Monday, 9 February 2015

Stuff I Found on Netflix: God Help the Girl

I watched this film one night when Paul had gone to bed like a sensible person and I decided to sit up late and watch telly. I chose it because the picture made it look like a bittersweet end of adolescence/one long summer type film which is exactly what I want to watch late at night. Plus the description said it was a musical by Stuart Murdoch from Belle and Sebastian which sounded intriguing. I pressed play, knowing it would make me feel sad that my adolescence was too boring to make a film out of and that my outfits were rubbish.

Here is an extremely brief outline of the plot:
Eve is in hospital receiving treatment for anorexia. All we know about her is that she loves music and has incredible cheekbones. (This is all we ever know about her.) She leaves hospital against medical advice and starts a band with a sweet nerd called James and Cassie from Skins. I say Cassie from skins, not just because the actor played Cassie in skins, but because she is playing Cassie from skins again AND the character is actually called Cassie. Cassie, James and Eve have a fun summer as a band but ultimately it comes to and end when Eve moves to London to go to Music College.

From the outline it sounds like it could be fun. It definitely featured a long summer! It had beautiful youths and music and quirky day trips on boats. It was promising. 
We even had Maria from the Sound of Music running along after them at one point:
Sadly the inclusion of a Julie Andrews lookalike wasn't enough to make me love God Help the Girl.

The problem with the film is that none of the characters felt like fully realised. Eve, for example, is supposed to be the main character and yet we never feel part of her world. We know she's Australian, has anorexia, and loves writing songs but we don't really see any more of her than that. As an audience we don't know any more about her than the other characters do and so we don't develop any of that false intimacy that makes it feel like she is our entrance point to the film. Instead of being part of her story it feels we are just creepily watching her. The entire film is through the male gaze - Eve is just a beautiful object that we gaze on and aren't given the chance to understand. There is no depth to her, like the person making the film doesn't know that women are fully people and have personalities outside what is immediately noticeable and attractive to men. Perhaps I am reading to too much into it? It just felt very empty to me. I found the choice to give her anorexia (or at least the way it was dealt with) troubling because it felt like it was used as a marker for her character-type  – beautiful, tortured depressive pixie dream girl. The choice to have Hannah Murray playing Cassie automatically made me, and I'm sure everyone else, think of Cassie from Skins and therefore another anorexic character which further enforced the whole thing of "quirky anorexic girl" as character type and it was a bit icky for me. 

I can't ignore that the film is madly, painfully twee. I actively love twee so think isn't really a problem for me. I am drinking out of a mug with hearts on right now, I wear unicorn brooches and I am very much a fan of the peter pan collar*. But this film gets so hung up on the twee that there is barely anything else there. It would have been much better as a long music video as the songs are the best part of the film anyway. 

All fur coat and no knickers. Or, all hipster hats and no insights.

*is this twee or just kitsch?

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