Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Girls on Film

I had a successful run of lady-friendly viewing last weekend. It wasn't a conscious decision but it was delightful - it was exciting and relaxing and refreshing. This wasn't perfect or representative or explicitly feminist TV but it was a pleasure to watch well imagined female characters, meaningful female friendships and plots for ladeyz that in absolutely no way revolved around romantic entanglements. All of these aced the Bechdel test.

VB forced me to sit down and watch this three-part mini-series from April and I am so glad she did. It is three hours (of occasionally terrifying) bliss. Ladies solve crime with maths and wear great coats! The story sees four colleagues from Bletchley Park struggling to readjust to the drudgery of post-war women's lives while an unknown figure abducts and murders girls around London. Susan (played by Anna Maxwell Martin who is a joy to watch in almost everything and will always be my Lyra), now a suburban housewife, sees a pattern (maths!puzzles!codes!) in the killings and tries to inform the police but, when they are unresponsive (women), is forced to reconvene the old gang.

These are brilliant, individually defined women working together and using their brains to help society and other women. That shouldn't feel special but it does. Most of the characters don't wear make up and their (wonderful) costumes are muted and often a little frumpy but the colour palette is beautiful and that is appropriate for a 1950's Britain that was still enduring rations and recovering from the massive destruction physical and psychological (both of which are touched on) of World War Two. Susan is complicated and not always sympathetic (great) and sometimes the whole thing gets a touch daft but this is an ITV series, what do you expect? I can't hear enough about the women at Bletchley and, all in all, this was fab. Excitingly, another series has been commissioned, although I can't find a release date. Hurrah!

I have been waiting to see Bachelorette for nearly eighteen months. I saw the trailer and the hype months before it came out in the US last autumn and then watched with growing disappointment as it failed to come to the UK. Eventually it to the cinemas here in August and I saw posters and everything but it wasn't screening at any of my local cinemas. Finally it arrived via Lovefilm. Movie industry, this is why you aren't making any money (partially) - I would have paid up for my extortionately priced cinema ticket to see this but you didn't let me do that! Ridiculous. Also, it's worth noting, that there might be some weird edits to the UK DVD - the stripper scene on all of the posters wasn't even in the copy I watched.

Anyway, I loved this. My judgement may be slightly warped by the sizeable amount of sherry, wine and cider (we are eclectic drinkers, bite me) that was consumed prior to and during the film and by the horrible reviews I read afterwards but I really really enjoyed this at the time of watching. I understand and accept some of the criticism: the tone is inconsistent and the ending seems to undermine some of the unflinching points that have been made earlier in the film, the moments of sentimentality seem a bit phony and Kirsten Dunst doesn't get the opportunity she deserves to be funny. Also, Rebel Wilson is tragically underused which approximately zero of the reviewers drew attention to which just shows you how much they know... 

*Minor spoilers ahead*

However, I really felt that a lot of the sniping about the film was coming from (male) critics who didn't think that young women should be rude and crude and mean and unfinished. Yes, the bridesmaids in this film (Lizzie Caplan, Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher to Rebel Wilson's bride) are horrible people but so are the target viewers a lot of the time. Kiki is glorious as an uptight ex-bulimic who is trying so destructively hard to be perfect and have the magazine template life. Lizzie (good lord, she's beautiful, those eyes!) is a coked up slacker who doesn't have any of her shit together and who still hasn't got over a teenage abortion; Isla is a ditsy party girl who peaked in high school and is riding a downward spiral of unwitting cruelty, booze and drugs and empty sex. They are all weighed down by their separate failures. And these girls are vile and gross and cruel but they also felt familiar and real. 

This film doesn't have the warm-hearted narrative of Bridesmaids, which it is inevitably compared to, but it feels truthful, at least to me. Also, it made me laugh and laugh and squeal in horror and look at myself. Admittedly, I probably have to watch this again sober but that seems pretty good to me.

Speaking of Bridesmaids (it is hard to avoid when talking about women/films/comedy at the mo - Paul Feig also directed The Heat), I love Melissa McCarthy. She just seems so cool. I want to hang out with her and her tiny husband (who makes a fleeting appearance in The Heat). It is nice to see her cast hear as more than just 'fat woman' here. I mean, she always brings more to a role than that but she is very evidently present in The Heat because she is funny. She is rude and brash and aggressive and bad ass before 'non-standard shaped' in this film. She and Sandra Bullock make a beautiful antagonistic comic pair; Bullock is an uptight, obedient FBI perfectionist with no people skills, McCarthy is a rough and ready, rule breaking, street walking cop. Blah blah blah, the plot here is kind of irrelevant, buddy cops, drug bust, guns, not bothered, but the leads's chemistry is palpable. The narrative isn't especially sharp and sometimes the whole thing veers too heavily into the ridiculous and the difficulties of being a woman in law enforcement are mentioned only in the briefest of asides but this is dumb entertainment. No one is trying to be smart or political, they're just trying to make you laugh and Bullock/McCarthy as a pair did that for me. In six months time I will have forgotten absolutely everything about this film except their friendship and, great, FEMALE FRIENDSHIP ON SCREEN. Bring it all. Also, unrelated, the soundtrack is flippin' excellent - Angel Haze, Azaelia Banks, Santigold, the Isley Brothers, Bill Withers...

Anyway, that was a bit of a ramble. Also, apologies for the aggressive overuse of brackets - apparently I felt very bracket-y today. I reckon all of these are worth your time but they are definitely ordered by importance - track down The Bletchley Circle and enjoy with my blessing. More girls on film please. Plus, any recommendations for lady viewing?

In a brief housekeeping note, I don't think I'm going to be on the blog much in November. Hopefully I'll be checking in but it's probably going to go pretty quiet over here. I will be around and about though so do comment here or email or what have you and I will see you soon.

Chuck x


  1. I've wanted to watch The Heat for awhile now - it does look hilarious and I like Melissa McCarthy's badass character

  2. Haven't seen any of these! Must check them out. I haven't even seen Bridesmaids... I clearly need to get on it. xx