Romance, Homogenized: Crazy Rich Asians And Cutlure in Rom-Coms

By Arrisa Robinson

As I reflect on “Crazy Rich Asians,” (which is FINALLY out in theaters), I can only think of the vast differences between family dynamics in this film versus what we typically see in most romantic comedies. But as I begin thinking more and more about these differences, it occurred to me: does race have that much of an impact on the type of families represented in these films?

Well let’s look into it! For starters, I sat down and binged-watched a bunch of rom-coms on Netflix, starting with “13 Going On 30.” Main character Jenna Rink (Jennifer Garner) had a small family that consisted of a mom, a dad, and herself. Then I moved on to “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.” Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) and Ben Berry (Matthew McConaughey) both came from small households. Andie’s family was barely mentioned, but Ben’s family was made up of a mom, dad, uncle, brother, sister-in-laws, and a couple nieces and nephews. They were standardly nuclear for the most part.

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But then I pulled up some of my favorite rom-coms, which consisted of casts who were primarily non-white. I saw mom, dad, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, every unnecessary in-law, exes, frenemies, and everything in between. The predominantly black cast of “Guess Who” includes extended family members and friends. Even in “Our Family Wedding,” which features an extensive black and Latino cast, the various players combine to create one gigantic, chaotic family by the end.

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But an even bigger epiphany came to mind: where’s the culture? This doesn’t even go for films that involve people of color. As I thought about what these movies had in common, I recognized this lack of culture in a lot of big romantic comedies. Sure, we as Americans have a certain stigma about ourselves but-sorry, not sorry-we’re more than that. We’re comprised of Africans, Chinese, Indians, Irish, Indonesians, Greeks, Pakistanis, Australians and so many more! And they all have their specific values and traditions. Even in films such as “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” or “Polish Wedding,” their family units stand out because of what is culturally acceptable and what we all have in common. It's customary to have an overbearing mother or aunt who cares about who’s marrying who, a host of cousins who intrude on every aspect of your life, or that one aunt and uncle who take their nieces or nephews under their wing like they were their own.

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Ultimately, I realized that Hollywood didn’t fail at having more families in its romantic comedies. What Hollywood has failed to do was have more culture. Americans are composed of a staggering amount of races and ethnicities, and it ought to be fair to represent them rather than homogenize them on the big screen. So seeing a film out like “Crazy Rich Asians” openly express how Asian-American culture is represented makes a hell of a difference in Hollywood and in our society. There hasn’t been a primarily Asian cast in theaters since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club” 25 years ago. So if you were wondering why everyone is emphasizing why representation matters, just remember...25 years. That’s why.

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Sure, romantic comedies are supposed to be light and cheery, and by all means, they should continue to be. But here in the great US of A, white people are not the only people in this country. America consists of different shades, cultures, traditions, and values, and they should all be represented and accounted for. Making it to Hollywood is one thing, but Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Awkwafina, America Ferrera, Lance Gross, Zoe Saldana, Lena Olin, and Nia Vardalos all represent the diversity that make America America. Hollywood embracing that is just another step towards getting acquainted with our neighbors, and we have plenty of them. I hope to see more films with more people of color, races, ethnicities, sexualities and genders coming to theaters soon. Because it definitely matters.

52 Films By Women: Love & Basketball

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While watching “Love & Basketball,” I wondered why almost no other media I'd every seen managed to take women's basketball seriously. Even that bastion of liberalism, SNL, can't manage to do that. It shouldn't be that hard, and writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood doesn't so much make it look easy as just decide to do it. She's also one of the few directors in this column who went on to make more films, such as “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Beyond the Lights.” “Love & Basketball” was her first film, and it has themes that Prince-Bythewood would continue throughout her career: emphasizing a female perspective while also treating the male characters as human rather than fantasy objects. But “Love & Basketball” gives us far more gender commentary, both the overt and quiet kind.

The movie is actually a love story, not just between its central characters Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and Quincy (Omar Epps), but also the game they adore. Like that game, the movie is likewise divided into four quarers. They meet when they're 11, when Monica and her family move next door. Quincy's father Zeke (Dennis Haysbert) plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, and Quincy dreams of playing for them too and wearing his father's number. Monica is a tomboyish girl with undeniable talent who wants to become the first woman in the NBA. Their first meeting contains many of the same patterns that will recur over the course of roughly the next decade of their lives.

