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Underrated Coming-of-Age Movies With Strong Female Leads Post!

Here are a few movies I’ve watched in the last year or so that seem to fly under the radar. If you like female coming-of-age stories, you’ll probably like these.

1. Welcome Home, Roxy Carmichael (1990)
Winona Ryder plays Dinky, a bullied fifteen year old who believes her mother is a famous ex-resident of her small town. Super cute and a must see for anyone who loves Winona Ryder half as much as I do. I downloaded it earlier, but there might be a stream available somewhere.

2. Smooth Talk (1985)
Probably the most under-seen on my list. This is a strange little movie starring Laura Dern about a young girl trying to come to terms with her burgeoning sexuality. The whole film takes on a very Sofia Coppola feel up until the last half hour, which is probably one of my favorite film segments ever. I won’t spoil it, but shit gets crazy. This one was hard for me to find, but you can watch it here.

3. Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
Natasha Lyonne plays a girl in the 70s with an irresponsible father (Alan Arkin) who can’t keep their family in the same place for long. This movie will probably ring true for any girl who “developed” early, or had to deal with family disfunction. Solid dark comedy, available on Netflix.

4. Guinevere (1999)
A small film starring Sarah Polley that looks at the relationship between an older photographer and his younger muse. A really fascinating and honest portrayal of the type of relationship that can really shape a person. Also available on Netflix.

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I was recently given the opportunity to see the film Not Waving But Drowning before its release. It’s a small film you probably haven’t heard of, but it packs a serious punch with great performances, amazing cinematography and an incredible soundtrack. The film is about two best friends, separated for the summer. One stays in Florida to work in a retirement home, while the other moves to New York City. 

The director’s short The Most Girl Part of You preludes the film, and although unrelated to Not Waving But Drowning, it really sets the right kind of tone. I was immediately reminded of The Virgin Suicides. What impresses me the most is that while the short has similar sensibilities as the feature, there’s a distinctiveness to it as well. 

Now, onto my favorite aspects of Not Waving But Drowning. The acting was fantastic, especially from the two leads. I’m not sure if it was the script, or improvisation, but the scenes with the two of them together were very authentic. Once they separate, each girl finds connection in different characters. In New York, Adele (Vanessa Ray)  befriends a troubled neighbor (Isabelle McNally, who plays her to drugged out white girl perfection) and her coworker, Adam (Adam Driver, who plays a similar character to his in Girls, but with a softer touch). Meanwhile, Sara (Megan Guinan) gets close to an older woman at her job (Lynn Cohen). There are no weak players here, and every character feels true.

What really lifts this film from your typical “coming of age in New York City/a small town” story is the atmosphere created by the visuals and the killer soundtrack. I’m amazed at the personal attention they paid to both Florida and New York City without getting into the typical shots of the ocean or the city landmarks. The soundtrack is occasionally assaultive in the best possible way. They use music to immerse you in the lives of these characters, and it works.

Not Waving But Drowning feels like a fantastic mix of Girls and Lost In Translation, in the best possible way. I highly recommend watching the trailer here, and checking back with the website on August 27 when they start streaming the film - for FREE. 

My Best Friend’s Wedding is arguable one of the best romantic comedies of all time and I’ll tell you why:

  • It hits all the classic romantic comedy cues (the misunderstanding, wacky supporting characters, a wedding at the end, chase scene, etc) without feeling stale
  • The main character is a successful but incredibly flawed (without being fucking clumsy) female anti-hero
  • She does terrible things but recognizes that and learns from her mistakes
  • And in the end, instead of breaking up her friend’s wedding and making a mess of her entire life, she realizes that some things are more important than romantic love, sometimes you don’t always win but you can still be happy with your friends and family!!!
  • How many movies, let alone romantic comedies, end with the female protagonist getting her heart broken but realizing that it’s for the best and that maybe she DOESN’T need a man after all?
  • Not to mention it has countless perfect set ups and executions

Which is why if you haven’t been watching this over and over since 1997 you’re just plain wrong!

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Beyond Clueless is less a documentary and more a tone poem or a visual essay. There are no interviews, no behind-the-scenes footage or stories to be found. Instead, we get ninety blissful minutes of in-depth analysis of my personal favourite genre of film: teen movies. It’s amazingly well edited and scored, and the director fantastically repurposed clips from over 200 different teen films between the mid 90s and 2000s. As someone who has seen at least 80 percent of the films discussed and shown in the doc, I can say it never felt boring. Check it out when it comes near you.

Spring Breakers is a magical odyssey of excess and over-indulgence. It is incredibly rich in its hollowness. A friend of mine described it as “an art film about something that is not artistic”, which I think pretty much covers it. There were a few walkouts at my screening, and a whole lot of, “What the fuck is this shit?”

