I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (Film) Review

ive-heard-the-mermaids-singing-movie-poster-1987-1020204047Week one in our long-awaited Feminist Film Month (if you don’t count last week’s Tootsie) and Jillian chose this quirky tale of Polly, an ‘organisationally pared’ temporary secretary and full time kook.

I’ve personally been looking forward to starting February off right for lots of reasons, not least because January sucked full arse. I know my blog wife feels the same way.

So let’s all put our hands together in a slow clap for this new month and keep that momentum going until at least the Spring, yes?

But to our film, which is Canadian and, incidentally, voted 9th in 1993’s Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time (thanks Wiki!).

As always *Spoilers Ahead*

I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987)

Director: Patricia Rozema
Stars: Sheila McCarthy, Paule Baillargeon, Ann-Marie MacDonald

IMDB Synopsis: Scatterbrained Polly gets a job as a secretary in Gabrielle’s art gallery.

My Review:

I identify with Polly in many ways, not least because she loves people watching and seems not to have any real direction. That’s so me! We begin this film with Polly speaking directly into the camera, telling us about the job interview she has at Gabrielle’s gallery which leads to an ‘incident’. She doesn’t use that wording but alludes to something that’s happened to her, or because of her.

It’s not really said but I get the impression that Polly is recording herself rather than talking to somebody else and is a little reminiscent of Miranda July in one of my favourite films, You and Me and Everyone We Know (2005) – although I think that’s just in my head.

At the interview, Polly meets Gabrielle, a rather serious French woman who takes Polly on to work in her gallery. During her introduction Polly admits that she isn’t very good at temping and has been described as ‘organisationally pared’. Gabrielle’s gallery is rather small but she definitely knows her stuff and Polly is quickly enamoured.

Polly FYI lives alone in a great little apartment and tells us that she has done so since the age of 21, when both her parents died. She is now 31. She enjoys taking photos and riding around the city on her bicycle. She is also prone to fantasy and often drifts off while waiting for her photographs to develop in her home dark room.

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“Say cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeessssssse!”

I love her for these flights of fancy which see her in a variety of scenarios that made me LOL for the most part.

Polly is a great character and has an immensely likeable face. It’s so expressive that if the entire film were just of her enormous eyes and face, I’d still have come out satisfied.

One afternoon at the gallery, shortly after Gabrielle has offered Polly a full-time job, despite the fact that several past employers have criticised her work and she herself admits typing isn’t her strong point, Mary turns up.

Mary is a leather jacket wearing painter who clearly shares a history with Gabrielle. When the women go off to talk in one of the gallery rooms, Polly listens and watches them on CCTV, which may or may not be a video camera planted inside a sculpture.

She is intrigued to learn that the women are former lovers and that Mary is still very much into Gabrielle, even though Gabrielle proclaims herself too old for her. They kiss, even though Gabrielle is currently seeing a man.

Polly admits in her video diary that she is falling in love with Gabrielle, hence her fascination but doesn’t really want all the kissing and stuff. Her admiration for her boss seems chaste and it’s not clear what Polly’s own agenda is. She doesn’t even seem particularly jealous of Mary, just curious about the whole relationship.

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“BTW you’re wrong.”

One of my favourite scenes occurs shortly after Polly discovers this new facet to her boss, as Gabrielle is walking a potential (male) buyer around the gallery. The two are discussing a collection of paintings by the same artist, and Gabrielle’s enthusiasm and obvious knowledge on the subject manages to sway his opinion, which is very strong (of course it is, he’s a man). Gabrielle does this in such an impressive way that by the end of scene I was nodding my head triumphantly, along with adoring Polly.

Things begin to develop when Polly is invited to Gabrielle’s home for her birthday party. She arrives really late, carrying a big box and all the other guests have already scattered, leaving just Gabrielle and Mary. Mary takes herself to bed while Polly and Gabrielle stay up. Gabrielle is sad and confesses that she’s upset because the one thing she wants she will never have. That thing is talent.

Polly is surprised to learn that her boss is a secret painter and asks to see her work. Gabrielle is hesitant but shows her anyway. Polly is absolutely blown away by the paintings (which are displayed to the viewer as blank glowing canvasses, thus allowing us to visualise this art as we see fit). And as Gabrielle passes out on the couch, she makes the decision to take a piece.

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“Oooh this lovely piece will look wonderful in the downstairs toilet.”

Back home with the painting, Polly is inspired by Gabrielle’s secret talent and selects some of her own photographs to send into the gallery under a pseudonym. She hopes that they’ll impress Gabrielle as much as Gabrielle has impressed Polly.

Gabrielle’s painting, meanwhile, is taken into the gallery without her permission by an encouraging Polly. Polly tells Gabrielle she shouldn’t be so shy as she’s clearly brilliant and that one of her associates has already been in and gushed about it.

Quickly, Gabrielle’s names gets out there and she becomes an instant hit on the art scene. She’s delighted, and quickly sheds her humble demeanor.