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The first quarter sees Monica first approaching Quincy and his friends as they're playing basketball. They initially mistake her for a boy, as she's dressed in a T-shirt, jeans, and a Lakers cap in what seems like a direct opposition to Quincy's Clippers Jersey. The boys laugh when her gender is revealed, but they're silenced once Monica starts playing and quickly proves her talent. The game abruptly ends with Quincy knocking Monica down, giving her a permanent scar. He's immediately remorseful, and the two make up, even agreeing to be boyfriend and girlfriend. This lasts all of two minutes, as the two start fighting again almost immediately after Monica refuses to give up her bike to ride around on Quincy's.

Flash forward to the second quarter, when Quincy and Monica are nearing the end of their high school years. Their relationship has followed the pattern established in the first, and the surprise lies in how it unfolds, and how natural it feels, for better and worse. They both clearly still love the game, and each other, and they still bicker even as they are drawn together. Both are the stars of their respective teams, although Monica's aggressive style holds her back, while Quincy is rewarded for his. Despite their often tense rapport, Monica is still the one Quincy turns to as his parents' marriage becomes more tense. They finally end up getting together after ditching their respective dates at a school dance, with a love scene that feels both romantic and realistic. It's clearly Monica's first time, and the scene emphasizes her vulnerability. Not many sex scenes make a point of showing a condom, but “Love & Basketball” not only does this, it pauses the action for a few moments to allow Quincy to put it on.

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In most films, the conflict would generally arise right after this, but then the third quarter picks up when they're both at the same college playing for their respective teams. Much like in high school, Quincy is the star, with Monica struggling to adjust her tactics and the coach giving her harsh words for her playing style. She puts in the work, while Quincy succeeds with little conflict. This changes as Monica finally gets more playing time just as Quincy starts to experience his own struggles. He's trying to decide whether to drop out of college and go pro against his father's objections. His family is also falling apart as Zeke's various infidelities have been discovered by both his mother and the media, and Monica becomes more absent due to the demands of the team. In response, Quincy lashes out in various ways, then finally breaking up with her, leaving Monica devastated.

The fourth quarter picks up a few years later. Quincy plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, while Monica's only chances for success at the sport lie overseas, since it's a few years before the founding of the WNBA. She's found professional success in Barcelona, but she's also lonely and isolated in a foreign culture away from family and friends, and years before the Internet made long distance communication a lot easier. But she returns when she hears that Quincy injured his ACL, which has the potential to end his basketball career. When they meet again, Monica is shocked to also discover that Quincy now has a fiancée (Tyra Banks), and less surprisingly, that she still has feelings for him. Her feelings for basketball are less passionate, and Monica decides to finally stop playing, return home and work at a regular job. Quincy reacts in disbelief, but soon even he finds that he's becoming less passionate about the game, even though he's recovered from his injury.

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We know these two are going to realize they belong together, but surprisingly it's Monica who decides to make the romantic gesture and challenge him to one last game. If she wins, it's because Quincy is having doubts about his upcoming marriage and let her win so they could be together. If she loses, then he gets married and she buys him a wedding present. They play, right out where they first met, and Quincy does end up beating Monica, only to choose her by saying, “Double or nothing.” We then get one of the best feel-good endings ever, where Monica is a WNBA player, with her husband Quincy and her toddler daughter cheering her on from the sidelines.

“Love & Basketball” is somewhat problematic in that it seems to agree with Quincy and blame Monica for their breakup, but otherwise it's a fascinating exploration of the politics of gender, love, and female athletes. A large part of the duo's coming-of-age is how their parents affect their choices to conform or not. Quincy becomes estranged from his father Zeke not only after he is unfaithful to his mother, but after he lies right to Quincy's face about it. Monica's relationship with her mother Camille (Alfre Woodard) is far more rocky throughout the film for more complicated reasons. Camille is a homemaker, and Monica notices how she allows her father to constantly take her for granted. Monica's sister is more supportive, but Camille never takes her daughter's dreams of basketball stardom seriously, constantly pressuring her to give it up and “act like a lady.” After they finally confront each other about their mutual perceived disrespect, Camille does quietly encourages her to fight, if only for Quincy, rather than basketball.

