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

Holy Camp, or: I-E-I Will Always Love You

This week gives us a much-needed break from full-frontal scenes depicting the male (and female) anatomy, which is a feat unto itself.  Add Whitney Houston musical numbers, strong female friendships, and lesbian themes, and we’ve got…well, a film premise constructed from our dreams, essentially.

The Film:

Holy Camp! (La llamada)

The Premise:

Teen bffs at a religious summer camp must contend with secret parties, the crushing of their dreams, visits from an unexpectedly glittery God, and attractive nuns.

The Ramble:

Maria and Susana are besties for life reluctantly spending the summer at a religious camp for teens.  While initially planning to sneak out and party every night, Maria has lost interest in their schemes.  As it turns out, she has been meeting someone else at night–God.  And he seems to be a huge fan of Whitney Houston.

A man in a shiny suit descends from a blue-lit staircase from heaven.
This is your vision of God too, right?

After refusing to participate in a weekend canoe trip, Maria and Susana are effectively under house arrest with novice nun Milagros.  Though she tries to be stern, Milagros is too kind to be angry and bonds with Susana over their love of music.  Hmmmmmm…I wonder if perhaps Milagros has a secret past as the lead singer of a band…

Milagros isn’t the only one keeping a secret.  Susana, upset about the newfound distance between the two friends, accuses Maria of leaving her hanging.  Maria, on the other hand, thinks it’s time to grow up and forget about their dream to become a world-famous girl band.

Two teenage girls at a crowded club smile excitedly at each other.
Bestie love.

Meanwhile, Sister Bernarda is convinced she has the perfect solution for reining the girls in:  music.  Though Milagros appreciates the thought, she finds Sr. Bernarda’s taste in music…a bit dated.  This leads to perhaps the finest nun-centric musical number since The Sound of Music.

A nun sits on top of a piano, raising her hands skyward while a novice stands next to her, dancing.
No caption needed.

Still on the outs with her bff, Maria, confides in Sr. Bernarda that God speaks to her through the songs of Whitney Houston.  Sr. Bernarda is less than understanding initially, but does eventually believe and support Maria.  With the help of the Sister, Maria learns to pray so she can understand God’s message but keeps her newfound faith a secret.

Susana is also keeping her feelings a secret.  When she sees Milagros dress up and sing into a hairbrush, reminiscing about her days as a singer, Susana develops a bit of a crush.  But does Milagros have a clue?

A teenage girl stands by a mural, smoking a cigarette.  She is standing at the end of a rainbow the Virgin Mary is projecting from her fingers.
Right on, Mary.

Though now armed with the power of prayer, Maria feels farther than ever from God when he laughs at her efforts and walks away.  She becomes despondent after this until Susana finally visits her and the two make up.  Susana confesses to Milagros that she’s in love with her, leaving the novice stunned.

How will the two best friends heal their relationship with the ones they love?  And might it perhaps involve a choreographed glitter-suffused dance number?

The Rating:

5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Without hesitation.

I feel bad now about some of the other films I haven’t given a full 5 stars that probably deserved it.  This one definitely deserves it as it’s so fucking joyous and refreshing in so many ways.  All 4 of our leading characters are women, one of whom is rather aged.  Though she’s a bit out of touch, she is a respected and compassionate while remaining remarkably free of judgment.  The ladies of this film support each other so much, and I support that support.

The way love is explored is powerful:  spiritual love, the love between friends, and romantic love.  Both Maria and Susana express their love for each other by being true to themselves and honest with each other.  I also like the message about religion even as a completely non-religious person.  The way the faithful choose to worship is their decision–music is just as valid as prayer.

If this is what church had been like when I was growing up, you can be pretty damn sure my ass would’ve been in the pews about 3,000x more.

Was Christa singing the gospel of this film or did she convert to another immediately?  Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Frances Ha, or: Things That Look Like Mistakes

This month is one of the most fun on the Collab, returning for its third year!  Welcome to Feminist February 3:  The Revenge.

The Film:

Frances Ha

The Premise:

A young woman seeks a place to live and a direction for her life after moving out of her best friend’s apartment.

The Ramble:

In her late 20s, unattached, and easily gliding past responsibilities, Frances is living happily with her bff in Brooklyn and quite content to keep things as they are.  (As a side note, bless people who name their movies after their lead protagonist because it’s the only way I ever remember character names.)

Anyway, you know a change is coming.  After breaking up with her boyfriend when she doesn’t want to move in with him, Frances gets the bombshell that her roommate, Sophie, is buying an amazing apartment in trendy Tribeca.  A struggling dancer with a talent for choreography, Frances couldn’t even afford one square foot in the apartment and must quickly find a new place to live.

A woman sitting on a window ledge passes a cigarette to a woman standing next to her
Friends who smoke together…are broke together?

When she goes on a date with Adam Driver, Frances unknowingly meets her new roommate.  Frances moves in with Adam Driver (whose character name I will never remember) and Benji.  Though AD is basically a walking, talking sex drive and Benji constantly reminds Frances that she’s hopelessly undateable, she gets along well with her roommates.  Benji and Frances bond over music and movie nights, while AD brings ladies back to the apartment and walks around in a towel.

Frances is eager to show off her new place to Sophie, who comes across as overly critical and perhaps a bit jealous.  Throw in the added drama of Frances’ disdain for Sophie’s boyfriend, and it’s clear there are some tensions rising beneath the surface of their friendship.

Two people sitting face a woman standing in front of them, while a third person seated props her face up with her hand
Of course we’re all having a wonderful time and not secretly hating each other!  Why do you ask?

