Tag Archives: joe swanberg

Happy Christmas: 10 STARS

*My feminist film news for you today is that of Rose McGowan getting fired by her agent for sharing a casting note she got for the new Adam Sandler movie where she was advised to wear a tight fitting top, showing cleavage “push up bras encouraged”. Really this story speaks for itself. Everyone hates Adam Sandler. Everyone hates people getting fired for pointing out sexism in the workplace. Everyone hates the unrelenting sexualisation of women in Hollywood. (Ok actually lots of people like all of those things but lets face it those people don’t read this blog so let’s pretend they don’t exist). Sadly while I want to howl a battlecry out across the wilds of the internet giving Ms McGowan my full support there has since been another story where she said gay men were more misogynistic than straight men. Clearly exposure to Adam Sandler’s evil has caused Ms McGowan to turn to the dark side where one forgets basic truths such as NO ONE is more misogynistic than straight men. So sadly my battlecry cannot be one which fully supports Ms McGowan in all of her endeavours, but it can still be full of hatred for Adam Sandler so let us not lose hope. Here’s the link for the full story http://uk.businessinsider.com/rose-mcgowan-fired-for-calling-out-sexist-adam-sandler-movie-role-2015-6?r=US&IR=T*

(SPOILERS. It is a new film. Not so many people have watched it and I am going to make a real big effort not to give too much away but it’s not that big on plot so don’t fear I will not be divulging any terrible twists. CN for NOTHING. That’s right, you heard me, not a single content note required. That’s how you get 10 stars baby, by filling your film with amazing women and male allies and not a strip club in sight. However it should be noted that I discuss sexual assault, there is none in the film but there is in my discussion)

“I think the concept of ‘having it all’ is really dangerous. It just means I have to do everything” – Kelly

Ok I’m going to get my adoring rant out of the way quickly and then we can move on. I’ve watched this film 3 times in 3 months. I try and get everyone I talk about films to to see it. Because this is a great film, the actors give great performances, the dialogue (mainly based on improvisation) is top top notch and it tells a really subtle lovely story about two women and their relationship. I mean this is the story which continually goes untold. This is why the Bechdel test is even a thing, it’s because female/female relationships are consistently undervalued and reduced to either bitchy standoffs or cloying blandness. This is now one of my favourite films and honestly I have never felt a film spoke directly to me as a young woman more, outside of the work of Eric Rohmer who is my number one fave guy and you should all watch his work. Also there is the best baby I have ever scene on screen in this film. Honestly you should watch it for the baby alone he’s phenomenal.

STAR: The Bechdel Test

STAR: Developed female relationships

(Is it going to get boring just saying STARS STARS STARS FOR ALL 5 times? No, because celebrating female excellence is not boring it is necessary. And rare. So this is really the central success of this film. Anna Kendrick and Melanie Lynskey play Jenny and Kelly so so well. I mean the stay at home mum and the young feminist are always somehow pitted against one another as if they are in competition and the beautiful thing about this film is that it shows just how bullshit that is. These women are united, not by some unquestioning biological tie of womanhood but because they like each other and are interested in each other and refuse to pigeonhole each other. Also the importance of Lena Dunham’s character Carson as a kind of instigator in their relationship, as well as her entirely separate and different relationship with Jenny demonstrates the complexity of female relationships. No one model of friendship is ever going to sum up all relationships between women because women are complicated and amazing and my god I love this film)

STAR: Non- stereotyped Female Characters

STAR: Developed, prominent female characters

(In part this has already been covered but it is completely true that the differences as well as the similarities between these women are so interestingly explored. Carson and Jenny, for example, have a discussion about their different feelings about maternity where Carson definitely wants to have children at some point and Jenny isn’t sure she ever will. These two women are both young feminists but neither of their views are more or less feminist just as there is space within the wide spectrum of feminism for Kelly’s position as wife, mother AND writer. The fact that it is hard to maintain all of these roles, as Kelly says having it all just involves her doing everything, shows that this is not some feminist utopia where all women love each other and are able to do anything they want and are free from all constraint BUT they are all equally considered as people and their differing desires and paths are viewed with equal importance and respect)

STAR: No Excessive Air of Misogyny

STAR: No rigid adherence to gender norms

(As we know this is the hard star to get. Given the importance placed on female friendship and the fact that the men in this film are an amazing baby, a loving father, husband and brother who is mainly seen in relation to the women in his life (what a change) and a nice young babysitter who Jenny kisses sometimes we can safely say there is no excessive air of misogyny. There is a scene where Jenny and this young man are making out, then she’s like ok let’s stop, I’m going home now and he’s like ok cool see you soon. That is a scene I want to show to every teenager in the world. Because he doesn’t whine, or wheedle or try and get her to stay or guilt her about turning him on and not having sex with him, he’s just cool and acts like a normal human. And then later, on another day, they have sex. So everyone’s a winner. (Not to say that you shouldn’t coerce people into sex because that will result in more sex for you in the long run OBVIOUSLY you shouldn’t do it because it is terrible and evil) Interestingly there is a scene later on where Jenny attempts to pressure him into coming home with her and the fact that that ends with her crying and massively freaking out again shows that that is fucked up behaviour and not something a happy healthy person should be doing. So top points regarding consent. I also think it’s important that Jenny doesn’t really have a job, not that I love unemployment (jokes I totally do jobs are for suckers) but she doesn’t have the typical “girl job” nor an ill fitting “boy job” she is just allowed to be herself)