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Nevertheless, Prince-Bythewood never loses sight of how Monica has to constantly struggle to do what she loves. When Monica plays a pivotal game in high school that leads to her being recruited by the college of her choice, we get a POV shot of the game from her perspective, and a voiceover about her strategy, something we never experience when Quincy plays. Monica is the one who must fight, not only to improve, but to be taken seriously as an athlete, and to stay in a game which isn't interested in giving female athletes nearly the same prestige and opportunities as the men. Female-led sports movies are rare, with “Bring It On,” “Girlfight,” “Million Dollar Baby” “A League of Their Own,” and “Bend It Like Beckham” being among the most well-known. The reason the WNBA gets so much ridicule is not only because it represents an aggressive sport played by women, but because it is one of the most visible and prestigious organizations for female atheletes, and thus the most threatening to our ideas of what women should be and how they should act. When Prince-Bythewood first began writing, it didn't exist, and when it did, it actually changed the ending, allowing Monica to achieve her feminist dream on-screen of having it all.

“It’s interesting that [having it all] is considered a feminist mantra, but for me, it was just natural, and it definitely had to do with growing up in sports and what that teaches you: to fight for what you want, to leave it all on the floor, that aggression is good,” Prince-Bythewood said in the oral history of the film. “That’s just what I’ve embodied, and it’s natural for me to want the marriage, and the career and the kids. It’s natural for me, it’s normal for me, and that’s what I wanted to do: to make it normal. It’s frightening that even today we’re having the same conversations and it makes no sense. If the work that I put out in the world can counter that mentality, let me be out there contradicting that, because it’s bullshit.”

Film Girl Festival Interviews Tia Richardson

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Tia Richardson is a major force in the Milwaukee arts scene, having become especially known for her murals, which emphasize community. In some cases, she even gets that community to help her create, as was the case with her Sherman Park mural. 

After Sherman Park experienced a surge of violence and rioting, Richardson  recruited residents of Sherman Park to help her design and paint a mural in the area. With each project, Richardson emphasizes connection and healing.

"Part of why I get so emotional is just because when we realize the level of the lack of connection that we have with each other that's the cause of so much depression, loneliness, isolation, mistrust, that feeds into substance abuse, that feeds into a lot of the generational, societal issues that we see," Richardson said. "A lot of the systemic issues that we see were created by people who have something going on with them that is caused by, in some way, their own level of suffering and trauma."

Festival intern Arrisa Robin sat down to chat with Richardson about Milwaukee and what inspires her. Listen to the full series of interviews below.

The One Where Donald Glover Forgets Black Women. Again.

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By Jaylin Mitchell

Childish Gambino, also known as Donald Glover, recently released a video for his new single “This is America.” The song revealed many hideous truths about America and the part black people often play in it. It featured a variety of symbolism and themes such as (but not limited to): gun control, minstrel shows, police brutality, protests, capitalism, marijuana, and the death and birth of a corrupt nation. But even with the dizzying array of issues Glover managed to include, I was still left longing for something: myself. Watching all of this, you'd think Black femmes were completely absent from even the correctives to history.

On Black Twitter, there were many fans who disagree with not only Gambino's direction, but the exposure and praise he received from it.

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Black femmes have especially been giving Glover's work some mixed reviews; the community hasn't forgotten the ugly misogyny in his past where he ridiculed the women of his own race. We are tired of being misrepresented and underappreciated in media, even in media meant for black audiences.  

Some of Glover’s other projects also exclude softer images of women and femmes. His hit Golden Globe-winning TV show “Atlanta” also features a lack of female writers and directors. With 21 episodes aired, only three of were written by a woman, and they were all by the same writer, Stefani Robinson. Only two episodes were directed by women.

In the season 2 episode “Helen,” the writers touched upon the box Van (Zazie Beetz) is placed in by Gambino’s character Earn. Van talks about how people only see her as Earn's girlfriend or their child’s mother. After she makes this statement, there is no follow up to this observation. Instead, we see her character lose in so many ways. Later in the series, we follow her and her group of Black femme friends to a party in the episode “Champagne Papi.” The Black women in this episode are on a quest to meet Drake at his mansion party, and they are represented with no other goal in mind. This image of wanting Instagram fame and wealth amongst Black femmes is a common theme Donald resorts to time and time again. He gives no depth to female characters and only places them in self-centered situations. Where are the images of Black femmes who have aspirations like their black male counterparts on the show?

