Girlfight

As I wrote this I was finishing up NaNoWriMo, which meant I haven't had as much time for entertainment as I would like. I finished with 56,000 words, which took its toll on my leisure time. I did see a film that I loved called Girlfight, although I can't decide if the title is ridiculous or brilliant. On the one hand it sounds frivolous as calling something a girlfight is meant to sound demeaning. Girls fight by slapping and scratching and don't inflict any real damage, or so most of society would have you believe. The fighting in this story is boxing, which is real enough to ruin your cognitive thinking for life or even be fatal, and the protagonist, Diana Guzman, isn't taken seriously when she says she wants to be a boxer.

Diana is a teen who is also taking on the role of a parent. She watches over her little brother Tiny, beating up anyone who harasses him and trying to smooth his life path. Their father was abusive when they were young and appears to be working hard not to physically harm them now. Their mother is gone, leaving Diana with no real source of advice. Her father may not be hitting her but he reacts to much of what she or her school says with anger. He certainly doesn't understand her boxing ambitions and wants her to engage in more girly pursuits. At the same time he's pushing Tiny towards boxing, paying for the lessons Diana so badly wants.

She also has trouble getting the men in the gym to take her seriously, no real surprise there, and when she does start boxing she can't find sparring partners. Nobody wants to hit a girl but I also wonder how many of these boys are afraid of being beaten by a girl. How annoying for Diana to have to work really hard to scrounge up money for lessons only to be treated like a dilettante. No wonder she's always getting in trouble for losing her temper.

There is a lot I loved about this film. There are tons of films starring women who are thin but look like they'd fall over if they had to pick up anything bigger than a magazine. Michelle Rodriguez, who plays Diana, is literally in fighting form, able to do several pull-ups in a row and box and run. The last time I saw an actress with such strong arms was Linda Hamilton in Terminator Two. It was also nice to see an "urban" coming of age film with no gang violence or gunplay. Diana Guzman and her peers are facing real problems and difficult choices without stereotypical portrayals. Sure there is violence, but it's violence from fist fighting, not drive by shootings. (Not that there's anything wrong with making a project about violence and drugs, witness the Wire for an excellent example, but when film after film is about the same subject it gets depressing.)

I love Diana's character. In the first eight minutes of the film she's in a fight to protect her friend's honor. In trouble with the school and facing suspension, she walks into the gym where Tiny is sparring and sees a boy called Ray punch him in the face even though the bout is over. It's a sucker punch and totally uncalled for. Diana gets Ray's attention and punches him, hurting her hand but gaining satisfaction. She's bold and brave and fights for what she believes in. Maybe there's something wrong with me as I get older but lately I've been wishing more characters would hit people and reveling when they do it – of course only when I feel it's warranted.
Diana is constantly under pressure to behave in a gender normative fashion. Her father asks her if it would kill her to put on a skirt and taunts her for spending time and money on lipstick, despite being fully aware that Diana could not be less interested in lipstick. My reaction to the skirt question is yes. It may not physically harm her but it would kill something inside her.

The film came out in 2000 and won several awards, as well as being nominated for even more. It won two prizes at Sundance, including Best Director – Drama and Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic, won an Independent Spirit Award and was nominated for another, and won two National Board of Review awards - Best Breakthrough Performance by an Actress and Special Mention for Excellence in Filmmaking. According to imdb it won or was nominated for many more, including a prize at the Cannes Film Festival. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0210075/awards I ran out of time before I could verify these awards at other sites but they're certainly well deserved. This movie satisfied on every level.

I'm trying to read Scott Pilgrim Volume Two, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World but I'm having even more trouble, mostly because I can't seem to tell the characters apart. Ramona cut her hair and doesn't look so distinctive and a lot of the girls look alike. Does anyone else have this problem?

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Blood Spatter who wrote in to say, "Chiller is going to have a 13 scariest movie moments show. Way to ruin 13 movies at once Chiller." Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at feedback@qualitytimeweekly.com.