Brittany Runs a Marathon, or: Feeling Good As Hell

This week we review a film that I’ve seen twice now and honestly really love. Spoiler alert – I’m going to be doing minimal snarking about this one because actually it’s quite lovely. And Jillian Bell is a knock out who should lead more films. Just sayin’.

Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)

A young woman decides to make positive changes in her life by training for the New York City Marathon.

Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo
Stars: Jillian Bell

*Spoilers*

Brittany is not in the best place. She’s a greeter on the door of a Broadway show and lives with her narcissistic social-media loving BFF Gretchen (Alice Lee). The pair party hard, and B abuses Adderall, drinks heavily and makes poor personal choices. She lacks focus in her own words and when she visits the doctor, to get her hands on her own Adderall prescription, he tells her her BMI is too high and he’s worried about her blood pressure. Off the back of this visit to the GP, B is tasked with losing around 55lbs, which she cracks is “the weight of a Siberian husky.”

NOTE: This film is definitely triggering. There is a lot of focus on diet and losing weight to become a better, more successful person.

“You want me to pull a medium-sized working dog off of my body.” ~ Brittany

When she tries to join a gym, she realises how expensive it is and decides to try running outdoors because it’s free. After her first attempt she breaks down in tears and receives a visit from her neighbour Catherine (Michaela Watkins), nicknamed Moneybags Martha by B and Gretchen.

Despite Catherine’s attempt to bond, the visit doesn’t go well and B resents being pitied by her neighbour who, in her eyes, has a much easier life than she does. Nevertheless, when Catherine mentions a running group she’s part of, B reluctantly shows up.

At running club, B becomes (kind of but not really) friends with Catherine and also makes an ally in Seth (Micah Stock) who, like B, isn’t a natural athlete and is only really running to make his son and husband proud. After a successful 5k, the trio make a pact to train for and then run the New York City marathon together the following November. As she gets better at running and the pounds start to drop off, B finds a second job, starts dating and meets fellow dog/house-sitter Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who curates her dating profile for her.

B also finds herself drifting apart from Gretchen who doesn’t really support the changes she’s been making. In fact she is continually belittling our girl and trivialising her new interests. When Brittany declines a night in on the booze and ice cream, Gretchen lashes out at her telling her she’ll always be a fat girl.

Jern and Brittany start banging – and things are pretty good – until B doesn’t get a place in the marathon and has to raise the money herself. When Catherine presents her with a cheque for a place on the starting line, Brittany freaks out and rejects the offer as ‘charity’, something she just can’t abide.

She starts avoiding Catherine and Seth so can’t even turn to them when she puts on weight and suffers a stress fracture from pushing herself too hard trying to shift it. Her doc tells her she definitely won’t be able to run in the marathon or do anything too physical for at least six weeks.

This throws her into a panic as she laments returning to her fat self. As she grows increasingly distant from her new friends and her fuck-buddy-or-is-he-more Jern, Brittany gets fired and retreats to her sister’s home in Philadelphia to lick her wounds.

At a birthday party for Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery), her sister’s husband and the man who pretty much raised her, Brittany behaves abysmally towards a fat woman and her thin boyfriend. Full of regret in the morning, Demetrius gives her what for, making her see that she needs to learn to let people help her – and to stop blaming all her problems on her weight.

Can Brittany learn this valuable lesson and sort it out once and for all? I think, with a little help from the people who care about her, she just might…

Again, Jillian Bell is brilliant – and makes Brittany very real and likeable. Even when she’s being a brat and a bitch, you can understand her pain.

My favourite part is the bit in which the large woman Brit’s been mean to gets in touch and explains that she understands where she’s coming from – but has made the choice to be happy. It made me cry. I also shed a few for Brittany as she finally gets to live her dream and is encouraged not to give up by her cheering squad.

I really like this film and it does try to be sensitive about fat and body positivity in some ways, it’s just a shame that Brittany follows the typical weight loss journey to finally realise her potential. It would have been nice if she’d run the marathon as the bigger version of herself or bucked the notion that being thin makes her worthy.

There’s a lot to unpack from this one based on the fat issue but I still liked it.

4/5

What does my favourite Jillian think of this one? Would she shame it for having love handles or encourage it to the finish line? Find out here.

Dolemite is My Name

Alas this wasn’t our first choice but it turns out the UK is trailing behind the US when it comes to some new releases and so here we are. It’s plain rude, frankly but I’m not dwelling on it – The Nightingale will have its time.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by this bio of real-life visionary Rudy Ray Moore which boasts a wicked cast and had me to the very end of it’s hefty run time.

Dolemite is My Name (2019)

Eddie Murphy portrays real-life legend Rudy Ray Moore, a comedy and rap pioneer who proved naysayers wrong when his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite, became a 1970s Blaxploitation phenomenon.