STAR: No Excessive Female Exposure or Sexualisation

STAR: No objectification of the female body

(So there is some sex in this film, but no female nudity, we see our nice young man’s naked back and that’s it. That is so great. The idea that the sex scenes would be about development of character and exploration of relationships not just objectifying the actors and turning the audience on. That’s great. Also Anna Kendrick’s body seems very real, like she has to get dressed, and wear tights and wrap up warm and then take off some clothes and be carried around when she’s black out drunk. She is a person who takes up space and partly that’s just the naturalism of the film but what that naturalism adds up to is treating the characters like real people which in the context of feminism is really really important. I mean partly what Anna’s bodily-ness shows us is her vulnerability, the fact that her brother can just pick her up and carry her when her female friend could not, the fact that when she drinks she does really get drunk and that has physical consequences on her and the people around her but that really just shows again that this isn’t a utopian film and that part of naturalism is letting in the good with the bad. Basically there isn’t any objectification and that’s great)

STAR: No Gratuitous or Trivialising Scenes of Rape or Male Violence Against Women

STAR: No threat of male violence against women

(Ok so one could argue that as there is a passed out drunk woman at a party and later a woman alone in the apartment of a near stranger with said near stranger lying on top of her (in a kissy way) that there is threat of male violence. However one can argue many things but one is not always right. Such an argument plays into the notion that a woman, just because she is not able to physically overpower a male assailant, is a victim waiting to happen, a kind of moving target for sexual assault. Such a person would have to concede that Jenny’s brother, when he comes down to her bedroom, is equally capable of assaulting her. The fact that she is in her own home, with a relative who she trusts sadly is not a guarantee that she is safe because the same rule applies: She is not as strong as Him. However there is no such threat in this scene, at the party, or at the house of the young man Jenny kisses. Because being a woman does not actually mean you are constantly in the way of harm and you should always be on your guard to defend your body. Being in the presence of rapists is the only factor which effects the likelihood that you will be raped. Thus this film helps to move away from our victim blaming culture. There are no rapists in this film thus there is no threat of rape, despite the amount of “vulnerable” situations Jenny “puts herself in” she is never in danger. A final, and glorious huzzah)

So there you have it. 10 stars. And 1 Bonus Point. For explicit discussion of feminist issues, which really goes on throughout the film because all of these women’s discussions could be said to be feminist because they are women and so all aspects of their lives are effected by feminist issues, from having babies, working, boyfriends, what they write, what they read, where they live. There’s a question whether the film should get a female writer credit because the actresses improvised all their dialogue but Joe Swanberg is still considered the creator and this is very much his baby. The one drawback of this film is that it doesn’t get any other bonus points. The cast is very small so that is one reason for the lack of diversity in the film but really that is a poor excuse. There is no mention of BME, disabled, older or LGBT+ women. Not everyone can be represented in every film but the fact that almost every film is about cis straight white middle class women should not be overlooked. That being said this is really a failure of the industry as a whole rather than this one film in particular although it does say something important about the lack of intersectionality in mainstream white feminism.To reiterate, however, I love this film and overall I think it is phenomenal.

*A note on Joe Swanberg. I also really liked Drinking Buddies. For me it’s a more ambiguous and difficult portrayal of relationships, and is much more focussed on romantic, straight relationships but it is very interesting and 100% worth a watch. I am currently working my way through the rest of Swanberg’s films which is a very enjoyable project. What a babe. Here’s an interview he did with Collider – http://collider.com/joe-swanberg-happy-christmas-interview/ – and here’s my favourite part of that:

culturally, it’s a lot harder for women, especially right now.  There’s an expectation now that, in some ways, being a stay-at-home mom is a disappointment, and you’re not being an independent feminist and fulfilling your potential.  But then, at the same time, if you’re a working mom, you’re still expected to be a super-mom at home, buy organic food, put dinner on the table every night, and do all the research into preschools.  It’s really hard.  There’s this expectation of having it all, and there’s a lot of judgement.  Even when there’s not judgement, there’s the perception of judgement or the fear of judgement.  

So, my wife was having a really hard time and we were talking a lot about it, in our relationship, and I felt like I hadn’t seen that in the movies, really.  It wasn’t a conversation I was seeing married couples having on screen.  There’s a magic quality that movies have, in making you feel less alone in the world.  There’s an affirmation that you get, as a person, when you go to a movie and see people talking about the things that you’re talking about.  So, I wanted to put that out there, just so that women that were having those feelings knew that they weren’t alone. 

So thank you Joe for making me feel less alone in the world*