Leading Ladies (2021)

Leading Ladies
Director: Ruth Caudeli
Cast: Diana Wiswell, Silvia Varón, Ana María Cuellar, Marcela Robledo, Ana María Otálora
Part of: Transition Film Festival
Seen on: 10.6.2021

Plot:
Five friends are coming together for dinner – Ana (Ana María Otálora) and Diana (Diana Wiswell) are hosting Silvia (Silvia Varón), Ana María (Ana María Cuellar) and Marce (Marcela Robledo). It’s the first time they are coming together in a while – after Marce abruptly left for two months to travel Europe. But as the evening gets underway, tensions and secrets start to appear.

Leading Ladies is a largely improvised film that starts off interesting enough, but then becomes ever more confusing and falls apart bit by bit.

The film poster showing the faces of the five women next to each other, but separated by stripes in yellow and green.
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Gaby Baby Doll (2014)

Gaby Baby Doll
Director: Sophie Letourneur
Writer: Sophie Letourneur, Anne-Louise Trividic
Cast: Lolita Chammah, Benjamin Biolay, Félix Moati
Seen on: 29.5.2021

Content Note: attempted rape

Plot:
Gaby (Lolita Chammah) just moved into a big country house to get some rest. She is anxious, afraid of everything and can’t sleep alone. That’s why her boyfriend Vincent (Félix Moati) is supposed to stay with her. But Vincent feels used by Gabby, more like her handler than her boyfriend and soon takes off. Gaby desperately looks for anybody to stay with her overnight and finally latches herself onto Nico (Benjamin Biolay) who lives like a hermit in the garden shack of a grand estate nearby. Nico just wants to be alone, but despite himself, Gaby gets to him.

I have to admit that I struggled with Gaby Baby Doll, especially with Gaby. While I’m usually here for the portrayal of difficult women, the way she constantly blazed past any boundary really didn’t work for me. Especially since the story proved her right in the end.

The film poster showing Nico (Benjamin Biolay), Gaby (Lolita Chammah) and Nico's Dog sitting in the grass in the sun.
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Post Grad (2009)

Post Grad
Director: Vicky Jenson
Writer: Kelly Fremon Craig
Cast: Alexis Bledel, Zach Gilford, Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch, Bobby Coleman, Carol Burnett, Rodrigo Santoro, Catherine Reitman, Mary Anne McGarry, J.K. Simmons, Craig Robinson, Fred Armisen
Seen on: 28.5.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Ryden (Alexis Bledel) is just about to graduate and she knows exactly how things are going to go from there. She will get her dream job at a big publishing house and live in an awesome apartment. She has both lined up already. Her best friend Adam (Zach Gilford) is less sure about what to do, but he knows that he would like to romance Ryden, but she is not interested. But after Ryden does not get the job, and she has to move back home with her eccentric family (Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch, Bobby Coleman, Carol Burnett), she needs to rethink her life entirely. Maybe with the help of her hot neighbor David (Rodrigo Santoro)?

Post Grad is not a great film, but it is cute and funny and light. There’s really nothing weighing it down, not even particular emotional depth. If you want to just float through 90 minutes, it’s the film you should choose.

The film poster showing Ryden (Alexis Bledel) wearing a graduation cap askew, looking worried.
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Quebramar [Breakwater] (2019)

Quebramar
Director: Cris Lyra
Writer: Camila Gaglianone, Yakini Kalid, Lana Lopes, Raíssa Lopes, Cris Lyra, Nã Maranhão, Elis Menezes
Seen on: 24.5.2021

“Plot”:
A group of young lesbians go to spend some time at the beach and to celebrate the New Year.

Quebramar doesn’t so much tell a story than show a slice of queer utopia – but in a realistic way. In the casual intimacy between these women, their openness and vulnerability with each other and the sense of community they share, the troubles they do talk about seem far away. They have carved out a space for themselves. It’s a good space – and they are willing to share it with the audience. So, relax and take half an hour to enjoy their company.

