three shirtless men look out at ocean waves on a beach
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Beach Rats, or: Why, Teens

Though Gay July is technically over, we’re keeping the party going for one last film.  Much like the summer itself, this week’s pick is fine while it lasts…but it’s also ok when it ends.

The Film:

Beach Rats

The Premise:

A Brooklyn teen struggling with his sexuality and father’s terminal illness opts for summer distractions over facing reality.

The Ramble:

Frankie’s maybe not having the best summer ever in a sort of you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here way.

By day, he chills with his muscly Brooklyn bros on the beach.  By night, he gets turned on by naked dudes on Chatroulette.  Desperately trying to avoid thinking about his dying father or face his mother’s disapproval, Frankie spends most of his time out and about…a titular beach rat?

four shirtless men sit outside on concrete steps

Initially, Frankie seems interested in Simone, a girl he meets while at Coney Island watching fireworks he very symbolically finds dull.  I may be digging a bit too much for symbolism here, but he seems most intrigued by Simone when she’s literally wrapped in a large yellow python.

a man holds up a large yellow python near a woman who holds her hands back
Is that a python you’ve got or are you just happy to see me…?

Very much in the closet, Frankie is very hot and cold with Simone.  Wanting to keep up the facade of his macho straight dude act, Frankie tries to hold onto Simone without getting too close.  However, since he’s not at all interested in sex with Simone, this proves rather difficult.

At the same time, Frankie is very much interested in taking his Chatroulette adventures a step further and meeting up with men for sex.  This is done rather sketchily in parks at night, though frequently includes the bonus of getting high.

a shirtless man faces another man in the dark

When Frankie shares with his friends that he’s been pretending to be gay in order to get high, they predictably take this to a dark place, leaving Frankie morally conflicted.

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

Maybe it’s the muscle relaxers I’m on talking, but I’m falling asleep just thinking about this one.  Not a whole lot happens in terms of plot, character development, or relationship building.  Frankie is ok, but that’s about the strongest response I can convey about him.   His choices are understandable but frustrating to watch as they keep him emotionally distant from his friends, family, and sexual partners.  Though safe from rejection and homophobia, Frankie seems to have an emotionally empty life.

Also, I have come to the personal conclusion that I just don’t want full-frontal male nudity onscreen.  More asses would be fine, but definitely not more dicks.  What can I say–apparently I’m a PG-13 girl living in an R-rated world.

Would Christa meet this one in the dark or immediately block user?  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!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Little Boxes, or: I Lived Ironically in the Suburbs Before It Was Cool

May has been rechristened Melanie Lynskey Month.  After unintentionally watching I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (IDFAHITWA) during the same weekend, my blog partner-in-crime and I are obsessed.  I dare you not to feel deep love and admiration after witnessing the beauty of Ms. Lynskey having an existential meltdown in front of children, aggressively destroying lawn art, and dreaming of a world where people stop acting like assholes.

Our first feature this month is Christa’s pick in which no wicker lawn animals were harmed.

The Film:

Little Boxes

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Uncondensed Version:

Our girl Melanie plays the role of Gina, hipster Brooklyn photographer who moves to the suburbs of Washington state with her hipster Brooklyn husband and son.  Though she has just accepted a tenure-track position in a college art department and the family is looking forward to more stability, they are nevertheless sad to leave behind their friends and the cool artsy vibe.

To their amazement, the same amount of money that carved out a small Brooklyn apartment gives the family a much bigger 2-story house in the suburbs.  However, they are in for some culture shocks as suburban living means navigating some oddly specific rules like children always calling adults Mr. or Mrs. (which really isn’t that odd to me, and if I ran into any of my primary school teachers, I would cringe if they insisted I call them by their first name).

All 3 members of the family have their own obstacles to tackle.  Gina’s husband Mack is a writer who is procrastinating on his latest book by writing food magazine articles.  He finds himself becoming a something of a local celebrity for being a published author with an agent and, more sinisterly, being commodified as quite possibly the only black person in town.

A man cooks on a hot plate in a mostly empty kitchen.
Fellow stress baker in action.

Gina is adjusting to typical academic BS, finding the tenured faculty monopolizing her time both on- and off-campus.  Janeane Garofalo is weirdly one of the tenured ladies, and encourages Gina to go out drinking with her tenure committee, then shames her when she gets drunk.  Sounds about right for tenured faculty.

A woman passes her cell phone to another woman, giving her a sly grin.
It’s not a dick pic, promise.

Meanwhile, their son Clark is dealing with sudden attention from 2 girls in town who want to talk about rap and show off their dance moves for him.  One of the girls, Ambrosia, takes an interest in Clark in a really uncomfortable way that fetishizes him.  Shit hits the fan when Ambrosia’s mother catches them in a compromising position, causing Clark to lash out and make a decision he regrets.

A mixed-race boy with an afro sits next to a blonde white girl. He is wearing a striped shirt.
Spoiler:  it does not involve mixing a horizontally striped shirt with vertical stripes.

Dripping with symbolism, all of the family’s personal belongings have been delayed, and Mack has discovered mold in the house that desperately needs to be removed.

With the family in chaos, perhaps the decision to move to the suburbs was a big mistake after all.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m super tired, which is one of several reasons I failed to empathize with most of the characters in this film except for Clark’s cousin, who comes to visit near the end.  He’s the main source of comic relief, offering sage advice beyond his years to the entire family.  However, it’s too little too late, and it doesn’t help that I didn’t particularly care about the family.  We were never off to a good start as it really rubbed me the wrong way when all the members of the family were marveling about how beautiful and spacious their new house was…possibly because I’m eternally bitter about my lack of financial freedom.  IDK, Mack and Gina felt way too bland to be these cool trendy artists.

It would have been cool to see more of the “before” picture of the family’s life in Brooklyn rather than hear Gina wax poetic about what a beautiful haven for amazingly talented artists and intellectuals it is.  FFS, we get it—hipsters fucking love Brooklyn.

Most of the secondary characters didn’t come off much better.  I really hated Ambrosia, and it took Clark a damn long time to realize she may not be an overly nice person.  Christine Taylor and Janeane Garofalo were so underutilized and had maybe 5 minutes tops on screen.

I think my problem here was that I wanted this to be either funnier or more dramatic.  It failed to make me laugh or produce any genuine feeling in me…except, you know, ironically.  Like a Brooklyn hipster.

Did Christa like this one before it was cool?  Read her review here to find out!