Director: Craig Brewer
Stars: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Epps

*Spoilers*

Los Angeles, 1970s and Rudy Ray Moore (Murphy) is a record store employee and struggling recording artist/stand-up comedian. He begs the store’s in-house DJ (Snoop Dogg) to play his records which he refuses to do, favouring instead the dulcet tones of Marvin Gaye. One day a homeless man comes to the store and starts ranting in rhyme, one of his proclamations features someone called ‘Dolemite’.

Rudy gets the idea to create an onstage persona, inspired by this exchange – he dresses as a pimp with a cane and takes to the stage with a crude set he’s written called The Signifying Monkey. The club crowd loves it and people finally start to take notice of Rudy and his unique brand of talent. This leads him to approach his aunt for the $250 he needs to record a comedy record – called Eat Out More Often – which he’s forced to sell out of the back of his car when he refuses to clean up his act for the one producer who shows an interest.

The album, of course, proves very popular within the black community and a record company picks it up, promising to market it in stores. On his ensuing national tour, Rudy meets the amazing Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) who joins his act. While visiting another city on tour, Rudy and his friends decide to go to the cinema to let off some steam. Eager for something to laugh at, they settle on Billy Wilder’s The Front Page. Unfortunately, none of them find it remotely amusing or relateable, while the mostly white audience think it’s a scream – and it is here that Rudy decides they’re going to make their own movie.

Despite zero movie making experience and multiple funding knock backs, Rudy manages to convince his label to finance the movie using an advance on the royalties from his latest album. He plans to star as central character Dolemite himself. The movie, also called Dolemite, is a kung-fu Blaxploitation movie. With the help of reluctant playwright Jerry Jones (Key) and even less enthusiastic Rosemary’s Baby actor D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), Rudy rounds out his creative team. He also brings in a crew of college students to shoot the movie and takes over an abandoned hotel with no running water or electricity.

To say they’ve got their work cut out is an understatement and Dolemite is My Name centers around their efforts to get the film made and then distributed. It’s a pet project of such determination that you just can’t help being caught up in it. I rooted for the whole crew from the get go. The film is reminiscent in subject matter (kind of) to The Disaster Artist and the sheer single-mindedness of Rudy is not unlike that of real-life Tommy Wiseau.

I’m not always Eddie Murphy’s biggest fan to be honest but I did very much enjoy him in this role. He seems more at home in more adult roles and it’s refreshing to have him playing just the one character, rather than every character. I have massive love for Keegan-Michael Key and Craig Robinson (who I find crazy attractive). It was also nice to see Tituss Burgess again, Titus Andromedon is everything to me. The film has real heart and the real-life Rudy must have been an incredible man.

I enjoy movies about underdogs that come out on top in the end – and this is a shining example of that sub-genre. It’s also fascinating to learn more about a man and a film I never would have ordinarily. Being a middle-aged white woman and all. Perhaps one day Jill and I will find and review Dolemite on these very blogs. It has an all-female kung-fu army after all, what’s not to love?

4/5

What does my own superstar think of Dolemite? Would she shoot a chaotic love scene with it or refuse to fund it any longer? Find out here.

Tigers Are Not Afraid

This week’s pick is something I heard about on a horror podcast and have had on my list for some time. It’s a pretty brutal fantasy horror which frankly, is right up my street but might not be your cup of tea if you’re averse to children being fatally harmed. Which would be fair enough.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (2017)

“A dark fairy tale about a gang of five children trying to survive the horrific violence of the cartels and the ghosts created every day by the drug war”

Director: Issa López
Stars: Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Nery Arredondo

*Lots and lots of spoilers*

Estrella (Lara) is a young girl living in a Mexican city devastated by the infamous Mexican Drug War. She’s at school learning about fairy tales when class is dismissed indefinitely due to violent gunfire outside the building. Amid the panic of the incident, the students and teachers are forced to dive for cover.

While on the floor, Estrella’s teacher gives her three pieces of chalk and tells her they will grant her three wishes.

Meanwhile, on the streets Shine (López) steals a gun and an iPhone from the henchman of crime boss Chino (who is actually well-known politician Servando Esparza). The henchman, Caco is fucked out of his nut so doesn’t notice the mugging or the fact that Shine seems keen to blow his head off. Luckily for Caco, Shine can’t pull the trigger.

Following her eventful day at school, Estrella returns home to find that her mother is nowhere to be found. She waits for days for her to return and grows increasingly worried/hungry. She fears her mother has fallen victim to The Huascas, a human-trafficking ring masterminded by Chino. She wishes that her mother would return and that night suffers horrible haunting visions of her.

The ghost implores Estrella to “bring him to us”. Later she catches Shine looting her apartment. When she confronts him, he shouts at her that her mother is dead.

Estrella follows Shine to his make shift home where he lives with his friends, other street orphans called Morro, Tucsi and Pop. Morro is super, super young and carries a toy tiger. She tells the boys that she’s hungry. Shine tells her he doesn’t care about her and is very anti having a girl around. Estrella sticks with the boys though and in particular, bonds with little Morro. Shine still has hold of the phone he stole (it has a photo of his mother on it) but by now it has become clear that the cartel know he has it and they vow to get it back at any cost.