Women writers and directors in this series are mostly only assigned to female-leading episodes. Does Donald do this to help or hinder the female characters by putting only feminine perspectives into their storyline? Why can’t any of the women writers or directors share their insight on the male characters?

Donald Glover has addressed these concerns in the past, most famously in 2013 in a note he posted on Instagram.

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Even though this was written near the start of his solo music career, he still brought his insecurities to the surface. The floating assumptions about his misogyny and inner hatred for his own race has always surrounded him. “This is America” has only brought back unaddressed issues. Some have not forgotten Gambino still shows what internalized racism and misogyny can do to a person when it is avoided.

At one one of the last moments of the video we see the R&B singer SZA, sitting on the hood of a car patiently watching as Gambino dances on the top of another car to the following lyrics:

“America, I just checked my following list and

You Mothafuckas owe me.

Grandma told me,
Get your money, Black Man( Black Man) x 4.”

Why did Gambino choose these specific lyrics to not only dance to but for SZA to watch him? Is it a symbol of Black Womyn's struggles in being forced to wait on the sidelines of a male-dominated movement? Are we waiting for Black men to stop enriching themselves by giving (white) America what they want? SZA is not only the one observing Glover as he entertains and proceeds to “get his money;” there is also a quick glimpse of an outside spectator recording this interaction on a notepad before the screen turns dark. Is this symbolic of how people keep tabs on black social movements, or does it represent how closely watched black people are monitored in America? Or is it both?

Yes, there is much to learn and discover from this video, and we're not done learning. As some have asked, why is Donald getting so much praise while Beyoncé’s “Formation” video was often pushed away, as evidenced in the Washington Post article below, where the author expressed concern about Beyoncé’s politically charged statements:

“Beyoncé waited until black politics was so undeniably commercial that she could make a market out of it.”
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I believe giving Donald props doesn’t take away from the success and message of Black feminists such as Beyoncé and Janelle Monae. We need multiple perspectives on the black experience so we can flourish and collaborate. Having intersectional experiences and acknowledging them allows black artists to thrive and expand to a bigger audience. We need to recognize and respect all perspectives and learn from them all.

So to Donald Glover, this is an open letter addressing those things you overlooked. Black women are tired of being a stepping stool in your rise to fame. and a little appreciation from your open-minded creativity would be nice. We would love to be included in this conversation.

52 Films By Women: Eve's Bayou

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By Andrea Thompson

Perception is everything, and “Eve's Bayou” is very aware of how the stories we tell our ourselves shape, and sometimes destroy, our lives. It seemed fitting that the first film I watched for Black History Month was also a delicately beautiful exploration of personal history.

It's no accident that many of the reviews and think pieces about “Eve's Bayou” also begin with the film's opening lines. They're thoughtful, insightful, and...startling, to say the least. “Memory is the selection of images, some elusive, other printed indelibly on the brain. The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old.”

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How and why would such a thing occur? It first seems unlikely, or even unthinkable, as such developments often do. In their prosperous 1960s Louisiana Creole community, Eve's family stands out, in all the right ways. Her father Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) is a prominent, respected doctor, with a beautiful, loving wife Roz (Lynn Whitfield). Eve also has two other siblings, the teenage Cisely (Meagan Good), who is clearly her father's favored child, and a younger brother, Poe (Jake Smollett).

But the facade comes crashing down when Eve accidentally witnesses her father having sex with another woman. At first, it seems as if Louis is able to smooth things over, but things deteriorate as Eve discovers more evidence of Louis's constant unfaithfulness. Cisely refuses to believe any of it, leading to more conflict between the sisters and Cisely and Roz. This conflict becomes less surprising as we learn more about both mother and daughter. 14-year-old Cisely is eager to grow up and embrace her womanhood, and she is her elegant mother in miniature. She idolizes her father the way Roz once did.

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“When I first met Louis, I watched him set a boy's leg who had fallen out of a tree,” Roz muses. And I said to myself, here's a man who can fix things. He's a healer, he'll take care of me. So I leave my family, and I moved to this swamp, and I find out he's just a man.”