After heading home to Sacramento for the holidays, Frances returns to New York and moves in with one of the dancers in her troupe/I don’t really understand how dance works.  While she pretends nothing is wrong, Frances has actually been cut from the Christmas show and is too proud to accept a secretarial role open at the…dance office?  Again, not something I’ve ever been even remotely interested in.

During a horrible dinner party, Frances learns that Sophie is moving to Japan with her boyfriend.  Impulsively, she decides to spend the weekend in Paris, though absolutely nothing works out while she’s there.

A woman walks along the edge of the Seine River at night, the Eiffel Tower behind her in the distance
On the bright side, doesn’t actually fall into the Seine?

Upon returning to the States, Frances works for her alma mater in Poughkeepsie over the summer as a server during donor events.  Sophie, who met Frances while in college, is attending one of the events with her boyfriend and reveals she is engaged.  Unable to contain her shock, Frances catches Sophie’s attention and the two bond in a dorm room just like the good ol’ days.  When Sophie confesses her reluctance to stay in Japan with her fiancé, Frances jumps on the chance to persuade her to return to NYC.  Will the two be reunited for good or settle for always having Poughkeepsie?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Like Frances herself, this film lends itself to meandering.  Gerwig is great in this and I see some strong parallels to themes and characterizations in Lady Bird.  However, it’s a bit loose and unstructured for me–more of a slice of life film than one with a dramatically unfolding plot.  The relationship between Frances and Sophie is central here and, though strong, is evolving in ways that are bittersweet and uncertain.  It’s rough to see the contrast between their life stages and maturity taking a toll on their friendship.

There is some really excellent, funny dialogue, though.  The entire argument between Frances and her boyfriend surrounding moving in together and adopting hairless cats is great.  I also love the opening scene of the film depicting Frances and Sophie roughhousing in a public park.

My favorite of Frances’ lines is the deceptively simple “I like things that look like mistakes.”  While there are perhaps flaws in this one, the search for direction and challenge of growing yet holding on to close relationships ring true.  Just maybe with a teensy bit more of a structured plot next time.

Would my blog wife let this one crash on the couch or send it packing from her glam apartment?  Read her review here to find out!

a woman in a dress talks to a woman wearing an oversized jacket as they sit in a bridal shop
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

A Date for Mad Mary, or: Quite Contrary

I think the overarching theme of this month is that it’s proven too real for us.  Our pick this week manages to be somewhat more uplifting while remaining emotionally devastating in a way we’ve come to expect (and enjoy to some degree–we’re pretty masochistic).

The Film:

A Date for Mad Mary

The Premise:

Immediately after release from prison seems as good a time as any to plan a wedding, dress up as characters from Mamma Mia, and make bold claims about fictional boyfriends.

The Ramble:

Mary has just been released from a brief stint in prison, a fact willfully ignored by her bff Charlene and just about everyone else.  There’s more important shit going down…like Charlene’s wedding in just a few short weeks.  In spite of all that’s happened, Mary is ready for her life to go back to the way it was and to get up to her usual antics with Charlene.

As we know, weddings are important, blah blah blah, but it’s all a bit much for Mary, who is so not into the frilly lace and passive-aggressive snarkiness of it all (the bride gives Mary a CD with elocution lessons—say what?).  What our girl Mary is really angling for is a carefree night at the club with her bestie, but there always seems to be some element of the wedding rudely sabotaging their friendship.  Or is it something that’s been festering for a long time?  Spoiler alert:  yes.

a woman lies in bed holding a cell phone to her ear
U up?

When Mary goes out to the club on her own, it’s obvious she has a bit of a temper.  Bouncers seem to have it in for her as the unexplained mystery of Mary’s prison sentence had something to do with a drunken night out and a short temper.  It’s not long before Mary is sent home without $200 for passing go.

Impulsively (as she does most things), Mary proclaims she’ll need a plus one for her super smokin’ hot boyfriend.  The problem, of course, being that Mary doesn’t have a boyfriend and seems to have very little interest in dating or attracting members of the opposite sex.  In fact, it becomes pretty clear that Mary may be more than a little bit in love with her bestie.  Or is she in love with the person Charlene used to be?

Two women sit outside on the steps of a building, eating ice cream
My milkshake brings all the girls to the stairs…

Either way, checking things off the massive wedding plan list has just become a lot more complicated.  Additional wrench thrown into the plan arrives in the form of Jess, the videographer for Charlene’s big day.  Having left things too late, Mary begs Jess to cancel the gig she has with her band that night.  Reluctantly, Jess agrees, but only because Mary’s a babe and the two share a connection.  *winky face*

a woman with a guitar case faces another woman on a dark street
Is that a guitar in your case or…oh, it is a guitar?

Mary does seem to finally have a date, though not the one Charlene is expecting.  Jess is willing to go along with this but balks when it becomes clear how often Mary’s sole purpose seems to be making Charlene angry and jealous.

Alone once again and falling back into old patterns, Mary decides to get her drink on and go pick a fight.  Is it too late for her to change her habits and accept herself the way she is?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I really liked this one, so it probably deserves a better rating.  That being said, I was completely unable to separate my reaction to this film from my feelings toward Charlene, who is an utterly horrid person.  At the end of the day, the emphasis on Mary and Charlene’s relationship is that it has changed (necessarily), but my biggest takeaway was that she was a shit friend.  The elocution lessons CD was fucked up, then writing a maid of honor speech for her, along with the complete unwillingness to support her friend through a difficult time–all really fucked up things to do.

I feel this was a deliberate commentary on my ability to let go of things.  In this case, Mary and Charlene had a rather toxic friendship, but it was still hard to watch a one-sided relationship and see Mary’s realization that their friendship was no longer what it once was.

Would this be my blog wife’s plus one or would she tackle it in a drunken brawl?  Read her review here to find out!