The film poster showing a painting of bodies in different shades of skin color. it's watercolors and so abstracted, it's almost unrecognizable. The bodies are just along the edge of the image, in the center is a blank space.

Persepolis (2007)

Persepolis
Director: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
Writer: Vincent Paronnaud
Based on: Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical comic
Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle Lopes Benites, François Jerosme, Tilly Mandelbrot
Seen on: 24.5.2021

Plot:
Marji (Gabrielle Lopes Benites) is precocious and rather wild girl. She grows up with her parents (Catherine Deneuve, Simon Abkarian) and her grandmother (Danielle Darrieux) in Tehran. Her family is political – a fact that has gotten her uncle Anoush (François Jerosme) into prison already. With the Islamic Revolution, things become even more difficult for them. Finally her parents decide to send Marji – now a teenager and called Marjane (Chiara Mastroianni) – to Austria for her own safety. But being an Iranian girl in Austria isn’t much easier than being one in Iran.

Persepolis has been on my radar for a while now, and I’m not sure why I never watched it until now (probably a case of me wanting to read the comic this is based on first, but I never did). Anyhow, I watched it now and it really was very good.

The film poster showing Marjane, her chin in her hand. Behind her is a bubble that shows her family - mother, father, uncle and grandmother standing around a sofa on which she sits as a child.
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Kiss Me Before It Blows Up (2020)

Kiss Me Before It Blows Up
Director: Shirel Peleg
Writer: Shirel Peleg
Cast: Moran Rosenblatt, Luise Wolfram, Rivka Michaeli, Juliane Köhler, Bernhard Schütz, Irit Kaplan, Salim Dau, Eyal Shikratzi, Aviv Pinkas, John Carroll Lynch
Seen on: 23.5.2021

Plot:
Shira (Moran Rosenblatt) is just about to move in with her girlfriend Maria (Luise Wolfram). Shira having long been out and proud, her family doesn’t have an issue with Maria being a woman, but they struggle much more with the facts that a) Maria is not Jewish and b) she is German. Especially Shira’s revered grandmother Berta (Rivka Michaeli) doesn’t handle the news very well – much to Shira’s surprise because she was sure that Berta would understand as she is in love with a Palestinian man, Ibrahim (Salim Dau), herself. When Maria’s parents announce a visit, the chaos becomes even bigger.

More often than not, culture clash comedies are more cringeworthy than anything else, a regurgitation of stereotypes instead of their subversion. I found Kiss Me Before it Blows Up (unfortunately named Kiss Me Kosher in German) a welcome change from that. Now it might be that I saw it with rose-tinted glasses because it was the first cinema visit for me since November 1, 2020 (202 days without cinema, I cry), but I thought it was entertaining and very well observed.

The film poster showing Shira (Maron Rosenblatt) and Maria (Luise Wolfram) sitting on a couch, Maria's legs across Shira's lap and Shira stroking Maria's hair.
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Nothing Personal (2009)

Nothing Personal
Director: Urszula Antoniak
Writer: Urszula Antoniak
Cast: Lotte Verbeek, Stephen Rea
Seen on: 18.5.2021

Plot:
A young woman (Lotte Verbeek) is traveling alone through Ireland. She just separated from her partner in Amsterdam, and has no interest in connecting with the people in Ireland. She just wants to keep moving. When she stumbles upon a lonely, very remote house, she wants to stay. The house’s owner, Martin (Stephen Rea), offers her food if she works with him in his garden, which she accepts – under the condition that they will exchange no personal information.

Nothing Personal is a minimalist film that is all about living in the present, but with none of the exhilaration that usually comes with that sentiment. It’s a thoughtful film that unfolds as much after you watched it as during.

