Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Mary Shelley, or: If You Like Percy Bysshe Shelley and Getting Caught in the Rain

It’s 2019.  It’s almost the 2nd month of 2019.  But while it’s still month number one, we do what we want, we watch what we want.  And this week we take a trip 200ish years into the past with a brilliant writer and real-life heroine.

The Film:

Mary Shelley

The Premise:

An examination of the events in Mary Shelley’s life that led to the creation of her iconic Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

The Ramble:

Mary Shelley (née Godwin), like your average teen, likes to hang out around her mother’s grave and invent creepy ghost stories for her siblings.

Since the death of her famous mother, Mary’s father William Godwin, a philosopher in his own right, has remarried.  Her stepmother (aka Anna from Downton Abbey) despises Mary and her distracted, creative mind, and the two are frequently at odds.  After an especially contentious fight, Mary is unceremoniously sent off to live in Scotland with a radical philosopher and his family.

Two teen girls sit in the dark in front of a tree, a small lamp between them.

Though miserable, things are looking up when Mary befriends one of the daughters of the family, Arya Stark Isabel.  They bond over their interest in all things occult and the desire to summon the ghosts of their deceased mothers.  You know, teen stuff.  The two pass the time enjoyably enough until Percy Shelley arrives on the literal winds of change. Significant stares are exchanged.  Repartee is traded.

A young woman grins at a smiling man in front of a tree.

Unfortunately, a blossoming new romance grinds to a halt when Mary receives the news that her stepsister Claire is gravely ill.  Mary rushes to her side only to discover, rather than being at death’s door, Claire has been desperately bored.

Luckily, Percy is a massive fanboy when it comes to Mary’s parents, and it doesn’t take much convincing for her father to take him on as a protégé.  From then on, it’s secret notes, hanging out in graveyards, getting caught in the rain, and drinking sacramental wine.

However, it’s sort of a buzzkill when Percy’s wife and daughter arrive on the scene, bursting Mary’s bubble.  Having been raised with her radical parents’ ideas, Mary is all for free love and embracing an unconventional lifestyle.  Her father is decidedly not ok with this and cuts her off when she runs away with Percy, bringing Claire along for the ride.

Unsurprisingly, being young, poor, and in love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Percy can’t get anyone to publish his work, yet insists on throwing elaborate dinner parties for his sleazy friends.  Meanwhile, Mary is expecting and worried about her baby’s future.

A woman sits in bed, holding a baby. Next to them, a man holds the baby's hand and looks tenderly at the woman.

Predictably, the creditors come.  Forced to flee on a cold, rainy evening, Mary’s newborn baby is not long for this world.

Meanwhile, Claire has news of her own:  after meeting the infamous Lord Byron during a night out a the theater, she became immediately pregnant after he looked at her.  /Also she’s been having an affair with him for the past few months.  Interpreting a letter from Byron as an invitation to visit, Claire and the gang head off for a month-long binge and general drunkenness and debauchery.

A man and woman who are dressed elegantly stand close to each other in a crowded theater.

All of this is leading to that famous weekend that produced those Gothic masterpieces, Shelley’s Frankenstein and John Polidori’s The Vampyre.  Throughout all of this, I should mention, Byron predictably acts like a bag of dicks.  Percy isn’t much better, though John is sweet if a doormat.

After drafting her most famous work, Mary struggles with finding a publisher.  Eventually, she is able to publish anonymously on the condition that Percy writes an introduction…which means everyone in the world will think he is the writer.

Frustrated and hurt, Mary’s relationship with Percy deteriorates and her career as a writer seems over before it’s begun.  We all know she will ultimately become one of the most important English writers, period…but how will she get there with the odds stacked against her?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

I am always up for a period drama.  And–no surprise–Elle Fanning is brilliant as ever.  However, as a whole this film fell somewhat flat for me.  I get that a successful writer’s life does involve a lot of scenes that wouldn’t be exceptionally thrilling onscreen.  But Mary comes across as such a boring person at times; I wish we had gotten inside of her brain a bit more to explore her brilliance.

Most of the time, we are focused on Mary and Percy’s relationship angst.  And, admittedly, a lot of the Romantics were probably huge douchebags, but Percy doesn’t come across looking great here.  From what I remember, Percy was supportive of Mary’s writing and never tried to claim credit for her work (though people did assume Frankenstein was his work).

The film also makes the odd choice of quoting from Percy’s poetry A LOT.  I understand the choice to use Percy’s words as Mary finds her voice as a writer, but it really got under my skin.  Remember Bright Star, which featured so much beautiful Keats poetry because it was a film ABOUT Keats?  This film is ABOUT Mary Shelley, so her words should take priority over Percy’s…unlike, you know, that thing all of those 19th century dudes were taken to task for IN THIS FILM.