With such turbulence at home, Eve natually searches for a safe haven, which she finds with her aunt Mozelle (Debbi Morgan). Mozelle has the gift of sight, which allows her to see everyone's future but her own, with all three of the men she loved having died. Her abilities are unquestionably real, magic being a regular part of the film's unique setting. Not all of it is benevolent, and it is to the less benevolent forces that Eve turns to after Cisely reveals that Louis tried to molest her one night, deeply traumatizing her. Eve then turns to a local witch to put a fatal curse on her father, which she soon regrets and tries to undo. Less easy to reverse are the hints she drops to the husband of the woman Louis is seeing.

Even in the midst of a vibrant time for black cinema, “Eve's Bayou” stands out for its compassion, and the riveting performances that make the stories of people's lives, in which love, sex, violence, and death are constantly interwoven, far more than sheer melodrama. Debbi Morgan is the film's standout, with Mozelle revealing herself to be as passionate as she is vulnerable, particularly when a new man brings love into her life, and she fears that their marriage would be the death of him. Writer-director Kasi Lemmons has become primarily known for her work as an actress, and watching her feature film debut, it feels like a loss. Lemmons imbues her story with a strong sense of Southern Gothic, effortlessly fusing the town's history, which claimed to be founded by a freed slave named Eve and the man who freed her, to the family at the film's center, who are their descendants.

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The real tragedy of “Eve's Bayou” are Eve's realizations that the supposedly stalwart adults around her are just as frail and human as she is, especially her father, who has a different story about what happened between him and Cisely. He is no villain, merely a man with a deep need to be a hero, and to be seen as a hero to those around him, which ultimately proves his undoing. When our protectors, our trust, and even our memories, prove so unreliable, perhaps the only thing we can truly rely on is love, even if our loved ones are just as flawed and unsure as we are. The film ends with Cisely and Eve realizing that they may never truly know what happened, but they can nevertheless always find a kind of peace in the loving bond they share.

'Women's Edit' Of This Is America Video Is Classic, Cringeworthy White Feminism

By Arrisa Robinson

As I watched Nicole Arbour’s “women’s edit” of Donald Glover’s (stagename Childish Gambino) “This is America,” one question repeatedly occurred to me…

“Why is she doing this?”

Even after I watched it, the question still lingered. Throughout, Arbour’s message focused primarily on issues women face today. However, she conveyed a much larger message to the audience: the problems inherent in white feminism.

After Childish Gambino’s latest music video “This Is America” was released, critics swarmed him with praise for its artistic yet political statements on America’s most controversial issues. Glover managed to not only create a catchy tune just in time for summer, he showcased the extensive cruelty suffered by black people in America. The video for “This Is America” was more an expression of America’s chaotic past and its disastrous effects on the present. And Glover offered an insightful perspective on the many topics he touched on.

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Nicole Arbour, however, managed to singlehandedly erase everything Glover established and draw attention to an issue that wasn’t even on the radar (at the moment anyway), that of disregarding the harm done to women of color and focus solely on the issues an average white woman has. There were plenty of other topics Arbour could’ve touched on but didn’t. Today, black women have to worry about being pulled over and killed by police officers. Or consider all the Native American women who have vanished just over the past few years. Or the human trafficking of girls throughout the U.S. Breastfeeding, aging and trying to shatter the glass ceiling in the workplace are hardly the biggest issues right now for most women of color.  

This is classic “white feminism,” which refers to the ignorance white women have concerning issues related to minorities. We as a society see this happen from time to time through not fully acknowledging the women who struggle with racism, sexism, or ageism, to neglecting to discuss the ways in which the words of a white woman words can be disruptive to women of color. For instance, there was Lena Dunham’s oblivious response to her former colleague, Murray Miller, after he was accused of sexual assault by actress Aurora Perrineau. Dunham is a self-proclaimed feminist as well as an extremely wealthy woman, and Perrineau is a black woman with a much lower profile than Dunham. Dunham’s ignorant response made via her Twitter page was seen as a hypocritical and disrespectful tactic to brush off a black woman. Another instance would be Rose McGowan very nonchalantly stating that being called a woman is as bad as being called the n-word...because that’s apparently not offensive to the people that are women and also black.

So why is this such a problem for us?

