Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Princess Cyd, or: Is It Too Late to Say Soirée?

I’m sad to wrap up Feminist February…even though, let’s be real–in this Blog Collab, it’s always Feminist February.  We’re back in our indie groove yet again for a film centered around female relationships and the ways they shape our leading ladies.

The Film:

Princess Cyd

The Premise:

A teen visits her novelist aunt for a summer, leading to discoveries about herself and several of the women in her life.

The Ramble:

Cyd, a seemingly well-adjusted teen living in South Carolina with her father, is currently driving everyone up the wall.  Under the pretense of checking out Chicago’s colleges, Cyd goes to stay with her aunt Miranda for a few weeks in the summer.

Miranda, a successful novelist, lives a relatively quiet life in the house where she grew up with Cyd’s mother.  Since Cyd’s mother died violently nearly 10 years before, the family has drifted out of touch.

Though Cyd has a boyfriend at home, she is immediately attracted to a barista she meets after getting lost on a run around the neighborhood.  When the barista, Katie, invites Cyd out for a walk, they later have to slow dance on a balcony for art.

Two teens walk side-by-side down a summer street.

Meanwhile, Cyd has deep conversations with her aunt about life, religion, sex, and death.  You know, polite family small talk.  Cyd encourages her aunt, who frequently writes about single, divorced, or unhappily partnered people, to date a longterm friend.  However, Miranda seems pretty keen on maintaining her solitary but fulfilled life.

Two middle-aged people stand in a room, looking at each other somewhat uncomfortably.
Sexual tension or awkwardly trying to get out of a conversation that just won’t end?

The two women get into the routine of sunbathing in Miranda’s garden, though initially Miranda claims she doesn’t even own a bathing suit.  Cyd, despite not being a reader, picks up Miranda’s books and starts to gain some insight into her aunt’s life.

A middle-aged woman in a one-piece swimsuit lies on a towel next to a teen in a two-piece bikini.
Everyone in this film always looks at least this flawless.

If the film can be said to have a structured plot, it’s all about Miranda’s soirée, a word she repeats approximately 4,835 times.  Cyd decides to make a splash at the party by borrowing a tux from Katie–damn, grrrrrrrl.  She pulls off the look.  She really fucking pulls off the look.

A young woman walks into a garden wearing an elegant tuxedo.
If Idris Elba isn’t the next James Bond…Cyd?

After the party, Cyd and Miranda get into a fight about Cyd’s actions, but it quickly delves into deeper philosophical and spiritual realms.  They are snapped back to reality when Katie experiences a crisis with her brother’s friend, and Cyd and Miranda are there for her.  It is through Katie that we learn the meaning behind the film’s title, as well as discover what really happened to Cyd’s mother (spoiler alert:  it’s really sad).

Will Cyd and Miranda allow the summer to change them or is it better to keep the past in the past?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

First off, the aesthetic of this film is beautiful.  Jessie Pinnick (Cyd) is gorgeous, so there are tons and tons and tons of close-ups on her face.  At times this gets uncomfortable and starts to feel voyeuristic to me.  I do like our main 3 ladies a lot and enjoy that they all have unique perspectives and approaches to life that complement each other rather than conflict.

The thing I really appreciate about the dynamic between Cyd and Miranda is that they influence each other and draw out the best rather than transforming.  Cyd is incredibly direct and unafraid to ask questions, but she learns to do so in a way that’s inquisitive without diminishing viewpoints different from her own.  Miranda, in the act of sunbathing in her backyard with Cyd, embraces some of her carefree attitude and confidence in her body.  If this were a generic rom-com, Cyd would set Miranda up with her friend.  But instead, Cyd learns to accept her aunt’s independent, aromantic life is not equivalent to an empty existence.

Confession time:  while I liked the ideas and themes here, I did find the plot very meandering.  There was something that didn’t quite click for me–maybe since my last pick was a Disney film I was expecting bigger drama and more sentimentality.

Would my blog wife attend a soirée with this one or annoy it with a series of overly personal questions?  Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Southside With You, or: No One Compares 2 U

What do I do when I’m despairing of the world we live in and desperately missing the dignity, reason, and humanity of the Obamas?  Watch clips of that time President Obama was on Between Two Ferns?  Or the Carpool Karaoke segment featuring Michelle?  How about masochistically torturing myself with images of them in happier times (portrayed by actors who really look nothing like them)?  Why; what do you do?

