. Which, all things considered, is pretty shitty as all of this is supposedly a reward for his kindness.

In the present (in a made up town in Ohio), high school teacher, devoted aunt and sister, and all-around goody two-shoes Brooke is soaking in all of the Christmas spirit yet feels there’s something missing. Could it be she’s missing her deceased parents? Still nursing a broken heart after ditching her cheating ex-boyfriend? Clearly yes, but obviously the biggest problem here is that she’s given up on the idea of true love.

This changes when, on a snowy evening, Brooke hits a stranger with her car–none other than Sir Cole, her literal knight in shining armor. Believing Cole is sweet but the victim of temporary amnesia, Brooke invites him to stay in her guest house. However, when Brooke’s guest goes hunting for skunks and lights a bonfire in the front lawn, it becomes clear that Cole is more than just slightly quirky in a charming sort of way. Cole manages to redeem himself with those most beautiful words in the English language: “What say you and I binge watch together?”

As one might expect, Christmas activities abound, providing ample opportunity for Brooke and Cole to get to know each other while having virtually zero chemistry. Cole gets involved with the charity event Brooke is hosting because of course she fucking is. But even after an unnecessary subplot in which Cole saves Brooke’s niece from falling into a frozen lake, he is no closer to discovering his quest of destiny or even getting some onscreen action. At least he gets 50 cents and an orange as a Christmas present from Brooke (there is a reason for this as explained in the film, but for fuck’s sake–anyone who tried this with me would get an orange chucked at their head).

With the deadline to make Cole’s dreams come true rapidly approaching, our knight in shining armor seems destined to return to his own time. But surely he’s coming back for those fancy armor gloves he left behind? Oh, right–and true love?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

I hated everyone in this film even as this makes me question the person I’ve become. Admittedly this film was a bit of a roller coaster, as I enjoyed the first few minutes and the fun premise. However, I started watching the clock before we were even halfway through this adventure, which wastes a cute setup to cross off all of the made-for-TV Christmas movie cliches.

I found the message about charity insufferable and honestly rather gross. One of the characters in need of support throughout the film is a single dad who works about 200 hours a week yet still finds the time to give back by volunteering. Brooke decides she will use the charity evening to appreciate this dude’s hard work and straight up gives him a huge chunk of the money raised. This is supposed to be heartwarming, but to me came across as incredibly condescending and embarrassing. Honestly, this kind of public gesture feels more about seeking praise than actually helping people in need. And I don’t even know where to begin with the idea of charity being essentially synonymous with giving money.

As a lover of period dramas, I recognize the hypocrisy in this statement, but I found romanticizing the medieval period an odd choice. Seriously, Cole’s hygiene would have been so much worse than depicted, and he would have been virtually incomprehensible–and, most likely, wildly inappropriate. And I’ve seen my share of technical challenges on Bake Off; medieval baking was disgusting, and there’s no way Cole would’ve managed to make anything remotely appetizing by our standards during his Christmas baking session.

I fully accept how strange and perhaps worrying it is that I’m so angry about this innocuous film. I’m sure that, at least in part, this film is a victim of the lack of clear focus for my anger in our topsy-turvy world. Either way, I gave zero fucks about the characters in this film or their ludicrous devotion to the concept of true love. Which is totally something a villain in this film would say–if there had been even a hint of conflict during the entire run time.

Is this the year I finally glow from within because my Christmas spirit is so bright?  Methinks not.

Would my lady blog wife travel across time itself for this one or throw its 50 cent Christmas gift back in its face? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Brittany Runs a Marathon, or: This Blogger Sits at Home Eating Ice Cream

With Thanksgiving days away here in the States, you can count on many families donning sweatpants. Most will be adopting the traditional holiday attire to stuff themselves with as much turkey, pie, cranberries, and all manner of carbs. Others will be using the day off to run a 5K (or greater distance) in the cold. I’m not going to lie: I reserve a large amount of disdain for the latter. But as this week’s film reminds us, it’s no bad thing to pursue your dreams. If your dream involves layering up with running gear and scarves just so you can feel sweaty, cold, and tired all at once, never let me stand in your way.