Whether or not Nicole Arbour had good intentions (which she probably did), her way of spreading her message was utterly ignorant, to say the least. For starters, Arbour discredited the magnificent and purposeful work of an artist by appropriating his work. As an African-American woman myself, this was something I did not appreciate, because I know firsthand that black people already have to work twice as hard as the average white person to get even half the recognition. White people have a distinct privilege in this country, whether it’s being 21 times less likely to be shot and killed by police than black people (The New Progressive) or being 78% more likely to be accepted to a university than a black student (The New Progressive). Even for me, going to college is a tremendous accomplishment, whereas some of my peers take it for granted. So obviously, whatever it is that we, as black people, do is a big deal for us because we’ve fought to overcome statistics to be recognized for something positive.

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But appropriating black culture-or even other cultures-is something a lot of white women do. Just look at Katy Perry, who has appropriated both Japanese and black culture. Instead of anger, I feel more curiosity as to what American culture represents to Americans, and why there is a trend of copying others. While we are notorious for being the land of the free, there are still some of us who do not accept the actual people behind the cultures. Perry’s actions were just a slap in the face, because she chose to acknowledge only a certain aspect of a specific culture by imitating them, and not even involving the people within it.

Nicole Arbour is not the first white woman to step on the toes of a minority, but she is adding to the problem. She could’ve used this opportunity to discuss injustices faced by African-American, Native-American, or Latin/Hispanic-American women rather than just her own.

When confronted with the backlash, Arbour was initially defensive, but eventually she disabled all comments to prevent further discussion. This inability to discuss why her video was such an infuriating topic for some is also another common aspect of white feminism. By not discussing the main issue at stake and instead becoming self-justifying and stubborn to any opinion different from her own, she revealed herself to be another person who is unable to discuss racial issues. Even through a virtual apology captured by TMZ, Arbour seemed anything but genuine or affected by the feelings of others about her appropriating Glover’s work to focus on her own issues. It reminded me of Lena Dunham’s and Rose McGowan’s apologies. Both were issued virtually, but did the backlash actually have an impact on these women? Did they actually change their mindsets for the better? It’s hard to tell nowadays, even though so many people share their thoughts and feelings via social media.When it all comes down to it, how do you know if they are actually affected? For Arbour, all she had to do was say “Sorry!” and move on with the rest of her night. She’d gotten her spotlight, even if itt had to be through a poor execution of someone else’s spectacular piece of art.

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Arbour may think the responses of others to be cruel or downright annoying. Maybe she believes we should just “get over it” as so many other people in her exact position have told us to do. Or perhaps she truly cares about how she is being portrayed and would like to clarify that she does not think less of other races. In either scenario, it does not change the fact that she put her heart and soul into a cringeworthy cover video fully displaying her white feminism all over the Internet and sloppily offered an insincere apology.

Nicole Arbour will not be the last white feminist to cross our screens, and she’ll most likely continue to do it, since she doesn’t consider her behavior harmful. And if on several occasions, a woman with so much privilege sees no wrongdoing in her actions even after they provoke audiences of particular demographics, then we have a much larger issue on hand. But then again, should we really expect much? This is America, after all.

52 Films By Women: A New Leaf

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By Andrea Thompson

When I saw Elaine May's “The Heartbreak Kid,” possibly the greatest anti-romantic comedy of all time, May became one of my favorite filmmakers. When I watched May's “A New Leaf” at the suggestion of my friend Sydney, I became convinced May is a national treasure.

“A New Leaf” was made in 1971, a year prior to May's far more famous work, “The Heartbreak Kid.” In the latter, she directed. In the former, she directs, writes, and stars. “A New Leaf” is also a far darker, and funnier movie. The premise? After wealthy playboy Henry Graham (Walter Matthau) discovers he's spent all of his money and is now penniless, he decides to marry a wealthy woman. Then kill her and walk away with the money.

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May quickly establishes the meaningless, heartless world Henry resides in, where people care about possessions above all, and getting new ones as quickly as possible. It's just as quickly established that Henry isn't an outlier at all. He's lazy, uncaring, spends money on useless crap on the slightest whim, and that's just how he likes it. He has no ambitions to be anything else, and even if he did, he doesn't have the skills required to do anything practical or useful. It makes the scene with his accountant, who has the task of telling him he has exhausted his wealth, not only humorous, but delightful. May gives us even more reason to relish the jeopardy with overwrought, dramatic music as Henry imagines a life without all the opulence he's become accustomed to.

