Even in our modern age of 'chick-flicks' there are some issues which never get treated 'openly' unless it's during a Very Serious Episode, usually involving both parties deciding to keep the child, despite all the odds, and or give it up for adoption, and/or the father is a religious nutjob trying every means at his disposal to save the 'receptacle' of his holy gift from destroying her chance at salvation even if it means her death. If there's an abortion there must be a great deal of shaming, of tears and anguish over this decision that will haunt the woman the rest of her life. If she doesn't kill herself over i then she's a no-good hussy who deserves what she gets (she's either murdered or ODs). If she has a child out of wedlock and its the pre-code era she deserves to suffer, in fact she insists, but if she suffers long enough she can finally get her child back, and if she tries to make the man own up and do the right thing he might, as was done in the unjustly iconic OFFICER AND A GENTLEMEN, hang himself in his hotel room. If, like in STEEL MAGNOLIAS, the woman is told she will die if she gives birth, it's fine if she dies, as long as the baby lives. There's seldom a doubt if the woman is fallen in some respect that she'll gladly die so her child may live --as in the horrible ending of Blake Edwards' SWITCH or a host of pre-code films like LIFE BEGINS. Even GODFATHER 2 has an abortion used like a weapon, Diane Keaton sneering like she's in the wrong movie about "this Italian thing" and how it all must stop, like she's angry about some fantasy football league instead of a billion dollar empire.
|Slate at Cross's.|
Thanks to the red-blue fight-baiting popular media, we know the pitfalls movies like this usually present, as if fate itself restructures reality to allow for some grand sacrificial gesture, so we're totally with her at every moment to break the century-of-cinema-long trend, as when she's about to tell Max (Jake Lacy) the father--a dude she barely knows, who is suspiciously perfect--attentive, nice, witty, good-looking, able to keep right up with her, single --and he mentions he wants to be a grandfather one day and that we was raised a Christian, which she registers with a sudden masterful eyebrow raise and sudden decision to hold off on asking him to chip in for the cost of the procedure. Written and directed by newcomer Gillian Robespierre from an original short, there's such a perfect flow between Slate and the material it's hard to believe it's all not happening in the moment with special attention to the way people actually talk --not 'normal' people, the kind of banal life-affirming doltishness Hollywood jadedly associates with the 'true America'--but real young Williamsburg-dweller college-educated witty individuals. Mining everything for great comedy right down to the drunken fumblings with a condom that are so often jettisoned in nights of drunken abandon, it's the kind of keenly-observed, brilliantly played interaction I've seen only in the best 'ensemble' comedy work, by for example Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph in BRIDESMAIDS (2007) or Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer in BROAD CITY (Comedy Central). In short, by people who've done the work to make their characters come alive, rather than by some clueless male or self-hating female screenwriter whose low opinion of young women masks a real cluelessness about how people clever enough to eke out a life on their own but still struggling with self-sabotage issues actually talk and think (as opposed to the godawful dialogue of JUNO and FRANCES HA for example).
Max is perhaps the film's only misstep, casting-wise. I don't mind that he's at least two hotness points over Slate (who gets to keep her sharp ethnic features, hair up in unflattering ways, letting it all hang out) so that it's almost a reversal of the usual comedy with shlubby losers marrying hotties as a matter of course-- just that he's a bit too perfect, one of those second chance no-negative-traits dreamboats that the heroine can't help but be mean to. It would be great if he had, say, an ex-girlfriend booty call girl on the side, or was in the midst of a break-up like she was and also on the rebound, or a drunk, or some other such thing other than a smart career path lawyer and all the other ideal things that might make life easy one day for a snarky downtown bohemian comedienne with no real job skills.
I didn't really dig this film the first time around (renting it from Blockbuster, on VHS - talk about patriarchal oppression), but now on blu-ray and in full anamorphic glory the autumnal colors glow and the framing and lighting of director John Fawcett can be better appreciated, the echoes of fellow Canadian horror filmmaker Cronenberg better discerned. Its seductive comic book rhythm rushes past all the usual crap that bogs down most high school horror films, focusing instead on the two sisters and their gradual transformation from all-talk to genuine murder and too-late-to-turn-back-now violence escalations.
There's still a few problems like the less-than-stellar werewolf effects (there's no real transformation money shot ala HOWLING or AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON- and the little poodle nose on Ginger is fairly campy), the kinds of problems which could have been covered by CGI, but digital effects were still, as we learn in the extras, in their expensive infancy, and now that CGI is so pervasive, GINGER's reliance on analog latex is retro-cool and adorable. Credit is due in huge part to Emily Perkins, who makes scenes with the transformed Ginger come alive in ways the monster on its own could not. She makes it work. Like Slate in OBVIOUS CHILD we can read all sorts of inferences in her eyes--her understanding of the impassive rubber wolf mask's little gestures makes the mask come alive for us as well. She brings home the real sadness of being stalked by your own sister, the only one in the world you trusted, who know wants you to kill your new and only other friend to prove your devotion. With her sullen long face hidden in a deep foxhole of long protective hair, Perkins is so great and her rapport with Isabelle so solid, the minor problems all melt away.
The wealth of extras include a somewhat rambling making-of documentary, deleted scenes, previews, two separate commentary tracks. The director John Fawcett makes sure we know he's the feminist behind this, not all the women who worked on it, like co-writer Karen Walton (though she does get her own commentary track). They're currently working on the hit BBC show ORPHAN BLACK so they must still be tight -- but I thought that kind of credit-grabbing insecurity existed only in Hollywood. (He does have some slyly deprecating things to say about the final monster, and how they had to keep it in shadow a lot to keep up the scariness --a nice way of saying it sucked - though he was the one who insisted it be hairless and albino). There's some insight into the tax-funded Canadian film industry (there was a backlash when the script was sent around to casting agencies because Columbine had just occurred), audition tapes from the early part of the process, and what the actors look like now (or Emily Perkins anyway, who seems like a completely different person, below)