While training at the gym 11-year-old tomboy Toni becomes entranced with a dance troupe. As she struggles to fit in she finds herself caught up in danger as the group begins to suffer from fainting spells and other violent fits.
There’s been a bit of a trend over the last couple of years for films that don’t bother to explain themselves. They are what they are and what you make of them is up to you. The Fits definitely falls into this camp. This dreamy, sometimes nightmarish amble through adolescence and friendship is at times fascinating, even brilliant – and just a tad boring.
Toni is a quiet, hard-working child dedicated to her boxing training and helping out her older brother at the gym he also trains in. One day she becomes enamored with a female dance troupe. To begin with she watches them from afar but eventually, with the encouragement of her brother, joins the squad.
The main draw of this troupe seems to be their unswerving confidence and although this does not appear to come naturally to our silent protagonist, she puts the work in to improve her dance skillz – and even make a friend or two.
Things take an unusual turn when one of the dance leaders suffers an unexplained seizure. It’s shocking but as she recovers quickly and without consequence, it is soon forgotten. Until the next girl suffers ‘the fits’- then the next. Slowly but surely this phenomenon spreads through the group and Toni and her pals fear becoming the next victim. Fear, however, soon turns to something else. The fits come with a certain badge of honour and most of the girls want to be part of the rising hysteria.
It soon becomes clear that Toni is being left behind because she hasn’t suffered an attack yet, will she lose her grip on everything she now holds dear? Or will life just kind of take care of business for her?
This isn’t really your average beginning, middle and end movie. It’s more of a happening, a feeling – a rumination on puberty and of coming of age in a sometimes hopeless place. Royalty Hightower is enigmatic and lovely as our heroine. Toni barely speaks so dialogue is light and to bring such heart to a character through facial expression and mannerisms is impressive, particularly at such a young age.
It does border on dull a few times but there might be method in that madness because when I got to the climax I was blown away. It’s surreal, it’s stunning and it brings everything back together. It’s all a metaphor, innit? I recommend if you’re into this kind of dreamy film-making and aren’t afraid to unpack it all yourself.
What did the queen of the dance troupe in my heart think of this one? Would she leave it to her own devices in an abandoned corridor or film it on her iPhone? Find out here, obvs.
I’m not above admitting that sports movies are not the one for me. Especially chess movies. And yet here I am, gasping and weeping and cheering in all the right places as our 14-year-old heroine kicks the arse of a woman twice her age at the beautiful game. GO PHIONA!
A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.
Phiona Mutesi (Madina Malwanga) lives with her family in the slums of Katwe, Uganda. Times are fucking tough and she’s expected, along with her brother Brian (Martin Kabanza), to get out there and help earn the money to keep them fed and housed.
One day Brian gets talking with a local football coach Robert (David Oyelowo) who notices him sitting on the sidelines of a match being played by the other boys. Brian is adamant that football is dangerous and therefore not something he’s up for. Coach Robert mentions another game that might be more his speed, especially when utilised to drift rich city boys out of their gold watches. Yes, he’s talking about chess – bet you never thought of it in such glamorous terms?
Brian goes along to the local youth center to learn how to play under Robert’s tutelage. Shortly afterwards, Phiona follows and at first is mocked by the other children for her less than hygienic appearance. Girl’s been working, you pricks, cut her some slack. Much to Robert’s delight, Phiona doesn’t run away, instead she beats down the instigator of the teasing and returns the next day freshly showered and ready to learn.
Over the course of several years Phiona proves herself to be a talented and forward-thinking player, able to think eight moves ahead, something only the very great masters are capable of. Shit isn’t easy in Katwe though, not for anyone, not even coach himself.
Robert earns peanuts teaching sports to underprivileged kids and is ashamed his Engineering degree still doesn’t make him the main breadwinner in his family. His lovely school-teacher wife and baby love him though and frankly, Sara (Esther Tebandeke) is a saint. She embraces Phiona immediately and teaches her to read the chess books Robert has in his collection. The couple get both Brian and Phiona into school on scholarships – and are probably the greatest living humans on this planet.