The Film:

Brittany Runs a Marathon

The Premise:

After a stern word from her doctor, Brittany takes her new running goal to the extreme, from initially running a single block to the entirety of the New York City Marathon.

The Ramble:

Brittany is a goofy extrovert who is always keen to make people laugh. Ready for a night out whenever her roomie asks her to tag along, Brittany never fails to take things just a bit too far, whether it’s drinking, hooking up with less than savory characters, or spending money she doesn’t have on others.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this lifestyle has really taken a toll on Brittany’s health and self-esteem. When she goes in to the doctor’s hoping to score meds as a quick fix for her inability to focus, Brittany comes away with unwanted warnings about her health and some potential risks in the future.

After realizing how much money a gym membership costs, Brittany decides she will give running a go. She sets a goal weight for herself and decides she will soon be able to run a mile. These goals prove to be even more difficult than Brittany first realizes as she immediately retreats back to her apartment upon seeing her reflection rather than running her first block.

Encouragement comes in the surprising from of neighbor Catherine, who seems to be living in just one of several properties she owns, and is constantly running and engaging in other annoyingly healthy habits. Brittany is less than thrilled to be pitied by such a seemingly well-adjusted woman, though of course there’s a learning opportunity here. Catherine was once addicted to heroin, and the two bond(ish) over the times they’ve slept on dead rats. When Catherine invites Brittany to her running group, it provides the structure and support needed to meet her goals.

Through the group, Brittany meets potential new bestie Seth, who consistently makes the same face I do when I think about running. After completing a 5K, Brittany, Seth, and Catherine ambitiously begin training for the New York City Marathon. Fun fact: only a few runners who are serious marathoners are guaranteed a spot, with everyone else left to take their chances in a lottery or find support by raising money for a charity.

The marathon training is not for the faint of heart–and it’s going to cost serious money. Brittany finds a second job as a pet sitter to help cover costs of the marathon. Things get complicated when evening pet sitter, Jern, moves in to the gorgeous house. Worried the owners will cancel the contract altogether if they learn the truth, Brittany decides to keep quiet. Honestly, not the worst call ever; after a fight with toxic roomie Gretchen, Brittany moves into the house too.

Things seem to be coming together for Brittany. She even sets up a dating profile and bonds with Jern over their experiences as children from broken homes. On top of all of this, Catherine uses her influence to fund Brittany’s marathon run. And, oh, how quickly things unravel.

Feeling her new friends just pity her, Brittany rejects Catherine’s offer. She makes it clear to Jern that, though they are now hooking up, she would never date him. And a stress fracture makes her goal of running the marathon in a few weeks impossible–as well as reaching her goal weight, a number Brittany now obsesses over. When the house’s owners return, Brittany decides to return home to her sister and brother-in-law in Philadelphia. Though wallowing in a puddle of self-pity, Brittany decidedly still has bridges left to burn–and she does.

Will Brittany ever run the marathon as promised in the title of our film–and, more importantly, will she learn to be a person she can love and respect?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Strictly speaking, this film probably deserves a 3.5 rather than a 4–it’s not especially profound and is, in fact, predictable to a fault. However, I really appreciated the nuances here capturing Brittany’s internal life as well as her external struggles to pursue and complete a challenging goal. The film does well in avoiding the magical weight loss narrative in which our protagonist’s life is transformed into one of perfect bliss. Rather, it’s the act of following through on her goals and genuinely caring for herself and well-being that is of most concern. The weight loss itself is secondary, and Brittany must recognize this in order to accept and respect herself.

I also find a lot of truth in Jillian Bell’s performance; Brittany is a deeply flawed character who frequently makes the viewer (or at least this viewer) throw things at the screen. It’s heartbreaking but very familiar that she doesn’t recognize how a friend should act as she’s become so used to toxic patterns and people. She unfairly judges herself and others, dismissing other character’s dreams as stupid while at the same time pursuing a goal that is almost beyond human endurance.

I appreciate the commitment of this film to capturing the feelings of being a woman struggling to accept her body and self, especially when so much of the world around her seems to confirm her worst thoughts about herself.

Would my blog wife volunteer as a running buddy for this one or trip it up and watch it fall? Read her review here to find out!