film review

Fleabag: Funny Feminist Television

img_9053

If you’re into TV shows about confused, messed-up, funny, thoughtful, complicated and endearing white women in their early 30s then the show Fleabag might be for you.

The site Jezebel.com had a review of the BBC series Fleabag up a few weeks ago, so I downloaded the 1st season. There’s only 6 episodes and I burned through them right away. Then I watched them all a second time over because of how comforting and entertaining I find the series to be.

Image result for sophie waller bridge

Writer and star of FLEABAG Sophie Waller-Bridge

The series protagonist is Fleabag played by the outstandingly talented Phoebe Waller-Bridge. Waller-Bridge is 31 years old in real life and she is responsible for writing all 6 episodes of the first season. Fleabag, the televisions series, is the end result of a fringe play that Waller-Bridge originally performed in Edinburgh.

Anyways, while I now feel like my life is coming together (I’m 32) in terms of having a satisfying relationship with my boyfriend and a new job that I feel passionate about, most of my 20s (after I broke up with my first serious boyfriend in 2006) were spent binge-drinking alcohol and smoking tons of weed, and hooking up with random men who either weren’t interested in me, or if they were, then I immediately became repulsed by them. Once I quit drinking I continued to pursue womanizers who’d bounce from female to female and insult my physical appearance…and just generally contribute to why I felt like a piece of shit.

Image result for sophie waller bridge

Due to my own history, which was mostly spent as a single female looking for and rejecting any chance of finding love, I gravitate to stories about women who are going through similar experiences to what I went through for so long (editor’s note: That is not to say my relationship is perfect, and it started off in a highly dysfunctional manner, but I am much happier at this point then I was 2 years ago when I turned 30…I hate when people are in a relationship and present their lives as free of problems).

Anyways, Fleabag has an on-off boyfriend named Harry. During the 1st episode Harry and Fleabag are in bed. Harry wakes up to Fleabag masturbating to a video of President Obama she’s watching on her laptop, and he is offended and disgusted. The sensitive and giving Harry stuffs a few of his things into a bag and breaks up with Fleabag. Fleabag assures the viewer (she regularly speaks directly to the camera/viewer to give us the inside scoop…and while this approach is at first slightly disarming, it eventually made me feel like Fleabag and I were tight) that Harry will be back. Since Harry is fully into Fleabag, she tramples all over him and uses their short-term break-ups to fuck some real douchebags.

This show made me (and my friend and my boyfriend when I showed them some episodes) laugh a lot! I don’t want to spoil all the hilarious moments, but some of them centre around sending out mass vagina-shot texts to try to find a date, Fleabag discussing how heavy her period flow is when she randomly runs into a hook-up while shopping for tampons, and uncomfortable anal sex. I’m not expecting you to laugh here, since any of these situations could end up being written and portrayed in a way that is stupid and offensive, but in my opinion, these situations made me crack-up without brushing off the underlying emotional desperation Fleabag is experiencing to say and do the things she does.Image result for sophie waller bridgeFleabag operates her own tiny cafe, and she is heavily in debt. Once upon a time she ran it with her best friend Boo, but I can’t share anything more without giving away too many good plot details to ruin your viewing of the show (if you so choose to watch it). I think that Fleabag is a feminist show because Fleabag aims to be an independent, confident business woman who has a loving partner and a positive self-image, but the sad events that have occurred during the last few years of Fleabag’s life (some of which might be partially due to her own making) are causing her to harm herself, and lash out at everyone around her.

The show makes some very accurate feminist observations about how women are sexualized and treated as sexual objects, without ever pretending that women don’t often do the same thing to men. Fleabag favours the good looking guy over the man who will support her, and this is just one example of how Fleabag is a highly imperfect protagonist. Since all people are imperfect, I think this also makes her relatable. Feminism can take many forms, and while I don’t have much fun reading feminist theory, I do enjoy seeing a female try to figure out how to balance wanting to be desirable with respecting herself and chasing her ambitions.