Phiona’s mother Nakku (Lupita Nyong’o) is a ferocious tigress, struggling to keep her family afloat without resorting to prostituting herself like some of the other ladies in the village. (I’d have cracked on day one personally). She’s also at loggerheads with her stubborn eldest daughter Night, who has run off with the local bad boy.
Nakku is torn between letting her daughter grab opportunity where it’s presented – and being a stone cold realist. And when Phiona, fresh from a string of successes in various tournaments starts showing signs of cockiness, she is eager to shut it down. Will she come round to Phiona’s dreams or will she put her foot down once and for all?
Will Phiona perform as well as she thinks she will in big competition or is it too soon for her? And will the family ever settle in their own home, no longer dependent on the tolerance of indifferent landlords?
Only one way to find out!
Sometimes it’s just really nice to watch a feel-good movie. Films like this often pass me by because I prefer my entertainment a little grimier, but I guess the whole point of collaborating with a partner is to try things I wouldn’t normally and I was pleased with this.
A Disney movie, this was always going to be on the wholesome side but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an edge. Lupita is a highlight for me, she is such a star. Malwanga too carries this film with such tenacity that you’re continually rooting for her. I love the chemistry between all the kids in fact.
3.5/5. Check flipping mate!
What does the Queen of My Heart think of this one? Would she take it to competition or throw the board in the river? Find out here.
Welcome to the second best Collab month of the year: Feminist Film Month! And what better way to kick it off than with a film starring one of my all-time fave women in film? The original double G. What a gal.
This movie could possibly be one of the best representations of the hipster cliche too and I only 80% covet the exact same life for myself. (83%).
A New York woman (who doesn’t really have an apartment) apprentices for a dance company (though she’s not really a dancer) and throws herself headlong into her dreams, even as the possibility of realizing them dwindles.
Dance company understudy Frances (Gerwig) is in a long-term friendship with Sophie, her BFF and roommate (Mickey Sumner). Things are blissful until France’s boyfriend buys two hypoallergenic cats and asks her to move in with him. Her reluctance to let Sophie down derails the relationship for good and Frances returns to their grainy best friend montages with barely a backward glance.
Things change though when Sophie suddenly decides to move into an artists’ house in a different neighbourhood. Gradually she begins to spend her time with other people, including her boyfriend Patch (Patrick Heusinger) and some girl called Lisa (who’s a cunt apparently).
In turn, Frances moves in with her new friends Benji and Lev (Michael Zegen and my boy Adam Driver). Lev is a casual womaniser, while Benji is more to Frances’ speed, a decent Sophie replacement, especially after the two women have a blazing row about Patch.
In the aftermath of their fight, Frances finds herself not really dancing (aka working) and flitting between apartments. For a while she lives with another dancer, who doesn’t share her passion for rough and tumble play-fighting like Sophie does.
When Frances finds out secondhand that Sophie is moving to Japan with Patch, she starts to lose her grip – and on a whim decides to visit Paris for two days. Thus begins one of the most lonely weekend breaks I’ve ever seen committed to the big screen, as Frances tries to hook up with an old friend but keeps missing her and explores the city of lights alone.
During a phone call with Sophie, who’s finally called to tell her the news about Japan, it seems as though the women work it out but Frances’ optimism is manufactured to make Sophie feel better and it makes me want to sob uncontrollably.
Back in NYC, Frances loses her position as apprentice with the dance troupe but is offered work in the office instead. She declines and takes off to her old university for the Summer to be a camp counselor (or something similar). Here she bumps into Sophie and Patch of all people and it soon transpires that the pair are back in the US for Patch’s grandfather’s funeral.
Sophie and Frances have a drunken heart to heart in which Sophie admits she isn’t going to marry Patch (the two have gotten engaged) and that she hates Tokyo. She vows to leave Tokyo – and Patch – to return to New York for good and live in the same neighbourhood as Frances but in the cold light of the next morning, she loses her resolve.
After this, Frances slowly starts to pull her own life back together, first accepting the job at the dance company and then taking advice from her former boss, by choreographing her own show. The show is a modest success and Frances receives positive feedback. She finally finds her own apartment and there’s even a hint of romance on the horizon for her and old friend Benji.
