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November 30, 2018

3

Girlfriend

by Franz Patrick


Girlfriend (2010)
★★ / ★★★★

Celeste (Amanda Plummer) made the decision that she no longer wants to live. The problem is, now that she is dead, the household is left to Evan (Evan Sneider), her son who happens to have Down syndrome. Evan does not have very many friends, mostly people who feel as though they have to be nice to him due to his genetic disorder, despite the fact that he is a friendly guy. He has a crush on Candy (Shannon Woodward), a young mother who is having trouble paying the rent and under the watchful eye of her jealous ex-boyfriend (Jackson Rathbone).

“Girlfriend,” written and directed by Justin Lerner, is a brave dramatic picture but it does not provide the necessary layers to pull off a consistently engaging story of a person who is left behind and clinging onto a fantasy that he has a girlfriend. I liked that Sneider, who has Down syndrome in real life, is front and center and there is no compromise. However, there are a few of strands, potentially ripe for exploration, that are introduced but never given proper attention. Questions linger in our minds which distract as the material moves forward.

Not once did I believe that Evan is able to live independently. After his mother’s passing, there are about half a dozen images designed to make us think that he will not be able to make it on his own for long. We are concerned for his well-being. However, when the relationship between Candy and Evan kicks into full gear, the survival subplot is thrown out the window. There is no transition. Did Evan learn to take care of himself and the responsibilities around the house after a day? A week?

In addition, since not one character bothers to bring up the idea that maybe Evan is not fit to live by himself, I had a difficult time buying into the reality of the story completely. Did no one really care about him or are the people around town simply not knowledgable about those with Down syndrome? Either way, I felt as though the screenplay cheats by avoiding the obvious.

Evan’s crush on Candy is presented with enough honesty. When it gets things right, it is enlightening but when it gets things wrong, it is borderline creepy or offensive. I consider it a good thing that I never made up my mind on how to feel about Candy. A case can be argued that she is simply using Evan because he is able to provide her money that she desperately needs.

Without that money, it is doubtful that she would choose to interact with him for long. Most of us will get the impression she is that kind of girl. On other hand, she is interesting because she is someone who is quickly running out of options. If we were in her shoes, would we have done the same: take advantage of someone’s innocence and kindness not out of malice but out of desperation? There are no easy answers.

The film captures the look of the small town, the people in it, the clothes they wear, and their lifestyles, but I was not emotionally invested in the unfolding of what should be a moving story because the reality we are provided is not a complete picture. If anything, “Girlfriend” supports that intimate, small-scale dramas can be very tricky to pull off. You can probably get away with disregarding one big detail, but overlooking several costs the material the necessary believability.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. GaryGreg828
    Dec 1 2018

    this is one i recommended to you a long time ago; you may not remember. lol. I really liked this movie. I was never really sure where it was going to go next, and you know those are the stories I like the most. It seems you don’t like most of my recommendations, at least not nearly as much as I do…which is why I can’t wait for you to hurry up and watch The Invisible Guest b/c I feel that is one you will like! :) *PS: Evan looks a bit like Peter Griffin on the pic you posted. lol.

    Reply
    • Dec 3 2018

      Yes! I remember you recommending this to me. See? I add your recommendations to my list. It’s just that either 1) I take a while to get to them or 2) I watch them within a span of a month of recommendation but my review does not get posted for a long time.

      This review belongs in the latter. I have 100+ reviews currently unposted. They have accumulated because I post only 1 movie per day but there are times when I see 2-4 movies a day. I watched “Girlfriend” and reviewed it more than 1 or 2 years ago. I think I watched it back when I was still in grad school. Something like that!

      And, no, I have not yet gotten to “The Invisible Guest” yet. Sorry! :( But once I do, I will make sure to post my take on it within a week after seeing it. Promise!

      Also, don’t worry about me seemingly not liking your recommendations. I love getting recommendations, and if I happen to not like them, it’s totally fine! I like learning about people’s tastes and sometimes the recommendations push me to watch movies I wouldn’t see normally. And a lot of movies you asked me to check out I hadn’t heard about, so that’s definitely a positive. So I say keep ’em coming.

      lol @ you pointing out that Evan looks like Peter Griffin. I didn’t see that at all! Not sure if I see it now, though… Hahah!

      Reply
      • GaryGreg828
        Dec 4 2018

        i was going to recommend “Upgrade” but I saw that you already reviewed it and loved it as much as I did. I would also strongly recommend “The Kindergarten Teacher” with Sherry Gyllenhaal if you haven’t watched yet; it had a very subtle intensity and you just were never really sure where it was going. I think you’d like it, but even if you weren’t fond of it I think you’d appreciate the storytelling aspect.

        I recently watched “The Clovehitch Killer” and was a bit disappointed. It was okay, but I felt it was kind of dull at times. You may want to watch for yourself to form your own opinion as it is a film that tries to be a little different, which we can always appreciate even if it doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped.

        I watched this new, under-the-radar film with Luke Evans called “10X10” that I personally liked, but I am not sure if you would, but it’s worth giving a try to see; just go in with moderate expectations, and I think you’d at least like it okay, maybe even a great deal.

        Reply

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