When Morro is taken, Shine gives Estrella the gun and tells her if she kills Caco and gets him back, she can stay in the gang. She doesn’t want to do this but is eventually persuaded. She breaks into Caco’s apartment but wishes that she doesn’t have to kill him. When she approaches she realises he’s already been murdered. Estrella lets off the gun anyway and allows the boys to believe she’s killed him.

The kids are forced to go on the run when Caco’s brother comes after them and they start to wonder what’s on the phone that’s got their knickers in such a twist.

A lot goes on but the gist is that Morro is killed accidentally, the kids make a deal with Chino – to hand over the phone if he calls off The Huascas – and Shine finds a video on the phone of Chino murdering a woman. While the children deal with the loss of Morro, Chino reveals that he was the one that murdered Caco, thus revealing Estrella to be a flaming liar. Shine is particularly angry with her and the boys shun her.

Alone in the abandoned building the kids have been calling home, Estrella is once again haunted by ghosts, this time all the victims of Chino and his gang. They implore Estrella once again “bring him to us” – I think they want you to do something for them, love.

When the boys bury Morro, Estrella is lead back to them by Morro’s ghost.

The kids meet up with Chino and he holds up his end of the bargain, however Shine has worked out that the woman in the murder video is Estrella’s mother and he wants to tell her. He gives Chino a fake phone and he in turn murders every one of his henchmen.

In return for Shine’s kindess/honesty, Estrella uses her last wish to grant him what he wants – for her to remove the facial scar he sports from the tragic fire that also stole his mother’s life. She’d been reluctant up until now, convinced that each of the wishes has lead to something bad.

She’s not wrong though and she finds herself alone again (Tucsi and Pop are long gone, Shine is dead) and running from Chino who has worked out the double cross. Estrella is guided by Morro’s toy tiger to the room in which her mother was killed.

She finds a pile of hideously decaying corpses but tricks Chino into the room where the ghosts, including Shine have their way with him.

This film is truly gorgeous with some wonderful supernatural/fantastical imagery. Morro’s tiger is wonderfully animated, while there are some really effective scares. Every one of the children are brilliant, their gang is one you really warm to quickly. Shine is a very damaged boy who tries to be hard but hasn’t really got him in it, while Estrella is nails.

This is a very sad tale which has really opened my eyes to the trauma suffered by children forced to live with nothing on the streets. The end made me weep like a goddamn baby but I loved it.

4/5

What does my own little tiger think if this one? Would she set up home with it on the roof or leave it to starve? Find out here.

Paint It Black

A Free for All after the excitement of October’s Horror Month and we appear to have naturally landed on another very dark movie to kick it off. Another horror if you will. I’m not complaining though, especially since this one stars one of my faves.

Paint It Black (2016)

“A young woman attempts to deal with the death of her boyfriend while continuously confronted by his mentally unstable mother.”

Director: Amber Tamblyn
Stars: Alia Shawkat, Simon Helberg, Janet McTeer, Alfred Molina

By all accounts the book that inspired this adaptation is fantastic. The film is fine, gorgeous to look at and very moody but there’s not much to it really.

Josie (Shawkat) is pissed off with her boyfriend Michael who’s been ignoring her for a couple of days. So she goes out drinking with her girlfriend to take her mind off things. Outside the apartment she shares with Michael (Rhys Wakefield), she realises she is being watched by a middle-aged women in an expensive car. Michael’s mother Meredith.

The morning after a heavy night out, Josie finds out why Michael has gone so silent. After checking himself into a motel under the alias Oscar Wilde, he has taken his own life. The bottom falls out of Josie’s world but she barely has time to register the news before Meredith (McTeer) is on the phone making cruel accusations about who’s fault her son’s suicide is.

At the funeral, Meredith attacks Josie and Michael’s father Cal steps in, sweeping her away for some post-funeral drinks. At the bar Cal admits that it’s always really been Michael and Meredith, with him considered the interloper. After realising that Meredith is still following her, Josie goes to her house and the pair get drunk together. Josie tries to leave but she’s too pissed and wakes up in Meredith’s guestroom. When Meredith finds her looking around Michael’s old room, she screams at Josie to get out.

Later the pair dine together and Josie permits Meredith to visit their shared apartment afterwards but forbids her from taking anything home with her. So begins an unsettling back and forth as the women compete for the prize of Michael; of his memory, his possessions and the right to grieve. Meredith clears out the apartment of everything and Josie steals it back – later Josie accuses Meredith of trying to kill her.

This twisted relationship comes to a head when Meredith makes Josie a peculiar offer that has the power to change her life forever. What will she do?

Well. This is a slow burner. It’s not bad – I mean there’s a lot of strong imagery and it’s very stylish – I just wish it had done more. Josie is starring in some sort of amateur movie project that looks pretentious AF and is being directed by Howard Wolowitz of The Big Bang Theory. She looks great because she’s Alia Shawkat and Shawkat is born to be filmed in low golden LA light (and in delicious vintage clothing) at all times.