Things are looking up but will she ever get her friendship with Sophie back on track? I’ll leave that for you to find out.
What a zingy script this film has. Frances’ relentless riffing is joyous and clever but also hugely relatable to anyone who has ever felt wildly out of control of their own life. (All of us at one time or another I’m willing to bet).
There are so many quotable lines from this film that it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite. I’ll list a selection at the end.
My favourite thing about this film is that it’s a love story between two friends. Men come and go but the real focus is whether Sophie and Frances will make it. I love it for that. There’s a tragic inevitably to everything too – that whole concept of being left behind while everyone moves on and grows up, it’s terrifying.
All in all this is one of my favourite films and I can even dislike it for how cool and pretentious it could appear to some people. It’s just beautiful and hopeful and smart. So there.
5/5. Ace of base. A real joy of a film from start to finish.
4.5/5. ‘Cos it’s about a central female friendship complete with a wonderful reading/knitting scene. Would have been 5 if Sophie had dumped her boyfriend.
Benji: Are you still undateable? Frances: Oh yes, very undateable.
Frances: Don’t treat me like a three-hour brunch friend!
Sophie: It’s just this apartment is very… aware of itself.
Frances: But your blog looks so happy. Sophie: I don’t think my *mom* would read it if it were about depression. Frances: My mom would.
What did my good lady wife think of Frances Ha? Would she film it flatteringly in B&W or move to Tokyo to get away from it? Find out here.
The other day someone (a dude) asked me why women are so pissed off these days. Instead of punching him in throat and screaming “Because of you motherfuckers!!”, I took a breath and told him to look around him. Predictably I didn’t finish my sentence before my piece was derailed by a #notallmen remark and I’m quite certain none of my points got through his thick skull. Doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying though.
I feel like I’m angry all the time these days. Angry I have to get a bus home after dark for fear of walking home alone, angry I can’t finish a sentence without being interrupted. Angry every time I pick up a paper or log onto Twitter and read another story about another man abusing his position. Angry for every one of the women I know who has a #metoo story.
I’m pissed about all my own experiences. For the time a man told me he could rape me if he wanted to outside Sydney bus station when I was 20. For being followed home more than once but most recently in my own sleepy hometown. For last Christmas when a stranger grabbed my arse at our works do and squeezed it really fucking hard, like it was his right.
I’m angry for all the times my nasty ex told me I was lucky he wasn’t the type to hit a woman. For all the times he told me I needed psychiatric help and my mother agreed with him (she didn’t obviously but he wanted me to believe she did, as if they were in cahoots. As if). And for the time he bullied me into going topless on the beach in Barcelona and simultaneously poisoned my memory of that beautiful city.
Most of all I’m fucking furious he made me hate and blame myself for letting it happen, and for making me question my place on this earth.
I don’t hate men but they make me angry. Of course not all fucking men but every single man has a responsibility to be better and that is a fact. They might not directly hurt women but laughing when their friend makes a Harvey Weinstein joke is part of the problem (and so much more besides). We can all be better and I know I’m not perfect either. I’ve turned a blind eye many times in the past just so I don’t come off as a rabid feminist killjoy.
No more. I will be better and so will the men in my life. I demand it.
Yesterday was International Day of the Girl Child and also, World Obesity Day. The latter as you can imagine divided the internet and a lot of the fat babes I follow on Twitter claimed the hashtag for themselves as a form of celebration. I was there for it as always, as were the usual boring trolls and health police. YAWN.
All I can say in response to the usual BS comments online is that every person, whoever they are and whatever they look like, even if they offend your eyes or make you feel concerned for their personal welfare, are deserving of love and respect. And you have no right to comment on anybody else’s body – ever. Do you.
In the meantime, twirl on those haters, ladies.
Anyway, I’m here to talk about GIRLS. I often think about how sad it is I will never have a girl child of my own. Which might sound stupid given my strong stance on not having children – like, never ever – but that doesn’t mean I have taken my decision lightly.
There are many personal reasons for not wanting to be a mother and this is not the time to discuss them but I do think about what it would be like to have a daughter to mirror the great relationship I have with my own mother. I can just imagine a ferociously grouchy little riot grrrl with my hair.