There’s nothing specific that pops out about this movie. None of the performances are great, the characters aren’t exceptional, and there isn’t much in the way of plot. But you don’t notice these things if you just give in and let it ~wash over you~, if you know what I mean. The whole thing is like a theme park ride, more of an experience than a film. If you really want to look at the nuts and bolts of it, you probably won’t enjoy yourself.

Already one of my favorite movies of the year, guaranteed. Anything that can incorporate that much Britney Spears so flawlessly wins in my book. Guys, I liked it so much that I’m listening to the soundtrack constantly. I’m listening to dubstep. 

I considered seeing this movie again today, as it is cheap tuesday at Cineplex and I wanted to avoid working on the million assignments I have due this week. I saw it for the first time last Saturday and it slayed me.

It’s about love, but not really. It’s mostly a coming-of-age story about a young woman named Adele, which is why I think the french title is more fitting (La Vie D’Adele). If you’re nervous about planting your ass in a seat for three hours and reading subtitles, don’t be. The time flies by, and I can honestly say there were things I wished had been elaborated on. I considered the sex scenes to be gratuitous, but I didn’t let it ruin the film for me. It’s wonderful and heartbreaking. Heartbreaking in the sense that, after the film was over, I felt like I had lost something because I wouldn’t get to see those characters anymore. I miss Adele and Emma, which is a very strange feeling. I guess when you spend three uninterrupted hours with incredibly well written/acted characters, you’re bound to establish some kind of connection. 

Hollie and I had the opportunity to see Boyhood last week and it was really lovely. It grew on me after I watched it. I keep finding myself connecting moments from my own childhood to that of the main characters’, which might be difficult at first, but that’s only because Richard Linklater takes such a different approach to coming of age.

Most directors tend to go for the showier moments of childhood (parents fighting, first kiss, first car, etc etc) but Linklater forgoes that route entirely. You learn about these moments as the film progresses, but it focuses on the smaller things. We don’t see Mason learn to drive, but we see his father breaking yet another promise to him. We don’t see his first kiss, but we see the aftermath of a broken heart. In this way, Linklater completely sidesteps what initially feels like “the action”, but by doing so reaches a whole different level of capturing childhood. It’s a true collection of small, important moments. I don’t know about you guys, but though I barely remember my high school graduation, I can’t forget the feeling of skipping a class and grabbing a sandwich. That’s what this film feels like.

I had a special connection to this film, considering the age of the main character matches up perfectly with mine (and his mother is the same age as mine). I don’t think that’s necessary though. You’ll probably cry anyway.

Such a cute little refreshing movie. I wasn’t a fan of the pacing, it made the film a very slow build. However, once it gets going, you’re pretty invested. Keira Knightley is really starting to show her range as an actress, she does such a great job (and she’s not a bad singer, either). If you’re looking for a cheerful, surprising and sweet Sunday afternoon movie, this is your best bet. 

TIFF Review: Under the Skin

I almost didn’t get a ticket for this. When I was picking movies to see at TIFF, this was near the bottom of my list. Seeing that the premiere was still available, I pretty much just said, “Fuck it, the movie might be cool, and I’ll get to stare at Scarlett Johansson.” Yeah, I made the right choice.

Under The Skin is an immediately arresting, divisive film. Listening to the reactions of the people around me, it seemed like it didn’t click for the whole audience. It’s an intensely atmospheric, dreamy, visual film. It was until half an hour into the film that I realized I hadn’t moved an inch since it had started. I was literally crouched over, gaping at the screen.

The music, like the rest of the film, feels both classic and completely fresh at the same time. Scarlett Johansson has never been better, she’s in nearly every frame of the film and just kills it. The visuals Jonathan Glazer creates are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There’s a whole lot of nudity, but it’s equally dispersed between Scarlett Johansson and her, um, targets, which I found incredibly refreshing. 

This is the type of film that makes me wish it was in theatres everywhere so I could have someone to discuss it with, man. 

Sunday (okay, technically Monday) Movie Recommendation: Sleeping Beauty

This movie is not for everyone. Actually, it’s incredibly polarizing, you’ll either love it or loathe it. I loved it. I can’t exactly pinpoint why I loved it, but I guess I’ll list the things I was fond of.

First of all, aesthetically speaking, it’s almost perfect. One of the prettiest movies I’ve ever seen. Every shot looks like a photograph. Emily Browning was stunning. It was just visually fantastic. Performance wise, I was impressed with everyone in the movie. Obviously, Emily was the focal point of the whole film, and she didn’t disappoint. She did some brave things in this movie, and I was thoroughly impressed. The rest of the cast was good as well, specifically the first man she “sleeps” with (technically). He had a really amazing monologue that came out of nowhere and knocked me off my feet. You don’t really expect to feel any sort of sympathy or connection with someone who pays for the company of an unconscious young girl, but he really excelled in his scenes.

