Saint Frances

At the Movies Blog
These two actresses make strong movie debuts.

These two actresses are headed for the bright lights of big careers in Hollywood.

I love that you don’t have to just go to a Landmark theatre to catch indie flicks. The Angelika Film Center always seems to have some interesting ones, and this little gem out of Chicago — from writer (and star) Kelly O’Sullivan, is one you should catch. It’s a shame my wife and I were the only ones in the theatre catching it on a Saturday night (as others worried about catching a virus). Folks, entertainment is all shutting down, and movies theatres are staying open. Heck, I had tickets to see The Motels at House of Blues tonight, but they cancelled that. Now I’m glad they did, or I probably would have never seen this movie.

A warning, though. If the idea of a film that deals with a woman having an abortion is off-putting, perhaps it’s not for you. I liked Obvious Child (Jenny Slate), and this has that same vibe — powerful and sad moments, mixed with humorous ones. 

Bridget (O’Sullivan) is a waitress, who’s a bit embarrassed to be in her early 30s and still waiting tables, and not sure of what she’s doing with her life. She meets a nice enough schlub at a party, sleeps with him, and a “relationship” ensues. Well, he thinks they’re in a relationship. She just thinks they’re hanging out. After all, Jace (Max Lipchitz) is only 26, and lives with an annoying roommate that yells and curses while playing video games. Nothing kills the mood like that. 

One problem with the Bridget character is she makes so many bad decisions. And I’m not even talking about her method of birth control. It’s the things she says in a job interview for a nanny position, or the dopey, much older guitar teacher (Jim True-Frost from The Wire) she falls for, who has lines that would make anyone roll their eyes. For example, he plays her a song and she asks if he wrote it. He smiles and replies, “Songs just come to me. I can’t take credit for them.”

Bridget ends up getting the nanny gig by default, working for an interesting lesbian couple. Maya (Charin Alvarez) is the nicer of the two, but she starts suffering postpartum depression. Annie (Lily Mojekwu of Widows) is all business, and can be a bit cold. There’s one scene where she confronts Bridget in the kitchen (after a few other times being a bit rude), and it’s one of the most powerful scenes I’ve seen on screen all year. I was in tears for the next two minutes.

They’re an interracial lesbian couple, and it’s refreshing to see them fight in ways that aren’t over-the-top, or to not have fights with neighbors that are cliche, racist crap you would’ve seen in a cheesy TV movie. Instead, it’s over one of them breastfeeding in public. It felt like a real scene you can imagine playing out at a picnic on 4th of July. (I’m still trying to figure out why you’d bring a young baby to fireworks, though.)

It’s nice that with a handful of hot-button issues thrown at us, they never get preachy or heavy-handed.

The only scene that didn’t feel authentic is when Bridget runs into an old college friend, who is rich and successful (and wrote a book called “Resting Rich Face”)…ends up treating her like “the help” when she finds out she’s merely a nanny. Yet even that scene was somewhat enjoyable, because of how we see Maya trying to help her out, and how it’s acted.

It’s interesting that this movie gives us stuff that I don’t recall ever seeing on screen before, and I’ve seen A LOT of movies. Thousands and thousands of movies, and I don’t recall ever seeing humor regarding menstruation (at least jokes that were funny), an abortion where a character (that’s female) doesn’t have the least bit of remorse about the decision. Although you could make an argument that in Obvious Child and Juno — the females didn’t feel so horrible about the idea of abortion.

It’s nice that, just like the man in Obvious Child (Jake Lacy), they had more sadness about the procedure than the woman having it. And Bridget being angry that her “boyfriend” has the nerve to have any opinion on it, is interesting. 

5-year-old Frances (Ramona Edith Williams) ends up stealing the show with a lot of great lines. From when we’re first introduced to her, as the nanny tries to interact unsuccessfully…to her wanting to talk about their “periods” or how low the crime rate is in her neighborhood — to her being sad when she sees her mothers fighting and wondering if they’re going to get divorced. I was pleasantly surprised that Frances was never a vehicle to make Bridget feel guilty about her decision to abort a pregnancy. The amount of time it took Bridget to even warm up to her worked, too. As much as we laugh at Frances’ antics, she’s one of the snottiest kids around.

Most of the songs were provided by Chicago native Quinn Tsan, and they worked perfectly. The one Joan Jett cut was fun, as there was a previous conversation about Jett. The only thing missing were a few cool tracks from the best female songwriter out of Chicago — Liz Phair.

While Greta Gerwig seemed to abandon those quirky movies we loved, to make boring period pieces like Little Women…I’ll be glad to have O’Sullivan slip in and take her place. Her first film was a great start.

I’ll even forgive the ending wrapping everything up a little too neatly. 

3 ½ stars out of 5.

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