It’s a good feeling to cross things off the watchlist, particularly in advance of the Oscars. Even though the only things I have to do are pay for streaming subscriptions and sit down to watch films, there’s still a nice feeling of setting a goal and meeting it. That being said, April was an intense viewing month on the Blog Collab, and we are now very much looking forward to a more low-key May. Unless we change our minds.
Dumped on her 39th birthday, a single woman considers what it means to be a spinster…and whether such an existence is really so tragic.
As a bride-to-be recounts the impossibly romantic, life-changing moment she met her future husband, caterer Gaby has already decided the hassle isn’t worth it to serve at this wedding. A champion of dead-pan sarcasm, Gaby’s cynical take on marriage is infuriating enough for the bride to storm off in a huff, leaving us to wonder how our protagonist ever manages to paste on a smile long enough to book events.
Gaby’s lack of empathy on this particular day is in large part due to her 39th birthday, a reminder that she is rapidly approaching 40 with no partner, children, or direction in her life. When she returns home, Gaby finds her boyfriend packing up all of his things and moving out. This sends Gaby into a panic–though she insists she doesn’t need marriage to be happy, she spends a worrying amount of time on dating apps.
Meanwhile, Gabby struggles to connect with the people in her life. She spends time with her bff Amanda, but only when running errands with the kids or attending horrible couples dinner parties. Neighbor Callie seems helpful and friendly, but Gaby is too wrapped up in her own troubles to notice an extended olive branch. And when it comes to Gaby’s family…let’s just say those relationships are fraught. Since her mother’s death several years ago, Gaby retains a lot of anger towards her father, who spent a lot of the marriage having various affairs. What’s more, Gaby’s brother Alex is a narcissist convinced he’s a comic genius as he navigates a messy divorce and custody battle.
In short, Gaby is exactly the kind of character whose life is never going to change unless something shakes it up. The catalyst in this instance is a change in the custody agreement for Alex’s daughter Adele. Now, Gaby will need to take care of Adele while Alex pursues his stand-up comedy dreams on Thursday evenings (barf).
Around the same time, Gaby gets fed up with dating apps. At Amanda’s suggestions, she unsuccessfully pursues a (married, oops) chiropractor and joins a casual softball team to meet dudes. She even checks out dudes as Adele rock climbs, all to no avail. After yet another date that goes well initially but ends in disappointment, Gaby shifts gears and begins searching for the dog she’s always wanted but never adopted.
In a fortuitous turn of events, Gaby’s father finally acknowledges that it’s very possible that she will never marry. Since he spent $40,000 on her sister’s wedding, he decides to give Gaby a comparable sum in the name of fairness. Gaby has always wanted to open a restaurant, and having a sizeable amount of money to get started gives her the opportunity to realize this dream.
While Gaby works to establish a restaurant, she builds a life that looks very different from the vision of her spinster aunt smoking 2 packs a day and dying alone in a bathtub. Getting to know her neighbor, joining a knitting group, spending one-on-one time with her bff, bonding with her niece–Gaby seems to have it all figured out. When she meets a lost hiker while out for a walk, will Gaby reconsider?
3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I like this one a lot. It’s a bit mild and inoffensive at times, and I wish it had pushed some of its ideas a little bit further. However, it really fit the bill in terms of giving our brains a break, and no arguments here at all on the message and themes. It’s refreshing to see a single woman navigating her place in the world without a rom-com message along the lines of “when you are a single woman who learns to love yourself, a moderately attractive man will love you too, and at last your life will no longer be the empty shell devoid of meaning that it was merely days ago.” I love how at peace Gaby becomes with the idea of living the single life and creating her own sense of meaning and purpose. Chelsea Peretti’s dead-pan performance is perfect here, and watching her character grow is sweet without being overly sappy. The film is spot-on about getting older being a triumph as well.
Major criticism that prevented this from being a 4-star review: the huge amount of privilege Gaby has that the film never really acknowledges. The way it’s presented when her dad gifts Gaby with a $40,000 check, it’s a fucking normal thing for families to do. It’s not an expectation I have that any member of my family will ever give me $40,000 for any reason–and even if it were, it’s never going to happen. If you’re reading this and anyone in your family has ever given you $40,000 or more, please tell me if you’re currently accepting new family members into the fold. That plot element took me out of the story, as well as the overall lack of conflict in the film. The film could have done a better job of being inclusive, as the characters of color are in minor roles and we get a mere glimpse of LGBTQ representation. Some of Gaby’s arguments in favor of singlehood for women come from a place of privilege too, though it’s still satisfying to see her shut down some extremely dated/patriarchal talking points.
Despite some criticism, this film really fit the bill in terms of what I wanted to see onscreen at the moment, and helped fill the void of female-driven films that aren’t focused entirely on romantic storylines. Gaby’s relationship with Adele is handled really well too; I don’t always love a film that hinges on a character playing surrogate parent to a child as a transformative experience. In this situation, I enjoyed the aunt/niece dynamic, and that Gaby felt it was important for Adele to learn to communicate her interests and be able to say no.