Would my darling blog wife skip romantically through the rain with this one or ditch it in the mud like it’s the heteropatriarchy?  Find out in her review here!

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Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Patchwork, or: Women Gotta Stick Together

TGIO–Thank God It’s October,  aka the best month on the blog, and arguably the best month period.   Nothing but horror to see here.  This week brings us a modern horror-comedy inspired by Frankenstein, featuring what may be the most jarring sight of all:  a non-ginger Fred Weasley.

The Film:

Patchwork

The Premise:

Three women seek revenge after being transformed into a grotesque creature at the hands of a modern-day Frankenstein.

The Ramble:

Los Angeles:  City of Dreams.  Also city of disreputable plastic surgeons with gruesome passion projects.

Successful but aloof Jennifer spends her birthday alone at a bar only to wake up the next day as the victim of a modern-day Frankenstein experiment.  Along with bubbly sorority girl Ellie and socially awkward Madeleine, parts of Jennifer’s face and body have been used to make one perfect woman (for convenience/laziness purposes, referred to as JEM from this point on).  Unfortunately, their new body is highly scarred and traps their 3 distinct minds together.

A woman stares in horror at her reflection, which shows her face is composed of 3 different faces stitched together roughly.

In spite of disagreement about what happened and exactly whose body this is, JEM work together to escape (hampered by George from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend).  As they regroup at Jennifer’s apartment, JEM decide first they will unravel the truth about what happened, then work to restore each mind to her separate body.

All 3 stories seem to share the bar where Jennifer spent a miserable birthday alone, Vic’s.  Could Jennifer’s medical student friend be the surgeon gone psychotic?

A person with a bandaged face and trench coat pushes a man up against the wall of an apartment.

Next is a deep dive into Ellie’s memories.  The night of her abduction, Ellie was trying desperately to impress a pompous artist who clearly doesn’t make art as such an act would be much too capitalist.  Could Banksy 2.0 have been the culprit?

As for Madeleine, she was drinking alone at Vic’s until a D-list celebrity decided to join her.  Though quiet and awkward, Madeleine asks Mr. I-Have-a-Drink-Named-After-Me back to her place.  Could this self-important pseudo-celeb have a dark hobby?  (Spoiler:  no.  Madeleine actually has a rather impressive collection of body parts in her fridge…)

I should note that as JEM narrow down their list of suspects, they are taking the process of elimination to an extreme and killing off the dudes they encounter.  Few tears are shed as these are men who have been emotionally manipulative, creepy AF, or just so goddamn annoying.

A woman with a scarred face sits in the backseat of a car while a man obliviously texts in the driver's seat.

We also get the love story no one asked for when Madeleine and Ellie decide Fred Weasley (or whatever the fuck his character’s name is in this film) is their type–or at least is there and available.  This plot point unintentionally brings up an interesting philosophical discussion about consent–if one body houses more than one consciousness, how many have to agree for it to be consent?  Yet another good reason to never try to Frankenstein people.

Philosophical questions aside, who is responsible for JEM’s transformation and how will they rain bloody vengeance down upon his head?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

Even though the second half of this film is an absolute mess, I just can’t resist the first part.  The premise of the film is so fun:  mix one of my favorite literary classics with gory horror, social commentary, and ladies working together to get shit done.  Though the characterization of the 3 women isn’t always the most fleshed out, the scenes where they bond and begin to conspire are delightful.  I unexpectedly liked Ellie a lot; even though she is the sorority girl stereotype, Ellie is no mean girl and shows vulnerability that really resonates for me.

Unfortunately, the film tries unsuccessfully to make a statement amidst a completely incoherent plot.  It’s fruitless to expect to achieve the so-called perfect body, women gotta stick together, revenge is actually quite fulfilling–what the actual fuck is the message here???  Perhaps most unforgivably of all, it dangles the satisfying idea of a female serial killer targeting egomaniacs only to rip this away from us with a, er, clever twist.

I also really hate that Madeleine’s history of mental illness is brought up as something of an explanation for her violent behavior and (spoiler/not really a spoiler) obsession with having the perfect body.  Equating mental health with violence is problematic AF.  Furthermore, women feeling like shit about their bodies can be related to and exacerbated by mental illness–but it’s also very much an issue of social conditioning and, IDK, LIVING IN THIS WORLD.

And, of course, the tacked-on romance with a mediocre non-ginger Weasley just isn’t wanted or needed.  I don’t want to see women hook up with boring heteronormative white dudes; I want to see them stab the fuck out of people (preferably men).

I have to say, however, the first part of the film did bring me a lot of joy.

Did my blog wife get attached to this one or would she saw off her own arm to get away from it?  Find out in her review here!