Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger laughs through his bitterness.
An actress's life can be a real drag.
Sometimes I wish we reviewers could say something like "If you enjoy scathing, pitch-black comedy, you should see this" and leave it at that. If you don't know what is coming you're forced to react to it, which is often what makes a movie work. But people expect more from reviews, so let's press on.
The cover of Girls Will Be Girls didn't give me much hope, so my expectations were low. The opening scenes reinforced that lackluster impression. But very soon, the dialogue opened up and laughs sprang unbidden from my lips. The laughter did not completely die until after the credits rolled, the commentary finished, and I'd explored every last screen of the DVD menu.
That said, I'd hate to deprive you of the low expectations that are a prerequisite to enjoying Girls Will Be Girls. Finding its flaws is not difficult at all. Therefore, I will elucidate all the ways in which this movie sucks so that you can go into the experience with open eyes, armed with the proper attitude of disdain.
Facts of the Case
Evie (Jack Plotnick, Gods and Monsters) and Coco (Clinton Leupp, aka Coco Peru) are housemate actresses in Hollywood. It is difficult to tell whether or not they like each other (or even if Evie is capable of liking anyone). Their equilibrium of domestic bitchiness is threatened by the arrival of Varla (Jeffery Roberson), a peppy ingenue who moves into the spare room. When Varla's career starts picking up steam, Evie's jealousy opens the closet door and unleashes a conga line of skeletons.
Girls Will Be Girls's low budget practically screams at you. What is with these "sets"? It looks like they just took some guy's bedroom, threw in a few booths, and called it a diner. Dig that duct-taped stained glass; so classy. How can directors get away with this crap in our era of CGI and spit-polished, gleaming sets?
It hardly matters, because I've never heard of this director anyway. If I wanted to watch virgin directors fumble their way through a picture, I'd go to Sundance. But you have to give Richard Day credit, because he takes three difficult actresses and wrests watchable performances out of them. We can almost overlook the toneless melodrama that ensues. Who told these ladies to pause between each word? Good thing the dialogue is so snappy; otherwise I'd need a few more gin and tonics to endure this mess. I grudgingly admit to a morbid fascination with watching for the next facial expression. It is like an R-rated soap opera.
Anyway, let's talk about the flick. These ladies are constantly at each other's throats. All it is is bitch, moan, whine. Who wants to listen to over-the-hill hags bash each other for 80 minutes? But wait, there's more. We also get to watch them having sex, watch them being molested, and watch them stab each other in the back. This is humanity at its nadir. Take Evie: She is so harsh that her own son isn't safe from her wicked barbs. When she started making fun of Stevie's tiny penis in front of Varla, I felt so sad for him. It is tacky, and we don't need to be subjected to such cruelty.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I can't go on like this: Girls Will Be Girls is a hoot. It is ultra-low budget, made by a director who didn't really care to be a director. Directing was simply the only way he could make his movie. Such movies tend not to hold back, and trust me: Girls Will Be Girls does not. I cannot stress enough that this flick is not for everyone. Rape, abortion, murder, alcoholism, age, and prostitution are fair game. Black comedy has always exploited taboo for comedic potential, but Girls Will Be Girls will go too far for some viewers.
If that doesn't deter you, sit back and absorb the absurdity. Not since Clerks have I heard such offensive and hilarious dialogue. In this sense, Girls Will Be Girls is a face-value comedy. We laugh because the lines are funny. Day throws in a fair amount of parody, such as clips of Evie's breakthrough film Asteroid, that also work in a traditional sense. Varla's infomercial is a priceless bit of satire. On the other hand, there are several stretches of dead time. To say some gags fall flat is an understatement. When Evie first wakes up and we listen to her bones creak for ten minutes, I was itching for the fast-forward button.
The real power of Girls Will Be Girls is not obvious. In fact, if you watch it as a face-value comedy, you may be offended—or, worse yet, let down. The subtle power behind this movie is that the women are all men in drag, but as far as the movie is concerned they're women. Girls Will Be Girls does not explain this, it simply assumes your complicity.
As you watch, you process the depraved dialogue—but you also think "these are men." Such disconnect forces you to evaluate each scene on two planes, which creates comedy. Watching Varla's seduction of a pimp is moderately funny, but watching Jeffery Roberson's facial expressions and mannerisms makes the scene. Similarly, when Coco waxes ecstatic about her abortion clinic doctor, you forget that she is Clinton Leupp. The director even says in the commentary that he is asked "who's the fox?" The capstone of this effect is Jack Plotnick's Evie, whose eyes radiate nonchalant malice and bleary hatred. Simply watching her stumble around in her bathrobe is funny.
The effort put into the commentary and special features is both admirable and true to the spirit of the movie. The DVD menus are the best I've seen in years because they are actually worth watching. In fact, the entire package is handled with care. A production in themselves, the opening credits feature a bawdy theme song over fab '70s graphics. Listening to the director and actors discuss the picture is a treat. They rag on the production as harshly as we would. Girls Will Be Girls embodies independent cinema, which makes the big-budget credits, special features, and pleasing visuals more impressive. There are flaws to be found in the picture quality, but the punchy colors, clean edges, and potent contrast moderate any complaints. Girls Will Be Girls has a big sound as well. It isn't an ambitious effects track, but what they attempt is presented cleanly. The actors did their own songs in character; yet another detail that works.
Count me among the lowbrow, but Girls Will Be Girls struck just the right note of unassuming-yet-scathing commentary. Girls Will Be Girls is reminiscent of Clerks, with less funny dialogue but better production values. Richard Day puts on the screen what he thinks will be funny, and that is an approach I can respect. Undoubtedly, many people will not find his scenarios funny, but I can't argue with the laughter yanked out of me.
Evie, Coco, and Varla are to undergo no less than 80 hours of remedial counseling. Women should be empowered and free instead of reclusive, sniping hags.
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Director Richard Day and Cast
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