Film Review: Sunday Girl

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Here is an actual note I took whilst watching Sunday Girl, the sophomore effort by writer/director Peter Ambrosio:

Uyuuuuuuugggghhgggf.

Frustration was my prevailing emotion throughout the seemingly interminable 78-minute run-time. It’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen. It’s not offensive (unless you’re offended by a female lead whose personality is defined by her unseasonable red trench coat). It’s just that so much time, energy, and money goes into making a film – any film – that when something like this has gotten as far as the press stage, I want to weep for the thousands of talented artists without the resources to tell their stories. How many Numa Perriers and Eva Vives and Coralie Fargeats have an unmade masterpiece sitting on their hard drive? Maybe there’s still a market for the white male perspective on female-driven romantic comedies, but it ain’t me babe.

Sunday Girl tells the story of Natasha (Dasha Nekrasova), a twenty-something social media artist based in Lafayette, LA, who unexpectedly finds herself dating five men at once. One Sunday (presumably), she decides to commit to one man in particular: a bearded piece of cardboard named George (Brandon Stacy). In order to do that, she must first dump the other four. And so, she dons a red trench coat, hops into her barely-functional vintage VW Bug, and drives a perplexingly short distance to the home of her first victim.

And boy do these men play the victim. They are so tedious during their short scenes, that I’m surprised Natasha’s eyes don’t roll right out of her head and float up into space. Victor (frequent Ambrosio collaborator, Bilal Mir), is a poet who speaks in verse, huddles against door frames in anguish, and says shit like, “I’ll be left in the morning light to consider the emptiness of not only this day but the rest of existence.” Natasha reluctantly extends her stay after he threatens suicide. Finally, she stubs out her Everlasting Gobstopper of a cigarette and heads to her car.

She drives another short distance to the next item on her to-do list, Jack (Dave Davis). He’s a ball of testosterone who leaped off the page of a Tennessee Williams play to pace around his house in a white tank top and khakis, whilst calling Natasha cheating nightmare. He might be painting his house, but he might also always have a ladder in his living room. For a while, he makes her talk to him while he digs a hole in his backyard (part of a dispute with his landlord, who is also his mother). He cooks her a steak and then practically throws it at her, along with salt, pepper and a fork. She eats it whilst finally getting to the meat of her visit. He responds that if she were a decent person, she would have fucked him first. At this point in the movie, I actually thought this guy was the same actor as in the previous scene. She certainly has a type.

Cue the shoehorned conflict involving the hunt for gas money. She makes some plays to get paid, but refuses the offer of help from the gas station attendant (because she doesn’t want to fall in love with him or something? I’m not 100% sure and I also don’t care all that much.) She still has two more dudes to cut loose before we can all go home.

The point is, Natasha is barely a person. Her job-as-character-development is that she works at an art gallery, but is ditching that day to dump her boyfriends. She also has a following on social media because her account features surreptitiously-taken photos of people crying in public. That’s about all we ever learn about this woman. We don’t know why she has decided to commit to George. We meet him in a flashback during which he refuses to speak but gives her a present. He looks almost exactly like her other boyfriends, but he has a thicker beard. Is that all it takes to get a leg up as one of Natasha’s Gentleman Callers?

I don’t hate Natasha as a protagonist. I don’t know her well enough to make any real judgments. I do know that she doesn’t say thank you when a guy gives her free ice cream. Instead, she tells a little girl ogling her cone that ice cream will make you fat. Neither does she thank her roommate for scraping together her last $3. I don’t know how Natasha can see where she is going when her eyes are in a perpetual state of rolling. I also don’t know what Ambrosio is trying to say with his late-night grocery store scene wherein hordes of athleisure-clad women purchase ice cream and wine.

Every man with whom Natasha interacts is either a romantic prospect or an existing paramour. Her roommate has a name (Kim) but exists solely to lend Natasha money and hear the backstory about how she came to be in this romantic predicament. Who is Natasha? What does she want? Neither her nor the audience are any closer to figuring anything out by the end of the film. Sunday Girl feels like it was written by a man searching for an explanation about why his crush doesn’t want him, but he doesn’t actually know anything about her below the surface. Maybe Gillian Jacobs could have injected something interesting into this character, but Nekrasova seems to stick to what was on the page, and it isn’t enough to make this movie worth your time.

Film Review: Jezebel

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The webcam industry has come a long way since 1998. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the perspective of the women on the other side of the computer: This is a job. Some may be particularly skilled at making their customers feel special, and they may genuinely appreciate the occasional gifts, but for most of these women, it’s not a passion project. It’s a means to an end, and that end is keeping the lights on. Writer/director Numa Perrier’s semi-autobiographical feature, Jezebel, is not just a coming-of-age story but also one of entering the workforce as a woman.

19-year-old Tiffany (Tiffany Tenille) lives in 1998 Las Vegas, where she shares a microscopic apartment with her older sister, Sabrina (played by Perrier herself), their brother Dominic (Stephen Barrington), their youngest sister Juju, and Sabrina’s boyfriend Dave (Bobby Field). They are crammed together like sardines in what they clearly thought would be a temporary situation, while their mother ailed in the hospital. To make matters more awkward, Sabrina works nights as a phone sex operator, keeping everyone awake through the paper-thin walls. But when their mother dies, the other siblings must find work to help pay the rent. Dominic and Dave shirk their responsibilities immediately, and Juju is too young for employment. That leaves Tiffany, who is at a loss as to where to turn for her first job. But Sabrina knows of a burgeoning industry called “internet modelling” which offers good, fast money and doesn’t require any face-to-face contact with customers. Tiffany decides to try it on, and Sabrina boosts her confidence with a little makeover involving the “Jezebel” wig; long, flowing black tresses which frame her face in a more grownup way than her youthful 1950s pinup bangs…

Read the rest at Hammer to Nail.