Fleabag’s relationship with her older sister Claire (played by Sian Clifford) reminded me of my own relationship with my sister. It’s hard for us to open up about personal topics with one another, and sometimes it’s even awkward for us to hug, but Fleabag also captures the undeniable and unbreakable bond that exists between sisters since nobody knows you better than your own sister. Claire is married to a lecherous man named Martin (played perfectly by Brett Gelman), and Claire’s dedication to a man who treats her poorly, but who makes her laugh, is an issue between the sisters.Image result for sophie waller bridge fleabagFleabag and her sister Claire (played beautifully by Sian Clifford)

Fleabag and Claire’s father is in a relationship with a woman they despise, and the
“stepmom” character (though their father is not actually married to her) who is only referred to as “Godmother” (played by Olivia Colman) is the only character in the series who is presented as one-dimensional: she is threatened by Claire and Fleabag’s relationship with their father, and “Godmother” constantly makes passive aggressive jabs at Fleabag and Claire. The one-dimensional nature of “Godmother” allows the actress playing her to go wild and take her artsy-fartsy character all the way to the top.Image result for sophie waller bridge

Olivia Colman as “Godmother”

By the final episode of the series it all becomes apparent why Fleabag is so screwed-up and why she is struggling to like herself, let alone love herself. The show is dark, sick, twisted, and so very special. If you’re looking for something to watch this weekend that isn’t mindless entertainment, give Fleabag a try!

FOXCATCHER: Heavy Yet Hopeful Film Deserves Oscar Noms

Tonight I went on a solo-trip to the movies and I was not disappointed. I watched director BENNETT MILLER‘s film (Miller also directed MONEYBALL and CAPOTE) FOXCATCHER. The film was painful, and it was a lot to take in, but it reminds me of how important (and healthy) it is for vulnerable emotions to be expressed (at the appropriate time and place) instead of held in. Nobody can be tough and all-powerful, and when we try to be the consequences are horrible.

If you do yourself a favour and go view this film, I think you will have the privilege of seeing a TRUE STORY represented on the big screen that proves masculine standards in our society, and the idea that being vulnerable is always a weakness, can destroy lives.

Steve Carell as John du Pont

STEVE CARELL perfectly captures the pain of a person who cannot be open and vulnerable with other people: source.

CHANNING TATUM is touching, real, and outstanding playing real-life GOLD MEDAL WINNER for wrestling at the 1984 Olympics MARK SCHULTZ. MARK RUFFALO plays SCHULTZ‘s older brother DAVE (also a gold medal winner at the Olympics for wrestling in real-life). JOHN DU PONT is a power-hungry, jealous, bitter, and deeply sad individual who is played by STEVE CARELL. The end of this story in real-life is depressing beyond belief, and I don’t want to give away too much about the film. Nevertheless, I was totally sucked-in to seeing how the events unfold (I already knew what happened in real-life before seeing it) because the performances are done with such a sense of humanity and sense of respect for the individuals TATUM, RUFFALO, and CARELL are playing.

As much as Carell plays an unattractive individual who is mentally unstable and abusive, I could still see where the character was coming from and that is not an easy feat consider how much of a “villain” Du Pont could be considered to be.

I already know that Steve Carell can convey the underlying lack of confidence that drives people to be unlikable characters, but here he takes this to another level. The ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS are being announced on January 15th, and I hope Carell is given a Best Actor nomination. The way he plays the character showed me, yet again, that confidence and loving oneself is the first step necessary before you can create healthy and positive relationships with other people.

What a team! MARK RUFFALO (hugging Tatum) plays Schultz’s older brother DAVE: source.

I am a female and therefore I often focus on the oppression of women (and having studied Women’s Studies for my B.A. might also have something to do with my female-centred focus). Watching FOXCATCHER made me thankful to be a female, because as an Olympian-wrestler Mark Schultz does not have much room to express his feelings. He needs to work on improving his fitness and what is going on in the inside is mostly irrelevant.

Ruffalo’s portrayal of Mark’s brother Dave is inspiring. Ruffalo as Dave Schultz shows that men can be strong, masculine, and athletic while still caring about other people and how they feel. Dave Schultz focuses on trying to help his brother express himself. He tries to provide Mark with positive love and affection, but this is hard for Mark to receive as he doesn’t seem to have much love for himself. The relationship between the two brothers is beautiful. The relationship between John du Pont and Mark Schultz is horrific and reminds me of how horrible it is to be under another’s power and to feel helpless to resist against abuse because you think you need their support.

 Exclusive 'Foxcatcher' Trailer: Bennett Miller and Channing Tatum Talk Playing Through the Pain

(STEVE CARELL as JOHN DU PONT and (right) real-life (now deceased) DU PONT: source.