The film poster showing Anne (Lotte Verbeek) spooning Martin (Stephen Rea). She is naked, he is covered completely by a white sheet.
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It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010)

It’s Kind of a Funny Story
Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Writer: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Based on: Ned Vizzini‘s novel
Cast: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Dana DeVestern, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Aasif Mandvi, Zoë Kravitz, Thomas Mann, Viola Davis, Bernard White
Seen on: 16.5.2021

Content Note: (attempted) suicide, suicidal ideation

Plot:
Craig (Keir Gilchrist) has been thinking about suicide a lot. So much so that he has scared himself into getting committed. To his horror he realizes that the psychiatric ward for teens is closed at the moment, though, and he finds himself in the adult station. There the charismatic Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) takes him under his wing as Craig tries to figure out whether he actually belongs in the hospital, and what he feels for fellow patient Noelle (Emma Roberts).

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is a rather realistic look at what a psychiatric ward looks like, with a problematic take on mental health regardless and a slightly too sweet ending that doesn’t fit the setting of the film.

The film poster showing close-ups of Craig (Keir Gilchrist), Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) and Noelle (Emma Roberts) above an image of Craig and Noelle hugging on the hospital roof.
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Re-Watch: But I’m a Cheerleader (1999)

But I’m a Cheerleader
Director: Jamie Babbit
Writer: Brian Peterson
Cast: Natasha Lyonne, Clea DuVall, Melanie Lynskey, Katrina Phillips, Katharine Towne, Joel Michaely, Douglas Spain, Dante Basco, Kip Pardue, Cathy Moriarty, Bud Cort, Mink Stole, RuPaul, Eddie Cibrian, Michelle Williams, Wesley Mann, Richard Moll, Julie Delpy
Seen on: 16.5.2021
[Here’s my first review.]

Content Note: (critical treatment of) homomisia, conversion therapy

Plot:
Megan (Natasha Lyonne) comes from a good Christian household, is a cheerleader, has a boyfriend. That’s why she is completely blindsided when her parents (Bud Cort, Mink Stole) suddenly cart her off to True Direction, a “rehabilitation facility” for turning homosexuals into heterosexuals. There Megan undergoes rigorous training together with other kids in the same position. But what happens when you put five lesbians into a room? Well, sparks fly – and so Megan finds herself drawn to Graham (Clea DuVall).

When I watched But I’m a Cheerleader for the first time, I hadn’t realized yet that I was into women myself, and let me tell you, the film hits differently when you know you’re queer. I definitely liked it more now than I did back then (though I did like it then, too). In fact, I adored it.

The film poster showing Megan (Natasha Lyonne) in a pink ball gown, holding a cheerleading pompom.
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Lost Girls (2020)

Lost Girls
Director: Liz Garbus
Writer: Michael Werwie
Based on: Robert Kolker‘s book
Cast: Amy Ryan, Thomasin McKenzie, Gabriel Byrne, Lola Kirke, Oona Laurence, Dean Winters, Molly Brown, Miriam Shor, Ana Reeder, Grace Capeless, Reed Birney, Kevin Corrigan
Seen on: 13.5.2021

Content Note: whoremisia

Plot:
Mari (Amy Ryan) is waiting at home with her two daughters Sherre (Thomasin McKenzie) and Sarra (Oona Laurence) for her oldest daughter Shannan to arrive. But she never comes. When she doesn’t here from Shannan for a few days, Mari tries to activate the police to search for her. But the officer (Dean Winters) shows little interest in the disappearance of a sex worker, despite the fact that they have a frantic 911 call from Shannan on record. But when they find four bodies close to the gated community where Shannan was last seen, things gather a little more momentum and Mari does everything she can to make sure that there actually is an investigation.

Lost Girls is based on a real case of a serial killer that hasn’t been solved yet (they make sure at the beginning that you know the case is unsolved). It’s usually not my kind of film, but I found myself in the mood for it. And it’s okay, but it didn’t surprise me that I didn’t really love it.

The film poster showing a close-up of Mari (Amy Ryan) and below her a car driving behind a girl running along a street in the dark.
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