“A New Leaf” also puts a hilarious spin on the loyal butler trope. Henry's valet Harold (George Rose) stands by him, not out of loyalty, but because Henry is one of the only men left who would actually use his services, or as Harold puts it, to “keep alive traditions that were dead before you were born.” Yet Harold is the closest thing Henry has to a friend. He is the only one who knows what's going on (except for Henry's murderous intentions), and encourages his employer to fight for his right to remain among the idle rich.

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Henry's attempts to find a wife fail quite hilariously until he meets Henrietta, a botanist, at a tea party, who is played by Elaine May herself. In any other movie, their first moments together would be a meet-cute. She drops her glove, and her tea, in what would now be called adorkable. Henry comes to her rescue due to his discovery that Henrietta is both wealthy and without relatives. This not only causes Henrietta's to spill even more tea on their host Mrs. Cunliff's immaculate carpet, it inspires said host to call Henry a son of a bitch. Unfazed, Henry delivers one of the best retorts in cinematic history.

“You dare call me a son of a bitch?” Henry responds indignantly. “Madame, I have seen many examples of perversion in my time, but your erotic obsession with your carpet is probably the most grotesque, and certainly the most boring I have ever encountered. You ought to be scorned and pitied. Good day, Mrs. Cunliff.”

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“A New Leaf” doesn't cater to our expectations of the genre. This isn't a story about two ridiculously attractive people falling for each other in a series of outrageously comic adventures. Nor is Elaine May interested in making Henrietta relatable. Just how would a woman so shy, inept, and isolated actually live? May shows us, especially after Henry overcomes a few obstacles, such as the objections of Henrietta's lawyer, and manages to marry her. He discovers his wife's life is in complete disarray. The mansion she lives in is a mess. The people who work for her take shameless advantage of her. And the lawyer who seemed to have Henrietta's best interests at heart turns out to have been in on everything. Henry quickly straightens things out, and takes over the management of Henrietta's life and accounts, all so he can use it to his advantage after he disposes of her. In the process, he actually becomes quite a competent, knowledgeable person who learns some useful skills, almost without becoming aware of it.

Of course, his fondness for Henrietta grows, in a fashion similarly unknown to him. Henrietta truly does change him for the better and make him more responsible and competent, even if he does have to check Henrietta's clothes for crumbs and price tags before she leaves for work every morning. The most touching moment is when Henrietta discovers a new species of plant and names it after Henry, thus granting his wish for a kind of immortality. His realization that he loves his wife is sweet, but it's more an acceptance that nothing in his life will turn out as he's expected from now on. When they walk off into the sunset together, we too breathe a sigh of relief that the danger is past.

Film Girl Film Festival Partners With Veteran Org

By Andrea Thompson

This Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have given their lives for their country, on what is actually the 150th anniversary of the holiday. But in the midst of the grills, cookouts, and general festivities, it's important for all of us to remember that the battle is not over for those who return home. Many of them have to fight on a whole new front and process the trauma they have experienced.

I was reminded of this myself when I was in Chicago. Like many in the area, I decided to spend part of my Memorial Day weekend out on the lake front, and I happened to run into an event by Chicago Veterans. Vets and volunteers were walking to raise awareness about a pressing social problem: veteran suicide. According to the group, every day 20 veterans take their own lives. I was struck not only by the numbers, but by the fact that most people seem to have no idea that this is happening.

In order to help raise awareness, the Film Girl Film Festival is partnering with a local chapter of Dryhootch, an organization which provides support to struggling veterans. Dryhootch was founded in 2008 by Vietnam veteran Bob Curry, and aims to provide a safe space in a coffee house where veterans and their families can gather in a drug and alcohol free environment. Dryhootch regularly hosts events, and provides mentoring and needed support services to ease the transition to civilian life.

To do its part in support of this much-needed work, the Film Girl Film Festival will have its first women-only coworking event at the Dryhootch location at 1030 E. Brady Street. The coworking event aims to bring a group of women together to work, keep each other on track, and talk about their projects. No time and date has been set at this point, but further details will be provided.

More information about the Wisconsin chapter of Dryhootch can be found at dryhootchwi.org.