This movie is not moved by action, or music, or even dialogue. It moves forward through the slow but steady build of energy bubbling under Emily’s character. The driving force of the film is never told, just shown, which might make some viewers wonder, what exactly is the point here? Why watch some girl degrade herself more and more until she cracks?

No one is going to tell you what the point is. There’s no neat and tidy resolution, no redemption. It’s simply the study of a girl, no explanation needed. This movie doesn’t coddle or spell anything out, which made it even more fascinating, in my opinion.

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Electrick Children (2012) 

My most recent Netflix Friday choice, I only just realized it was available to stream. Man, this film is a doozy. Let me try to summarize: a young Mormon girl believes she’s been impregnated by a song played on a cassette tape, so she runs off to Los Vegas to find the person who recorded the song (who she believes is the father of her child).

It sounds really weird, but it’s actually just a lovely coming-of-age story about a very sheltered young girl. Julia Garner is slowly becoming one of my favorite indie darlings, and she shines in (what I believe is) her first starring role. It’s got a great soundtrack and Billy Zane, what more do you want?

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I’m pretty sure this film is going under the radar, but I thought it was great. It’s visually stunning, well written and completely original. Never thought I’d say it, but Jessica Biel gives an incredible performance, and I feel bad for doubting her. I won’t give away too much, because there are some pretty interesting elements that I really didn’t see coming, but I highly recommend it. I was a big fan of Francesca Gregorini’s last film Tanner Hall, and she doesn’t disappoint here.

So, here’s the deal: I heard about The To Do List years ago and thought the premise sounded interesting. Fast forward a few years, the trailer came out, I wasn’t all that interested anymore. But it turns out that my initial excitement was well deserved, because I really fucking liked this movie.

A movie about a young woman taking control of her sexuality? Without regret? Without after school special consequences? While still maintaining a strong relationship with her female friends? Am I dreaming?

It’s insanely raunchy and surprisingly hilarious without losing heart. There’s a killer early 90’s soundtrack. It was WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY A WOMAN!!! These are all the things I need right now in this testosterone saturated summer, and you need them too. So go see it. Please? If only to see Audrey Plaza spit jizz out of her mouth?

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Saved! (2004)

Saved! is one of those rare few movies I watched repeatedly when I was younger that actually stands the test of time. I discovered it during my Mandy Moore phase and never looked back. Fuck, I really love this movie.

It tells the story of Mary, a young Christian girl whose faith is challenged after her gay boyfriend knocks her up. No longer fit for Mandy Moore’s Jesus loving girl band, she befriends the ultimate Catholic school rebels: a Jew and her handicapped boyfriend (played to perfect by Eva Amurri and Macaulay Culkin, who should have much better careers right now based on this movie alone). 

One of the brightest examples of my favorite genre (teen dark comedies with a female lead), Saved! manages to look at Christianity with criticism but not cynicism, and never falls into stock character traps. One of my favorite films.

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Breathe In (2013) is a truly fascinating drama from Drake Doremus (Like Crazy) that, while treading in familiar territory, brings new life to the subject. The film is lead (and improvised) by Guy Pearce and Felicity Jones, who have some pretty insane chemistry going on here. But the star of the film is truly Drake Doremus’s direction, as well as the cinematography and score.

It’s the story of an eighteen year old transfer student coming to stay with what seems like the perfect family, and the disruption her arrival causes. In one of the first shots, you see a copy of Jane Eyre in her trunk, appropriate given the tone of the film. It feels like a contemporary retelling of a classic gothic romance, substituting the governess for an exchange student, of course. It comes out especially in the scenes handling sexuality; nothing is ever explicit, but the way it’s shot makes the image of fingers touching feel like an intensely private, sensual moment.

If you’re looking for a strongly acted and beautifully shot family drama, I would recommend this film. It may not redefine the subgenre, but there’s definitely something here.

So I’ve been hyped for this movie since September because who doesn’t love a trashy erotic thriller? And I got to see it tonight (for free) and it’s an instant sleepover party classic. It is an erotic teen horror thriller with camp, cunnilingus and cat scares. My face hurt afterward because I was grinning so hard the entire time. This movie is so intensely late 90s-early 2000s and it has literally everything I love in one package.

And it stars Jennifer fucking Lopez and the hottest guy to come out of the Step Up franchise. I LOVE THIS MOVIE.