There’s a sadness that permeates everything and I have sympathy for both the central characters, despite the fact neither of them are very likeable. Meredith is on the edge but it’s hardly surprising. As a girl her father drowned himself in the family pool, so she’s no stranger to suicide when her son kills himself. Josie doesn’t seem to have much direction herself and shares the history of her relationship with us via deeply photogenic flashbacks. We don’t really know much about the enigmatic Michael and that’s okay, really this is a movie about the women in his life and I like it for that.

Personally, I would have holed up with Meredith and accepted the lavish lifestyle she was offering. Who needs freedom of choice and moving on when you have designer frocks and dinner parties on tap? I jest obviously, and Josie does the right thing.

I’ll probably not think of this movie again honestly but it wasn’t a bad way to spend 98 minutes.

3/5

What does my love think of Paint It Black? Would she run away and live with it in a massive creepy house or drive away as quickly as possible? Find out here.

Wounds

Don’t call it in.

Jill was happy with this pick because she wanted to see Armie Hammer die, which is as good as reason as any to be excited I guess. I was intrigued because this is the second full-length feature from Under the Shadow’s Babak Anvari. UTS was a properly eerie folktale with some simple yet devastating (on the nerves) effects so I was stoked for this…

Does it suffer from ‘difficult second album syndrome’? Read on friends!

Disturbing and mysterious things begin to happen to a bartender in New Orleans after he picks up a phone left behind at his bar.

Wounds

*Spoilers*

My Review

Will is barkeep in a cockroach ridden dive in New Orleans called Rosie’s. One night while shooting the shit with his friend Alicia (Beetz) and her boyfriend Jeffrey (Glusman) there’s a ruckus between bar regular Eric (OITNB’s Brad William Henke) and his buddies. Eric sustains a really fucking nasty injury to the face but refuses to seek medical help.

Present at the scene are a couple of college kids who clearly have no business in a bar but get a free pass anyway. In the kerfuffle, one of the kids’ phones is left behind and Will pockets it for safe keeping. He returns home to the frankly lush pad he shares with his girlfriend Carrie (Johnson). Later when he properly looks at the phone, it receives a message from someone called Garret who claims to be scared and is also being followed by something from the “tunnel”. Will somehow manages to unlock the phone and messages Garrett, telling him to pack it in.

In the morning the phone has received some rather disturbing images from Garrett. Carrie is sickened by what she sees and insists Will calls the police. He promises he will. Carrie and Will btw are very much a couple on the ropes, there’s a prominent coldness between them and Will is convinced his girlfriend is shagging her college professor.

When Will visits Eric to check on him, the wound is worse than expected and it looks as though something inhuman is lurking in there. Eric is not a model patient though so there’s not a lot of room to make sure he’s okay.

In addition to his rocky relationship with Carrie, Will has a mammoth crush on Alicia (well, DUH) and is deeply jealous of creepy looking Jeffery. They don’t seem to want him around much probably because all this is so obvious, so Will wanders around town on his own. He doesn’t realise that he’s being followed by one of the kids and meanwhile, he is getting more and more disturbing media sent to the phone, including one of a decapitated head and lots of roaches.

Things go from bad to worse and Will still doesn’t call it in but he and Carrie find a clue to all this tunnel business. A photo of a book called “The Translation of Wounds”. When they call Garrett, an inhuman screech comes from the phone.

There are hallucinations a go go, yet more bug imagery including a roach for a hand and Will finally contacts the authorities. Although he does so with no evidence, having lost the phone and they can do bugger all. Will also tries to get off with Alicia (who reciprocates for a second or two), which pretty much ruins their friendship and Carrie seems to be newly under the influence of whatever the fuck this tunnel is.

Carrie has been doing what any good girlfriend would do: try to find out more about Garrett on the internet. Later Will receives a visit from “Garrett” to their home.

Reader, it’s a lot and I’m not sure I followed all any of it. I liked it well enough but it lost me.

My Comments

The ending is (semi)satisfying, horrible and weird af – and I think it went some way toward my enjoyment. Hammer, despite being above averagely handsome also has a little bit of the everyman going on here and I think that probably worked in his favour for this role. Will is a non-entity which is one of the accusations thrown at him by Carrie when she finally breaks up with him. She calls him empty and perhaps that’s the whole point.

Both Johnson and Beetz are kind of wasted here, they don’t really have much to do beyond being connected to whiney Will but I like seeing them both.

I don’t know, Wounds has an intriguing premise and some strong imagery but doesn’t quite bring it home. It might be a grower though. Some of the best things in life are.

Film details:

Starring: Armie Hammer, Zazie Beetz, Karl Glusman
Director: Babak Anvari
Year: 2019
IMDB Rating: 4.1/10
My Rating: 3/5

What does my wifey think of this one? Would she slice its face open in a bar brawl or let it go home unscathed? Most importantly is she satisfied by Arnie’s fate? Find out here.