Mark Schultz has already won a gold medal at the Olympics when he is contacted out-of-the-blue by rich benefactor John du Pont. John du Pont is one of those people I would totally be creeped-out by and would try to avoid. Mark needs funding to train to his best abilities and he does not have his parents in his life, so he is flattered by du Pont’s attention and du Pont’s belief in his potential.

Mark Schultz leaves where he trains with his brother Dave as his couch, and moves onto the isolated compound that du Pont resides on with his aging mother, JEAN DU PONT (played by VANESSA REDGRAVE). Mark thinks he has hit the jackpot when he is given his own large home to live in on the property, and the wrestling training facility also at the Foxcatcher compound is state-of-the-art.

Mark thinks he’s got it made, but as these stories go on the big screen and in real-life, there are always strings attached. Some people are genuinely giving and do not expect anything in return, but when things seem too good to be true they probably are.

Unhealthy relationships are cleverly explored in FOXCATCHER: source.

Gradually Mark begins to experience the negative downsides of being completely reliant on du Pont and under his tutelage, but he feels he is already in too deep to get out. The real-life Mark Schultz is currently claiming the film defames him because of one scene in particular that insinuates that there was a component of sexual abuse between du Pont and Schultz. I think that this seems entirely plausible given the real-life details of the story, but maybe the filmmaker is unfair to extend the facts to include this representation of the degree to which du Pont abused Mark Schultz.

It is interesting that the real-life Mark Schultz is so offended by this, because it might be a reflection of how hard it is for him to come to terms with the abuse that took place and he might feel shame that this man did take advantage of him sexually because there is still so much stigma surrounding men and sexual abuse. It is also possible that there was no sexual abuse and that is the reason he is bothered by this part of the movie, but either way, it draws attention to the stigmatization surrounding men, and in particular men in sports, who experience sexual abuse at the hands of their mentors and coaches. So many people still possess the idea deep-down that any man who gets sexually abused was “asking for it”. I think this mentality is disturbing, but I also believe it is still prevalent in our culture.

WHY IS THIS FILM HOPEFUL? I have mostly written about the darkness in FOXCATCHER. But, I left the film feeling hopeful. That is because it re-confirmed to me why I feel it is so important for me (and others) to work towards being honest and sharing with others what is going on in our inner-worlds. I think when you try to repress the hurt you have, and the rejection you have experienced at the hands of your parents or others in your childhood, it remains inside of you and influences what you do and how you treat others. I am proud to say that I go to a counsellor to help deal with the pain I still have inside of me, and to work on improving my own self-confidence and as a bi-product of that, my relationship with others.

Bottling up your emotions never works: eventually those emotions are going to burst, it is just a matter of WHEN and more importantly HOW.

Foxcatcher shows that if you do not attend to your own needs and deal with your painful past, then you might end up destroying yourself or the people closest to you. FOXCATCHER is tough to watch, but so very worth it!

ST.VINCENT: Film Review

Film poster: source.

I had no idea about the plot line of ST. VINCENT prior to seeing it in the theatre last week, but the cast (and “buzz” about the film) sold me: BILL MURRAY, MELISSA MCCARTHY, NAOMI WATTS, JAEDEN LIEBERHER, CHRIS O’DOWD, and TERRENCE HOWARD. Writer/director THEODORE MELFI‘s movie is touching, funny, and it wasn’t too long (which means a lot in my books).

It is about what transpires when a young boy and his mom move next door to a grumpy old man (who has a heart of gold). The plot line is not ridiculously original, but I think everyone can relate to the desire to love again before all hope is lost, and experiencing companionship with the least likely of people. I recommend seeing it!

Please See TRUE ADOLESCENTS and Read DRUNK MOM

Bedtime Stories!

Bedtime Stories!

So, if you watch the video below I’ll tell you about why I thoroughly enjoyed the film True Adolescents from 2009 starring Mark Duplass of The Mindy Project fame (he’s one of the holistic doctors…fun fact: the other doctor is played by Duplass’ real-life brother, Jay).

Also, I’ll give a bit more info about the writer/director Craig Johnson, who is best known for The Skeleton Twins a soon-to-be indie classic.

I’ll introduce the memoir I’m addicted to reading, Drunk Mom by Jowita Bydlowska. In the second YouTube video I talk more about why I am loving this book and why it helps me stay sober.