Polly, unfortunately feels rejected when her photos come into the office and Gabrielle dismisses them halfheartedly as “simple minded”. She calls in sick and stays home burning every one of her photographs.

I’m going to leave this here as all is not as it seems and if you watch I want to leave some things sacred. But to the questions section!

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“I really hate your stupid scarf right now.”

Questions:

Will Polly gain her artistic confidence back? Will she continue to love Gabrielle? Is Gabrielle all she seems?

My Thoughts:

As I wrote those questions I remembered that the ending was quite harsh but definitely proved that Polly is no doormat, despite her sweet and quirky outer appearance. Gabrielle quickly turns in Polly’s eyes (and therefore ours) from the be all and end all, to something hope-crushing and it’s all there displayed on Polly’s trusting face.

I thought this film was really something special, not least because of Sheila McCarthy (who I swear I know from more films). She plays Polly in an wide-eyed way that doesn’t grate and that’s an achievement in itself. Her daydreams could easily begin to irritate but don’t, even when she’s conducting an orchestra at just the wrong moment.

It’s okay that Polly doesn’t have a plan for life, or any friends or family because she’s something else. Otherworldly? I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Polly.

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“I can’t wait for Keep Fit class later.”

Gabrielle too is a pleasure to watch, and I like that she wears her age well (whatever that actually means). This being the eighties there are lots of giant leather belts, big earrings and arm cuffs – and she rocks them all. As an ageing woman, her lines are clear to see but she’s stunning and interesting, so much more for those things. She also casts quite the shadow as an idol fallen from grace but maybe doesn’t deserve the comeuppance that she receives.

I really liked Mary, and particularly in a scene she shares with Polly, after Polly has given up on her photography dreams. Mary finds a discarded picture taken by Polly and Polly dismisses it, using Gabrielle’s exact words to put it down. Mary accuses her of being harsh, and what does any of that matter if she likes the picture? It’s a wonderful way to look at art.

All those comments synonymous with the art set, what do they matter unless you like the piece? And what if you like a piece nobody else does? It’s still art to you. They don’t explore this much and I would have like Polly to be bolstered by their conversation.

It is all very female-centric of course, which is why it was chosen and hardly any men appear. Or if they do they are only there to illustrate the points of the women. Polly admonishes one in particular when he patronises Gabrielle, labeling her lucky to have got where she has when she first starts becoming famous. That was a triumphant scene.

All in all, I would recommend this film quite highly. I just really like the tone. Plus, the scene where Polly follows the kissing couple around and almost gets busted for peeping on them in the woods made me DIE. Why does this scene remind me so much of The Foxy Merkins, Jill?

My Rating: 4/5.

Did my honey Jillian hear the mermaids singing or was it more of a damp squib to her? Find out here.

Boy Meets Girl (Film) Review

Another week, another Netflix gem and this time it’s a movie that’s been gathering dust on My List  for some time.

bmg key artI think I subconsciously saved this film for a reason and that reason is our LGBT stretch of movies, which have swung from foreign to American (and may well swing back, who knows).

This film tackles the subject of transgender, being trans in a small town, coming-of-age and good old-fashioned love; and… well, you can wait to the end to find out what I thought.

As always *Spoilers*

Boy Meets Girl (2014)

Director: Eric Schaeffer
Stars: Michael Galante, Michelle Hendley, Jean Devereux Koester

IMDB Synopsis: Boy Meets Girl is a funny, tender, sex positive romantic comedy that explores what it means to be a real man or woman, and how important it is to live a courageous life not letting fear stand in the way of going after your dreams.

My Review:

I started off this film thinking “WTF”, perhaps because to the untrained eye it feels a little unrefined. The acting took a little bit of time to ‘settle’ and that’s probably because I’m a critical bitch.

The opening scene is a little precocious but then there was a flashback scene soon after involving a flasher and that made me laugh out loud for a solid minute. After that I was 100% in; and madly in love with the character of Ricky.

We begin in the world’s quietest coffee shop where our heroine Ricky is chatting to her BFF Robby. They’re talking about the opposite sex and Ricky is bemoaning her lack of luck with men. She then ponders whether she should try women for a change and – would you know it – right on cue in walks beautiful Francesca.

There’s an instant spark between Ricky and Francesca, with some healthy bants flowing between them. However, Fran seems a little less street smart, and maybe a little baffled at the easy way in which Ricky riffs off her. Fran’s engaged to a soldier serving time in Afghanistan and comes from a rich family, so maybe lives in a small town bubble, though she doesn’t know Ricky or Robby from their childhood days, so she might be fairly new in town (I don’t know).

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“The fuck did you just say?”

Robby encourages Ricky to come clean about who she is to Francesca. Ricky texts her while they’re sitting beside one another at the lake and Francesca is curious more than anything if a little gobsmacked at how feminine Ricky is.