Read my review of Under the Shadow here.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

This week’s pick is based on the classic novel of the same name by Shirley Jackson. Yet another unread book that lives on my shelf. Maybe I’ll make time for it now because I feel it will probably pad out a lot of the characterisation.

Still, this is the perfect kind of movie to enjoy under a blanket on a Sunday afternoon with lashings of tea and buttery toast.

Merricat, Constance and their Uncle Julian live in isolation after experiencing a family tragedy six years earlier. When cousin Charles arrives to steal the family fortune, he also threatens a dark secret they’ve been hiding.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

*Spoilers*

My Review

Merricat and Constance Blackwood live on the family estate with their ailing uncle Julian (Glover). Constance (Daddario) has been a shut-in for the last six years after being tried and acquitted of her parents’ murders. Merricat (Farmiga) walks down into the village only on Tuesdays to get the groceries and has to put up with all the abuse leveled at the Blackwood family by the locals.

Constance does have one friend outside the family, a girl called Helen who is trying to persuade her to return to society. Merricat is terrified of this happening and uses magic protection spells around the grounds to keep her sister safe. When she feels her sister bending to Helen’s will, she doubles down on the witchery. Good girl.

MC is must be said is 18 but much more childlike than her years. She’s intrigued by plant life and never smiles while her sister is practically a Stepford, baking pies in pretty dresses.

Things are thrown off kilter one Thursday when Merricat is sent into the village unexpectedly. She’s flustered at the break in routine, has no time to prepare her magic and on her return finds her protective articles have been unearthed. Worse, their cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) has come to stay.

Charles has his eye on Constance but more so the family fortune. So begins his charm offensive as he woos our lovely Constance, who is flattered by his attention and quickly falls for his promise of a happy life together.

Merricat fucking hates him though and refuses to speak to him properly. Behind the scenes Charles is a dick to Uncle Julian and tries to get MC is trouble for all the eccentric little things she does (such as burying expensive heirlooms in the garden). In retaliation, she messes with his shit and tells him to leave.

This cat and mouse game has to come to a head eventually and does when the pair have an almighty row at the dinner table. Charles drags Merricat from the room and up the stairs, threatening to beat her arse while “Connie” stands by and does nothing.

She’s saved by the accidental fire she’s set in Charles’ room though. In the ensuing kerfuffle, Julian dies of smoke inhalation and the house is ransacked by the villagers eager to watch it burn. The girls’ are about to be seriously attacked when they are rescued by Helen’s husband. For their own personal safety they spend the night together in the woods, only returning to the house in the morning.

As they survey the damage, dastardly Charles returns still keen on whisking Constance away. Will she go? Furthermore, what will become of the sisters and honestly, why is Meercat Merricat so protective and clingy towards big sis?

It seems there may be secrets in their past…

My Comments

I liked this story well enough. The movie looks great and I really appreciate the reveal at the end. It’s a bittersweet ending perhaps, in that the sisters can only really be free together in their crumbling home but it’s also feminist af.

Fuck you, Charles and your beautiful body and promises of trips to Europe, you could never sever sisterly ties. Maybe it’s not healthy but, oh well.

I drifted off a couple of times watching this but I loved Merricat’s personal brand of weirdness.

I don’t know how faithfully it sticks to the novel but I suspect probably quite well. Although this might not change my life, I am always going to be here for spooky old houses and dark family secrets.

Film details:

Starring: Taissa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario, Crispin Glover
Director: Stacie Passon
Year: 2019
IMDB Rating: 5.6/10
My Rating: 3.5/5

What does my soul sister Jill think of WHALITC? Would she leave it to fall down on its own or relax into its burnt down chic? You can read her decidely more nuanced review here.

The Cleaning Lady

*TW: Sexual abuse*

I don’t really know where to start. Our newest horror antagonist, Shelly is all at once kind of brilliant, awful and incredibly sympathetic, given her horrific personal history. In fact, both central characters are likeable and it really makes a difference. Twisted road movie sequel anyone?

What I can say for sure right now is that this film made me feel physically sick from the first scene and didn’t let up for its entire 90 minute run-time.

Yippee.

As a means to distract herself from an affair, a love-addicted woman befriends a cleaning lady, badly scarred by burns. She soon learns, these scars run much deeper than the surface.

The Cleaning Lady

*Spoilers*

My Review

Alice (Kendra) is having an affair with married man Michael, who won’t leave his wife for his son’s sake (YAWN). Promising big things to his lover is all well and good but Alice is trying to quit him with the help of her “Love Addict” support group.

When she meets badly scarred Shelly (Alig), who does maintenance in her building, Alice hires her to do a little on-the-side cleaning in her apartment. Through this the pair become friends, with beautician Alice offering to teach Shell how to apply make-up and dress prettier.

Shell is subdued to start but is open to the friendship, in fact she soon becomes besotted with lovely Alice. To the point she chloroforms her in her sleep and takes a rubber cast of her face. Honestly, who of us hasn’t been there before (either as the caster or the castee)?