Despite there not being a daughter in my future, I have such amazing women in my life – and amazing women to come, in the shape of nieces (hopefully), future friends and future children of friends. They are all my daughters, sisters and mothers and that is what I’m here to celebrate today.
So a shout out to the women in my life, and these lovely bloggers below.
This film, man. I can’t believe I’ve only just picked up on it (via the medium of Letterboxd, naturally).
It tells the tale of two sisters, the youngest of whom spends most of her time jealously watching her sibling as she gives in to adult desire. Oh, she’s also fat and constantly eating so right away I’m with her. It’s not at all what I was expecting but it is a satisfyingly accurate study on adolescence, teenage desire and the rivalry between girls.
It’s also one of the most shocking films I’ve seen recently – make of that what you will.
As for the men, I know I should be cross about all the misogynistic comments about having a woman Who (and I am) but they’re just so pathetic. Like, honestly, get over yourselves. This is Ghostbusters all over again and you’re turds.
Something really special is happening on our blogs this month as Jillian and I embark on a new series: GLOTBC – The Gorgeous Ladies of the Blog Collab! Any excuse right?
We’ll pay homage to some kick-arse Queens in all genres of movie and really where better to start than here, with this kitschy techno dreamscape of a documentary? It is surely impossible not to love, warts and all.
GLOW: The Story of The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling chronicles the rise and fall of the first ever all-female wrestling show through the stories of those who lived it.
Jill and I were all over the Alison Brie starring Netflix series GLOW as soon as it debuted a month or so ago. Sure it’s prime popcorn viewing but who doesn’t need that at the end of a busy working week? Plus, it’s fun to choose favourites (Machu Picchu! Machu Picchu!) and imagine how you’d fare in the ring (not very well, I’m sure).
But GLOW is no fictional daydream, it was once a very real female-only sport and entertainment phenomenon. Sadly, it was axed from the television in 1990 – at the height of its popularity. What the heck is that about? Why can’t we just have nice things? (We’re getting it back though, aren’t we? That’s what all this revival is about, surely?)
This honestly delightful and heart-warming documentary charts the ebb and flow of the the GLOW, from initial conception to the bitter end, by way of lovely stories about some of the biggest names in female wrestling (or if not wrestling the sport, wrestling TV).
We spend quality time with raw steak guzzler (and my personal hero) Matilda the Hun (Dee Booher), Big Bad Mama (Lynn Braxton) and the most adorable woman on the planet, Mt. Fiji (Emily Dole).
We spend time on the early years of GLOW, remembering the outfits, the on-air feuds, the boke-inducing bone breaking injuries, (ooof!), the rapping (a highlight), the Hefner signed Playboy centerfolds but above all, the genuine love and warmth between these remarkable women. And they are remarkable, because who honestly would have the balls to do what they did?
We then catch up with the women as they fill us in on their lives since GLOW and how good/bad life has been to them in the interim. It’s powerful stuff, I won’t lie. Some women have thrived, while others have been through the ringer. But when they reunite, it’s nothing short of beautiful.
Mt. Fuji in particular is a force. Now wheelchair bound and diabetic, she’s still a ray of pure sunlight who loves her sisters and admits to a long time crush on the show’s creator, Matt Cimber in front of everybody.
My personal favourite, Matilda the Hun wrestled until she was fifty and then went into directing and producing wrestling videos. Other careers off the back of GLOW are costume design, real estate and acting – but it seems nearly all of these Lycra-clad babes still have a place in their heart for their rough and tumble pasts.
It just seems to me that GLOW must have been such an incredible thing to be part of, a safe place that made male wrestlers jealous and gave these woman a platform to be truly incredible. They would have been incredible anyway but consider the industry these women found themselves in. It was no mean feat to find such a place to belong and to prosper.
What’s not to adore? These women are the best.
I must say there were times I felt a little bit awkward about the OTT stereotyping of the wrestlers in GLOW (Netflix) but this makes it clear that they were inspired by real life characters (not right always but I get it). It would be very interesting to witness what this generation’s GLOW characters would be like.
