WOMEN going through existenial crises is the theme of two films opening in U.S. theaters today.
In Lynn Shelton's romantic comedy, “Laggies,” Megan (a well-cast Keira Knightley) is 28 and has not much to show for it since she graduated high school. Reality dawns as she prepares to attend her 11-year high school reunion.
Lest mediocrity clump down and swallow her whole, she takes some drastic measures and is aided and abetted by 16-year-old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz, also well-cast) who, after all, owes her elder. (See video below).
The ensuing fallout is delightful and amusing, if not always satisfying. Yet an unapologetic chick flick.
A chick flick of a wholly different temperament is “White Bird in a Blizzard.” It is based on the novel of the same name by Laura Kasischke.
Sensitively directed by Gregg Araki and his biggest film to date, it is engaging but also fails to satisfy as one wants. A good deal of discontent with this thriller may be derived from a somewhat convoluted plot.
At its center are mother and daughter, Eve (Eva Green) and Kat (Shailene Woodley). Both are trying to find their way in an increasingly obtuse world. One doesn't succeed, and there is hope for the other in a tale where issues related to abandonment and lost youth drive the plot. (See video below).
On a side note, it is difficult to ignore in “White Bird in a Blizzard” the presence of two high-profile black actresses and speculate about what these supporting roles suggest about their respective career trajectories.
Gabourey Sidibe has in Beth a vibrant character as Kat's best friend. The young actress seems to be thriving since her rise in “Precious.” On the otherhand, Angela Bassett in a role far beneath her considerable talent as the youngster's therapist, Dr. Thaler, has been struggling to find her footing since her splash in “What's Love Got to Do With It.”
Meanwhile, the most interesting aspect of both films, which both had their world premiere earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, their shortcomings, notwithstanding. Indeed, where they most succeed is in permitting women to be less than paragons.
To dare not be salt of the earth. To be flawed, a slacker. To unburden themselves of the shackles of nurturer and dutiful. To be woefully imperfect, damn it!
Too often in film and TV when women are floundering, they are victims whose circumstances are caused by some man. He beat her. He sexually harassed her. He cheated on her. The louse left her for a younger and/or hotter woman.
Conversely, the women in “Laggies” and “White Bird in a Blizzard” have men who love them, perhaps too much. These females are the bad guy, if you will.
In these films, as in two popular but very different treatments of the female in full free fall, set in Brooklyn, incidentally – CBS' “Two Broke Girls” and HBO's “Girls, the protagonists are negotiating life's vicissitudes at the instigation of other catalysts.
It is refreshing, emancipating and wonderful to witness this oft-neglected aspect of the female experience.
“Laggies” is rated R for language, some sexual material and teen partying; visit http://www.laggiesthemovie.tumblr.com/ to learn more about the film.
“White Bird in a Blizzard” is rated R for sexual content/nudity, language and some drug use; visit http://www.magpictures.com/whitebirdinablizzard/ to learn more about the film.