Here it becomes very obvious the cleaning lady isn’t just a sweet loner but someone rather damaged (yah think?) and via the medium of flashback we learn why. It’s a humdinger and very hard to process. Meanwhile Shelly seems to be keeping a rather big secret locked up in an outhouse just outside town. I wonder if any of this is connected?

Alice is honest with her new pal about her love struggles but Shelly isn’t happy to learn her perfect friend isn’t quite so perfect after all. But she’s willing to help her change – which will require a certain amount of sacrifice on Alice’s part. It’s a bad day to be cheating worm, I’m guessing.

At the same time, Michael’s wife is beyond suspicious of his creeping around and starts following him which might be the worst idea she’s ever had.

What’s Shelly’s end game though and what does she want/need from Alice once she’s truly perfect?

My Comments

I came away from this with mixed feelings but actually it’s not bad. For a low budget horror, it’s pretty solid and the two main women are really good. I bought them both and honestly, I like that this film doesn’t frame Alice as a bitch, just because she’s having an affair. We’re allowed to like her, even understand her feelings and sympathise with her when she cocks up.

At one point Michael’s wife is on the phone to a girlfriend, swearing to kill the woman he’s been banging. Off screen, we hear the friend tell her to remember its not about the woman and that’s totally fair. Alice genuinely loves her boyfriend but also wants to move on. You can’t help feel for her.

Shelly, on the other hand, has been systemically abused by her evil mother from a young age and there’s no way to forgive that. She’s peddled out to paying clients while mum bakes cupcakes and enjoys not having to work at the local plant. Following an act of rebellion, Shelly gains the severe facial scars she now lives with. If only her trauma had ended there.

The only thing that really fucks this up is its ending, which could have done with just a little more something. It’s not a bad idea, it just feels tacked on and maybe could have done with ten more minutes to pad it out, which I never say.

I also would have liked just a little bit more examination of the beauty ideal because it felt the film was trying to say something there too. Shelly (almost) literally steals her new friend’s face and admires herself wearing it in the mirror but this is never really seen through, which is a shame.

Nevertheless, The Cleaning Lady is a grimy little indie banger that could have been better but could of been waaay worse.

Film details:

Starring: Alexis Kendra, Stelio Savante, Rachel Alig
Director: Jon Knautz
Year: 2018
IMDB Rating: 5.5/10
My Rating: 3.5/5

What does my love make of this one? Would she burn off its bits with acid or mop its floors without complaint? Find out here.

St. Agatha, or: It’s Nun of Your Business

You know what time it is over here on the ol’ Blog Collab, it hardly needs any more introduction. But still – welcome to Horror Month.

We’re starting with a much loved but not saturated enough subgenre: of the bad nun variety. There’s lots of religious iconography to feast on here, all reminiscent of my Roman Catholic school upbringing*. Suddenly Sister Ursula and her extra long metal ruler don’t seem so bad.

In the 1950s in small-town Georgia, a pregnant young woman named Agatha seeks refuge in a convent.

St. Agatha

*Spoilers*

My Review

Mary is a young girl accidentally knocked up by her musician boyfriend. She may be a wayward young filly but her priorities are in the right place: she’s saving up to rescue her little brother from their miserable home life. Dad is an abusive bastard and their mother is long gone.

Mary and boyf don’t make their living in the most honest ways but they need to get out fast, so fuck it. Alas tragedy strikes one day while they’re babysitting the brother and their plan of a happier future is scuppered forever. Step in a kindly nun with a professional business card, promising to look after her from here.

Never trust a nun with a business card, babe.

When Mary arrives at the nun run shelter, things seem cool for a hot minute but there are some very strange girls already in situ, including Paula, Doris and Sarah. The nuns aren’t exactly what you’d call fluffy types but they assure Mary she can leave anytime she likes. Hmm.


Quickly it becomes apparent that something isn’t right here (oh baby, baby) and the girls are more or less tortured by the sadistic nuns (duh). There are some incredibly gross moments that I can’t even mention without wanting to hurl. The nuns dose the girls up with weird medicines to keep their babies safe – because the babes are the most important thing – and they also forbid the girls to speak to each other. Not all the guests are preggo, some of them were and have lost their babies, or have stayed on at the shelter as staff members. Looking at you, creepy Paula.

Mary becomes increasingly rebellious when she learns she can’t just leave and this leads to punishments that supposedly match the crimes, such as an extended stay in a sealed coffin. Mary is stripped of her given name “because she doesn’t deserve it” and renamed Agatha by Mother Superior. And Sarah is horrifically punished for talking too much.

Meanwhile, Mary/Agatha uncovers the truth about the child Sarah supposedly ‘lost’ and also an even wider spread scam that the nuns are all in on. Which explains all the generous cash donations coming from the outside. But rather than get shirty about Agatha’s discover, Mother tries to recruit her into the game.

What’s a girl with limited options to do?