I’m truly so uplifted. Now pass the motherfucking Kohl!
5/5. For the fun and the feminism.
What did the woman of my dreams Jillian think? Would she clothesline the shit out of this or tap it out after ten? Find out here.
Ps. What would your GLOW name be? I’d be Ginger Snax 💪🏻👌🏻
“Most men” don’t like make-up on girls. Most men best believe that no woman spends the money she does on make-up to impress them. It’s maybe a shocking concept but all the women I know enjoy make-up for themselves and other women. Simple, innit?
Make-up for me has always been a form of war paint. I had terrible skin up until about five years ago so some of the things I put on my face were questionable, but men would often ask me why I wore so much foundation and what was wrong with my face?
My complexion got better but I haven’t forgotten those tactless comments from the male sex, like they ever had any right. And don’t get me started on the “black stuff” around my eyes. This is, and always has been my look of choice, and I happen to feel very comfortable with an aesthetic championed by punks and princesses throughout history.
Likewise, I often enjoy being completely naked (and the face too), you think all these natural-look loving men think I look like a goddess then? LOL.
So, gents: If you don’t like foundation, false lashes and brightly coloured lips, don’t fucking wear them!
Having and talking about periods
Women bleed, it’s just how it works. It’s annoying sometimes and often painful but it’s part of the deal and that is that. I won’t pretend I don’t get a kick out of talking graphically about my monthly visitor. The fact that it makes some people (men) feel uncomfortable gives me power.
My husband and I like to think up the most visceral ways to describe being on the blob, though I’ve not found a better one than “Shark Week” yet. Not original obvs but very clever.
While on the subject of periods, I often think of my old best friend and her delight in banging her female partners when they were “on”. There was no squeamishness between them at all and I think we can all take a leaf out of that book. It’s all down to personal taste of course, and there’s no way I feel like doing it on my period all the time but you know what I’m saying. There’s definitely a place for period sex.
Yeah, I’m so not sorry for being fat. I’m not sorry to anybody. I’ve got to the point now that I accept who I am and while I don’t think fat should define a person, I think being body positive is a very important part of who I am and I want to keep going with that. Let’s see where it takes this fine arse, eh?
Being like other girls
Is there a more irritating phrase than “Well, I’m not really like other girls”? Or indeed to hear somebody say it to you. It’s the ultimate backhanded compliment, implying that the rest of your gender sucks arse. They do not suck, the person who says this does. The end.
Talking about sex
This has always been my favourite subject, not least because by talking about it I can work out if I’m doing it right! Ever since my friend Frances asked me loudly across a table in a busy beer garden if I was “a squirter”, I’ve been much more comfortable with sex talk. Ever since I started having incredible sex really.
Before I met my husband, I’d giggle about penises but man, was I having a lot of very disappointing shags. Like, the worst. It should also be said that it pays to be sensitive to the friends who aren’t into similar chat, not everybody wants to hear about banging and cocks.
This is the greatest thing I have ever learned to do. What a gift to be able to give myself an orgasm.
Sometimes this is hard and sometimes this is something I question but I will never be sorry about calling someone out for saying something I disagree with. I am working constantly on that. A healthy, calm conversation with opposing views can throw up some interesting things to think about.
In contrast though, sometimes there’s no discussion to be had. Rape jokes, blatant misogyny or sexism (and the rest) should be dealt with without ceremony. People don’t have to agree on everything but that kind of talk deserves to be shut down there and then.
I’m going to go light on the intro this week because I’m pretty sure this month’s theme speaks for itself. Yes, it’s Feminist Film Month up in this joint (also over at Jill’s). Men are allowed but they better shut the hell up, is all I’m saying.
ARRANGED centers on the friendship between an Orthodox Jewish woman and a Muslim woman who meet as first-year teachers at a public school in Brooklyn.
Rochel (Lister-Jones) and Nasira (Benhamou) are both first year teachers at a school in Brooklyn. Although polite to one another and their peers, they don’t really start to communicate until a couple of kids call them up on their ‘opposing’ religions in class. Since Rochel is Jewish and Nasira is Muslim, the children wonder if the women hate each other.