I think this character is quite a good tool to be honest. Through her you get answers to the questions you might have about Ricky. Sure, it doesn’t go into much detail but we learn where Ricky is in terms of her transition, her thoughts about her body as well as how she feels about her future. I think that’s great.

Anyway, as you’d expect, the girls become close. It turns out that Francesca’s fiancé knew Ricky back in school and is less than polite about her when they talk on Skype – the usual small town bullshit – yawn! This only pushes Fran closer to Ricky and one evening they sleep together. This is Ricky’s first time with a woman, but not Francesca’s, even though she’s pretending to everyone that she’s still a virgin. Conservative family, innit.

Prior to this ‘act’, Ricky pumps Robby for information on how women’s bodies work in the lead up to sex and he gets quite uncomfortable. But the scene is quite refreshingly direct and funny.

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Cheer up loves

Ricky is a would-be fashion designer (and blogger) and throughout the film is awaiting news from a school in New York, where she plans to move as soon as. Fran is excited about Ricky’s skills and Ricky makes her a dress for a big garden party her parents are throwing at their enormous property.

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“So glad I didn’t wear green.”

When Ricky drops off the beautiful white dress she’s made for Ricky, Fran invites her and Robby to the event. They reluctantly accept. Ricky is a big hit with Francesca’s family but – what’s this? – Mr Duval (daddy) has pulled a few strings and gets Fran’s fiancé, David posted locally so they don’t have to be apart anymore.

(I’m sorry, what? Really? Of course this is supposed to illustrate just how much sway Fran’s father has as a politician but I’m p. sure he wouldn’t be able to faff around with military postings willy nilly)?

Anywho, David is back and Fran’s pleased to see him. Ricky and Robby peg it out of there but not before David slings some mud and refuses to refer to her as a ‘she’. Fran stands her ground and so, luckily, does daddy, who shouts that he’ll dropkick David in the fucking nuts if he dares to tell his daughter who to hang with (to paraphrase). Go, daddy!

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“The fuck did she just say?”

Later on Mrs Duvall (mummy) comes to see Ricky at work (still quiet) and basically tells her that any fool can see that Ricky just ain’t that into Fran and if that’s the case then why not cut her loose so she can plan her wedding? At this point I’m a bit like – what she isn’t into Fran?! – then I remembered the synopsis which suggests a love triangle, so I got it again.

Mrs D’s parting shot is “Stop calling yourself transsexual because it ain’t ladylike – how about telling people you were born with a birth defect instead?” to which Ricky has a sassy retort that sends her packing. I’m not entirely sure how that sounds better, but never mind, eh?

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“Thanks, I made it myself.”

Oh, one big thing I’ve failed to mention is that Ricky is haunted by the fact (she believes) her mother never really accepted her for who she is and as a result, left the family. Ricky’s father is bloody lovely and tells her all the time that this isn’t true but she can’t shake it. Her younger brother is an absolute don as well, and they’re obviously incredibly supportive and loving, and that’s enough to turn even the coldest heart to mush.

David confronts Ricky about Francesca and it turns out that they have far more history than we’d expected. David is all shades of messed up in his attitude but now at least we understand (but in no way condone) his dickish behaviour.

I’ll leave this here because it does have a nice conclusion and it’s a good film. You’ll maybe change your opinion on some of the characters by the end, maybe think about your own experiences within past relationships. It’s a romantic comedy and of course, I’ve mentioned a love triangle, can you see where this is going?

Before I give you my rating, how about a few questions?

Questions, questions, questions! Who, if not Francesca, is Ricky into? Does this person reciprocate? Will Ricky ever let the memory of her mother not accepting her go?

Will Ricky get into fashion school? Will David ever drop the fucking douche bag act? And perhaps most importantly, how come I don’t look as good as Ricky in braids?

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“Did someone say ‘love triangle’?”

My Thoughts:

This is a good movie. It’s sassy with a strong lead who isn’t afraid to curse and quip. Basically the best kind of main character. As mentioned above, it is a positive film without too much bad stuff.

I mean, Ricky lives with guilt, as she believes she pushed her mother away, so she has had her fair share of heartache. There is a touching scene in which an eight-year-old YouTube video featuring a young Ricky is posted publicly for all the world to see (a bit of a cheesy sequence, tbh- but I liked it). Though maybe I’m wrong, maybe burly bikers do watch teenagers’ vlogs on the side of the road with glee?

However, it seems Ricky was quite lucky throughout school. Not only to have had a supportive network but that she had the courage to face her tormentors head on. I know not all trans kids and adults are as lucky and for every positive story like this one, there is one with an unhappier ending.

But I liked it. Michelle Hendley is great, really luminous on-screen and really likeable. The ending is super sweet and super romantic, that’s all I’ll say!

My Rating: 4/5 – I liked it a lot. I’d definitely like to see Ricky again. Perhaps a sequel following her into her career in the fashion industry?

Hmmm, so what did my Blog Wife, Jillian think? Find out here.