My Comments

Well this film feels overlong but it’s not too bad. As I type this, I realise I’ve already forgotten the ending but there are some quite interesting moments of horror: e.g. death by umbilical cord further compounding the close relationship between new life and death.

The ‘tongue’ scene is naaaaaasty but there are worse, in particular the scene I won’t name and really anything vaguely churchy is already creepy by default, isn’t it?

I do find the motivation of the nuns quite flimsy, it’s a lot to be doing for a bit of money to keep a poxy shelter running but okay. Although I did find it quite delicious how quickly all the nuns turned on each other?

Loyalty? No, nun.

There are worse ways to start Horror Month to be honest than in the company of Mother Superior and her girl gang.

Film details:

Starring: Sabrina Kern, Carolyn Hennesy, Courtney Halverson
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Year: 2018
IMDB Rating: 5.2/10
My Rating: 3/5

What does my holy angel think of St. Agatha? Would she adopt it out to the highest bidder or cut it in on the deal? Find out here.

*I’m not Catholic, I was one of the charity cases taken in by the school, relax.

Coffy

You know I think this might be our first Blaxploitation movie for the Collab? Which is quite surprising really. Maybe Jill will correct me but for now I just want to sit with that. I’ve been meaning to check some out for a long time and now I’ve finally seen Miss Grier in action, maybe I bloody will.

Also, the world sadly lost Sid Haig this week and he appears as a very young, very nasty henchman in this week’s pick, coincidence?

A black nurse takes vigilante justice against inner-city drug dealers after her sister becomes their latest victim.

Coffy

She’s the ‘GODMOTHER’ of them all.

*Spoilers*

My Review

Uh. This film is a lot. In a good way and a bad way but maybe that’s just because by the very nature of this sub-genre, it was not designed with a middle-aged white woman in mind. What I mean is I found some of the imagery and language quite uncomfortable but I’ll go into that in a bit.

Coffy (Grier) is a nurse with the goth AF surname ‘Coffin’ but goes as Coffy because I guess it’s just nicer. She’s a nurse in a busy hospital by day (also night) and a vigilante justice seeker by night (probably not day). Her main MO is to get revenge on the bastards that got her little sister Lulubelle hooked on smack but also, she wants to clean up the streets which are full of corruption. Not only at the hands of the criminals but the police too, the rat bastards.

Coffy moonlights as a junkie in search of her next fix to gain access to a well-known dealer. At his home, she blows off his head and forces his associate to take a legal overdose. When he asks her why, Coffy mentions her sister’s name and her ‘victim’ admits he can’t even remember her. Ohnoyoufuckingdidn’t.

Meanwhile, Coff hangs out a bit with her buddy Carter, a police officer who is vehemently against police corruption. She moans about the state of the community and he agrees with her. Despite this, she’s not convinced he’s as blameless as he says he is until she witnesses him being beaten half to death by some thugs in his apartment. She also gets a slap down (and is sexually assaulted but nobody ever mentions it again. Mmmm).

Carter is badly hurt and left severely brain damaged so our girl does what all good undercover heroes do: she adds him to her ‘To Be Avenged’ list and goes on her merry way. Coffy also has a boyfriend – Howard Brunswick – a local councilman who’s just decided to run for congressman. She digs him for his work in the community and wholeheartedly supports his politics.

Pam, sorry Coffy next sets her sights on super pimp King George and manages to get a gig as one of his tricks by pretending to be a Jamaican prostitute called Mystique. This causes ructions between the other ‘hos’ as George drops them like hot potatoes when Mystique rocks up.

And, well from here there are high jinks to be had, cat fights, horrible misogyny, murder, overuse of the word ‘bitch’ and justice, in no particular order.

Will Coffy do what she came to do – that is, get revenge on behalf of Lulubelle and Carter? Is Howard Brunswick the good guy he claims to be ? Watch if you like your tongue-lashings sharp and delicious, and your arse whoopings bloody and straight to the point.

My Comments

“What first attracted you this film, Christa?”.

“Well, Pam Grier did, Your Honor and as one of the first female action heroes no less.”

While this film is very exploitative of the female form – all women are whores or bitches, boobs pop out of skimpy tops regularly and are there to be squeezed like ripe grapefruit – Pam is a vision as ballsy Coffy, hell-bent on serving streaming hot mugs of justice to criminals – her way. The woman is resourceful – using her sexuality like a weapon to get where she needs to go – and fearless in ways you can’t even imagine.

I think I might have enjoyed this one a little bit more however, had Coffy had more female support (or offered more) but as it is, vigilante work seems to be a very isolated business. The only interactions Coff has with anyone female, besides her sister are very rocky. I guess this would be the case if you were digging around in the underbelly of the city where everyone’s just trying to survive but still. Girl power, anyone?

How good would it be if she could actually help some of these women build more meaningful lives down the line? I like to think that just after the credits rolled, that’s exactly what she did.