This line of questioning prompts an exercise between the women and children called a ‘Unity Circle’, which is a success in showing the kids that friendship is a choice. Off the back of this exercise a friendship between Rochel and Nasira begins to blossom. And the theme of choice runs tidily throughout the film.
You see, our heroines are both in similar situations within their families, which basically means on the market for husbands, which they ain’t picking themselves, knowwhati’msayin’? (And hence the movie’s title). Or rather they do get final say, but from a list of potential suitors presented to them by their families – with mixed results.
As the women bond they start to share their ‘arrangement’ stories. Nasira is envious that Rochel at least gets to go on dates away from the family, while her own meetings are supervised closely by her firm but loving family.
Meanwhile, at school, Principal Jacoby (Marcia Jean Kurtz) shows her ignorance by pulling the two friends into her office and offering them money to go and buy designer clothes (which to be fair I would have taken out of principle). She cannot deal with the fact such pretty girls are holding on to their religious ideals in this day and age. I mean, I have my own views about religion too, lady but it’s none of our damn business.
This only makes the women stand their ground and they do push back, making it clear that they choose to dress the way they do and live the way they live. It’s an important point to be made, although they adhere to traditional values, both women choose to do so. This is something Nasira also touches upon nearer the beginning of the film when the new teachers are forced to go around in a circle and say a little bit about themselves. She is clear about it being her choice to wear the headscarf.
Sick of the disappointing dating pool, Rochel begins to upset her mother Sheli (Lieber), grandmother Elona (Doris Belack) and master-matchmaker Miriam (Peggy Gormley) with her negative attitude. Her dates are a mixed bag of misfits, all good Jewish boys on paper but somewhat lackluster in the flesh.
After an argument with her mother, Rochel goes to see her cousin Leah (Alysia Reiner) in the city to get a glimpse of life outside her faith. Leah talks to her about her own quality of life without religion and how open-minded it all is, but the threat of being isolated from the family seems to weigh on Rochel. She loves the fuckers after all. The cousins go to a party where Rochel gets a tiny taste of the life that might be out there for her, but after dancing with a hot hunk she freaks out and returns home.
Nasira is also having doubts about her path when her parents make her meet with a friend of the family, a bolshy man over 20 years older than her. EW. When she puts her foot down and refuses the match, her lovely father says he just wants her to have what he has with her mother. Despite this setback, Nasira finds herself crushing on the next match…
Rochel too enjoys a brief connection with an Orthodox Jew friend of Nasira’s brother. They share a sexy look in the library by chance but Nasira’s brother later refuses to hook them up. This forces Nasira to take matters into her own hands and is reminiscent of the things we used to do in school to get our friend’s crushes to notice them. I therefore loved it.
There is of course an ending and an outcome for both potential love interests but I can’t possibly spoil it for you here (but will probably do so below, in my summary). If you think this movie sounds like your cup of tea then I would suggest you find out for yourselves.
This is a sweet, gentle film with a nice ending. There’s no real conflict here, apart from a bit of discomfort when the friends visit each other’s homes. Which is fine but it just sort of trickles along and the conclusion is so neat that it’s slightly annoying. I mean, it’s nice that both women get what they want but when is life ever like that?
I would have been more satisfied if at least one of them had refused to marry so young and had gone off on their own path – or they had got together with each other. Still, this film is about choice and these women made their own and that’s the point. Right?
Both lead actresses are great but the characters themselves are so bland that they can’t possibly stick in the memory. There’s just no room for them next to Norma Desmond, The Foxy Merkins and the We Are The Best grrrls. Amirite, Jillian?!
This is a film that takes a gentler approach to feminist themes, the main one being that both women are free, they just choose to take a more traditional path. Which is what their families want for them, and what religion dictates.
It’s easy to be frustrated by this but many women do the same. Not all feminism is Doctor Martens and smashing the patriarchy, after all. Both young women are successful and intelligent with good careers in front of them, and neither of them are willing to settle.
3.5/5. Nice. As if nice isn’t the most boring thing to be labelled.
What does my partner-in-crime think? Why don’t you pop on over and see if she thought this one was a match or a crushing, creepy disappointment. ❤