The Film:

Southside With You

Where to Watch:

Netflix

The Uncondensed Version:

Michelle Robinson lives at home with her parents despite her position at a top corporate law firm in Chicago.  Even though Michelle has some serious pampering going on, she’s definitely not going on a date with Barack—it would be inappropriate since Michelle is his advisor, he’s only working at the firm for the summer, and she would get so much shit from the higher ups if she dated the first young black guy who walks into the firm.

a man wearing a tank top holds a corded phone to his ear, a fedora resting on a table behind him
And, you know, of course he has a Panama hat.

Barack, meanwhile, is just smoking, reading, and talking on the phone because of course he is.  The two will be attending a community even in the Gardens, a housing project in Chicago.  Sounds like there’s no way to interpret that as a date…right?

While Barack is easy-going and laid-back, Michelle is hyper-aware of the hard work, self-discipline, and commitment to following the rules she must continually embody to succeed in the swarm of middle-aged white men that is the law firm.  Barack shows up late to pick her up and drives a car with a hole rusted through in the bottom (which is true).

Michelle has worked hard for her education and position at the law firm, though she seems unsatisfied with the tedious work and condescension from the higher ups (as indicated previously, middle-aged white men).  Barack is extremely perceptive and asks if the firm is really what she’s frustrated with, and she insists yes—yes, it is.

a woman looks at a man with raised eyebrows
“Maybe what I really hate is men telling me what I’m frustrated about.”

At this point, Barack springs art exhibit and lunch on Michelle, admitting they have time to kill before the community event.  The exhibit highlights black artists, including Ernie Barnes, the artist whose work was made famous by Good Times (no joke).  He also recites Gwendolyn Brooks poetry to her, which may or may not have happened IRL, but either way is fucking unfair and has the immediate effect of melting everyone within a 50 foot radius.

After the exhibit, the two bond over sandwiches and learn shocking revelations–specifically that Michelle doesn’t like pie, though she does like chocolate ice cream.  Barack damn near breaks my heart when he reveals he hates ice cream after spending a summer working at Baskin Robbins (which I understand on a rational level but still devastates me personally).  We get a bit of a peek into their very different childhoods and learn that Michelle’s dad has MS (which I didn’t know before watching this).

a man holds out a plastic container to a woman seated on an outdoor picnic table
I just realized the Obamas can never appreciate the thing of beauty that is pie with ice cream.

At long last, it’s time for the community event, which conveniently gives Barack the opportunity to showcase his inspirational speechmaking skills and for the church ladies to bust out their stories about the lives he’s turned around and what a cool dude he is in general.  Rather unrealistically, he gives a speech without once saying “let me be clear,” “here’s the deal,” or “it will not be easy.”

Michelle sees right through this ploy, but is still rather impressed.  We all are, girl.  They have a meaningful discussion about their fatigue with doing what’s convenient over what’s right with genuine conviction–something I really fucking miss seeing in the US President.

a man addresses an audience seated in church pews
Admit it–the only thing you’re imagining him saying in this scene is “Let me be clear.”

The evening wraps up with a showing of Do the Right Thing, unfortunately interrupted when they run into a top partner at the law firm, who is a condescending smarmy bastard.  Michelle reflects once again on the way their relationship will be perceived and how it could destroy the career she has worked hard to build.  Does this mean there will never be a second date???

…I mean, there are really no spoilers here, so suffice it to say that chocolate ice cream can solve pretty much everything and I believe it may be our last decent shot at world peace.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I’m not sure it’s possible to be objective with this review.  I teared up several times at places that were never intended to be sad because I fucking miss the Obamas and their strength and intelligence and compassion.  I love and miss them, but I just want them to be happy.  They’ve always deserved better.

Though it takes place nearly 20 years ago, the commentary feels very contemporary.  Michelle describes the challenges she’s faced as a black woman that are still very much in place today.  At one point, Barack and Michelle walk through a tunnel memorializing the many black Chicagoans who died violently–a tunnel that would surely have exponentially greater names today.

There are some self-satisfied moments that get a bit unbearable at times (like when Michelle comments on what a great speechmaker Barack is, wink wink nudge nudge).  And admittedly, the actors really don’t look anything like Barack and Michelle except for the hair styles, but the acting is convincing enough that you can pretend after a while.  I really appreciated the glimpse into Michelle’s character that we’ve never gotten, especially as her role as First Lady was the one the world saw her inhabit.  Let’s not forget that prior to the Presidency, Michelle was bringing in a much bigger salary than Barack and being an all-around badass.

Did this one inspire Christa or would she shun it like the Obamas shun pie and ice cream?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Save the Last Dance, or: Kerry Washington, Is That You?!?!

Our 2nd film this month is, purely by coincidence, another one about dance.  And also happens to be the 21st century Dirty Dancing.  Sort of.

The Film:

Save the Last Dance

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A teen grieving the loss of her mother learns about hip-hop, love, and the death of ‘90s fashion.

