An entertaining, yet incredibly badly written film.
By Adenosine Tripposphate
The film is weird. There’s no doubt about it. But for what it attempts to be—an unsettling film disguised as a “thought-provoking” drama, those efforts are largely undermined by bad character writing and problematic tropes.
Our protagonist, a bizarre, hairy women; gummy mouth and misshapen body to boot, is incredibly out-of-place in her home and work life. Much of her bizarre, unsettling nature is amplified by a peculiar talent—the ability to smell guilt, shame and anger. Her interactions with strangers largely paint a picture of the struggles she often faces; people being largely taken aback by her enigmatic presence. And at worst, they show fear.
As we follow our protagonist through the film, we see that she lives very much a normal a life. Her parents are supportive, her siblings and colleagues general respect her and treat her with appropriately. Through her day life, work life and home life, we see she shows healthy awareness, smarts, and acts with agency.
She has some issues, however; her relationship with her husband is somewhat estranged and loveless. It is also heavily implied that her husband routinely cheats on her.
One of the central and important conflicts of our protagonist we see play out in various ways through out the film, is her ever encroaching feeling of alienation. We get moments where we see her intentionally suppress inhuman urges, largely because of their jarring nature would have her feeling even more a castaway.
There it is.
There is a real story, and a real character here. Her actions are very motivated, despite appearing to be weird and erratic in nature. The text tells us she is enigmatic, not just to others, but at often times, to herself.
It’s important to note that it is entirely okay for a film to be weird. This film is incredibly weird. But, filmmakers must make sure they don’t undermine their own efforts by simply appealing to the unsettling. We’re given all this subtext about empathy, understanding of differences, lack of place within your community, relationships that aren’t fitted to a mold, and so on. This film could have been good.
I’ll get to my main point of contention: the increasingly bizarre imagery and unsettling nature of the characters completely undermine any sort of meaningful writing. At a pivotal point in the film, our protagonist relays that she can not have children to her new lover, and it is very important information as it is obvious this particular fact sits center-point to her feelings of alienation. She feels less, not just by her physical appearance and societies reaction to it, but even less woman—the only thing biological inherited, irrespective of societal attitude.
Immediately after, we’re treating to the most ridiculous sex scene, where everything she’s ever known about her life is exposited. She’s a troll. She has a male parts.
She isn’t a she at all.
... Or is she?
Such deep. So meaning. Aubrey Plaza gives it 10/10.
To make matters even worse, none of this incredibly striking and life-changing information effects her. She isn’t conflicted at the thought of being deceived, not being told who she is all her life by the parents who adopted her. She isn’t at all concerned about her new appendage, and the implications of it. It’s just okay! Because she found love!
And then it turns out her lover is a bigot who aids in child predation. Just throw everything into the garbage.
There is also the problematic portrayal of what the filmmakers think of as “weird” and “unsettling”; how they lazily invoked characteristics of the physical and neurologically disabled. That is in itself a whole other can of worms.
It’s an entertaining film. But it doesn’t deserve such a high critical rating simply because it is cinematically refined and weird. Standards shouldn’t simply go out the window because the filmmakers managed to find someone to fund their edgy, weird, and bad script.