On the topic of strong imagery, there a horrible scene in which King George finally gets what’s coming to him and it’s the way in which he’s tortured and killed that I found haunting (he’s hung from a noose and dragged through a field for miles until dead). It’s an unflinching death and maybe there’s a point to be made in there somewhere, who knows?

I strangely got accustomed to hearing the ‘B’ word but found myself flinching at the overtly racist slurs used towards Coffy and any of the black characters by anyone not black. Which is how I should feel, I know. And call me crazy but I will never tire of hearing Pam Grier refer to everyone as ‘Motherfucker’. I can see now where Samuel L. got the inspiration for his trademark tagline.

There are many things that could be said about this movie and I think I’ll enjoy reading more about the feminist viewpoint of Pam’s grindhouse movies. I liked Grier’s powerhouse performance and can’t look away from her when she’s onscreen, so it’s not hard to understand why she’s the Queen of Blaxploitation.

I need more. STAT.

Film details:

Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw, Robert DoQui
Director: Jack Hill
Year: 1973
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
My Rating: 3/5

What does my vigilante angel think of Coffy’s world? Would she join forces immediately, or run for the hills? Find out here.

Ladies in Black

Adapted from the bestselling novel by Madeleine St John, Ladies in Black is an alluring and tender-hearted comedy drama about the lives of a group of department store employees in 1959 Sydney.

Ladies in Black

Sydney, 1959. A time of change, and opportunity.

*Spoilers*

My Review

Centering around a Sydney department store in the late 50’s, Ladies in Black follows the lives of a handful of employees as they deal with marriage issues, further education and matters of the heart.

Lesley (or Lisa as she prefers to be known) is hired as a temporary sales assistant at Goode’s over the Christmas period. A smart cookie, she has aspirations of smashing her exams and getting a scholarship to her chosen university. She and her mum just have to be careful around her father who can be difficult, and is certainly not your most open-minded of blokes. In fact, he just can’t get his head around why a woman would need advanced education at all.

Lisa (Rice) quickly makes friends with Fay (who’s a little narrow-minded herself), Patty (Alison McGirr) and Slovenian Magda (Ormond), who owns a little designer boutique within the store. Lisa falls in love with the beautiful gowns Magda peddles, in particular a dress that nobody seems to want to buy. Increasingly marked down in price, Lisa is waiting for the day she can actually stretch to it herself.

Patty struggles to get her husband to pay attention to her so one day buys a sexy pink nightgown to seduce him, which goes down exceedingly well. So well, in fact that he freaks out and leaves her for the season, without a word. Meanwhile, Magda takes Lisa under her stylish wing and introduces her to all her continental pals.

One of those pals is Rudi, a Hungarian immigrant looking for an Australian wife. Initially he asks Magda if she knows anybody, which she says she doesn’t but Lisa suggests Fay (Taylor) might be the perfect fit. So Fay finds herself romanced by the handsome Hungarian with the intense life stories.

Lisa of course does better than anyone imagined in her final exams and easily gets into Sydney University, though Dad is still on the fence about granting his permission. Encouraged by Lisa’s new European friends, her mother starts introducing more exotic fare into her husband’s diet and it seems to be broadening the man’s mind. When Lisa’s family finally meet Magda, Lisa’s dad and Magda’s husband get on like a house on fire.

Patty’s husband finally comes home and Rudi pops a serious question to Fay, who was once rather snooty about immigrants. What’s her opinion now, I wonder?

And what about Lisa’s dream dress? Is it meant to be for the pair of them?

My Comments

This is a nice film with good performances and a lovely vintage aesthetic. I won’t think of it again though, it just didn’t have the oomph I hoped for. I really enjoyed Lisa’s segment. She fully believes in her own potential and bloody goes for it, despite her father’s lack of understanding. The final scene, in which she celebrates her success and ponders what she’ll become one day – actress, poet, author or all three – is lovely.

But the rest of it is all quite meh. Fay gets engaged and immediately hands in her notice at the store because I guess women in the 50’s didn’t work and plan weddings/be wives. Which is sad. The tagline promises new opportunities and yes, it’s cute that she loves her fiance but there’s more to life than just the endgame of marriage, isn’t there? Though I guess true feminism is about choice and she makes hers.

As for Patty’s husband’s reason for skipping town, well that just seems ridiculous to me – honestly, it makes zero sense. He has a meltdown because they had passionate sex one night? I honestly thought they were leading up to him being gay so the big reveal was a bit confusing.

The stand out is definitely Julia Ormond as Magda but even she doesn’t get my pulse racing in this pretty wholesome, not-bad-for-a-Sunday-afternoon-with-a-cuppa-drama. Maybe I’m just broken on account of all the twisted shit I prefer to watch on the regs?

Film details:

Starring: Julia Ormond, Angourie Rice, Rachael Taylor
Director: Bruce Beresford
Year: 2018
IMDB Rating: 6.7/10
My Rating: 3/5

What does my lady in black think of this one? Would she ban it from attending university because it’s a woman or buy it a little apartment of its own? Read Jill’s much more considered review here.