The Uncondensed Version:

Our film takes us on a train through Chicago with an incredibly moody Sara on the way to live with her dad.  As we learn within the first 5 minutes of this movie, her mother was recently killed in a car accident while trying to make it to Sara’s big Julliard dance audition.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Sara is incredibly depressed, feels really guilty about insisting her mom be there for the audition, and has lost all interest in ever dancing again.

With the move to her dad’s neighborhood, Sara now attends a predominantly black high school and has a lot of catching up to do.  She immediately makes a bad impression when she gives a really smart, teacher’s pet-type answer only to be corrected by Derek in front of the entire class.

a teen girl wearing overalls holds a lunch tray and textbooks in a school cafeteria
She also thinks it’s a good idea to wear overalls for some reason…

Luckily, Kerry Washington(?!?), aka Chenille, accepts Sara into her friend group and gives her some tips for navigating the cafeteria and other intimidating places.

teenage girls in a school cafeteria look skeptically across the table at a friend
I just had no clue she was in this!  I can’t get over it!

Sara just can’t stop putting her foot in it, though, and calls Derek an asshole before realizing he’s none other than Chenille’s brother.  …Ooops.

Nevertheless, Chenille invites Sara along to a club that evening, where she promises to dance circles around Derek.  Spending time with Chenille, Sara learns her friend is also a new mother who has an on/off relationship with the baby’s father.  Sara also discovers Chenille’s frenemy Nikki used to date Derek and feels really threatened by Sara.

Sara dances really stiffly with Derek, but starts to follow the rhythm a bit more and learn some hip hop moves.  That is, until a fight breaks out and all 3 have to leave the club.

Derek is sort of annoyingly perfect and wants to be a pediatrician.  He is also irritatingly good at listening and drawing out Sara’s secrets.  You’ve ruined me for other men, Derek.  When he learns Sara used to dance but she claims it’s not a big deal, he says the ridiculously sweet line, “I think it is.”

a teenage boy smiles charmingly at a teen girl
Dead. ❤ ❤ ❤

He later surprises Sara with ballet tickets.  Fucking swoon, and I don’t even really like ballet.  After getting Sara to open up about why she doesn’t dance anymore, Derek helps her realize she wants to dance and audition again for Julliard.  Sara insanely does a shitload of ballet while also getting hip hop lessons from Derek, now her boyfriend.

There are now several storylines that begin to intersect and make the rest of this film increasingly melodramatic.

  1. Derek’s friends give him shit about dating Sara. They also think he’s abandoning them and the neighborhood in general and try to get him to seek revenge after a drive-by shooting.
  2. Nikki and Sara finally get into a physical fight, which Sara blames entirely on Nikki. This leads to:
  3. Chenille and Sara having a fight about white privilege, and Chenille claiming Sara shouldn’t be dating Derek.
  4. Sara breaking up with Derek because so many people don’t want to see them together and it’s too hard to keep fighting.
  5. The big audition rolling around, and Sara having no one to support her. …Or does she???

a teenage boy and girl dance together in a club, surrounded by onlookers
Not relevant, but I just wanted to use this screencap.

Okay, this is pretty spoiler-y (though this is an early 2000s teen dance drama, so it ends more or less how you’d expect), but the drama of the film just completely falls apart at the end when Sara is dancing, which contrasts with Derek’s friends being involved in a shoot-out.  Must someone always die when Sara dances?  Is that a sign from the universe or does she have secret dance powers that are beyond her control?

Anyway, Derek shows up at the audition for moral support, telling the judges she’s ready just as she falters.  The drama of this moment is ruined by (1) a judge asking how he got in yet no one actually asking him to leave or doing anything to stop him at all, and (2) Derek jumping onstage to give Sara a pep talk, which apparently crosses the line as a judge interrupts, “We don’t have time for this.”  And there is a slow-mo hug, the most emotionally resonant kind of hug, of course.

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Mostly because our leads are just so damn likeable.  Sean Patrick Thomas and his smile, ungh.

Storyline is a bit meh because it tries to do so much and ends up spreading itself too thin.  It’s refreshing to have a teen dance movie ambitiously cover so much ground in terms of race and privilege, but it does get a bit simplistic at times.  The plot makes it ridiculously convenient for Derek to walk away from the gang and leave his friends behind.  And Nikki is annoyingly one-dimensional, there only to stir up drama.

That being said, the dancing in this is amazing and, despite my cynicism, I admit Derek and Sara were a pretty fucking adorable couple.

Would Christa get it on tonite with this film or crush its little Julliard dreams? (Sorry, not sorry—“Get It on Tonite” stuck in my head after the end of this film.)  Find out by reading her review here!