The Beach House (2020) | SHUDDER
The word “spinster” has a negative connotation associated with it. It always will. It is a term that is used to put down a woman who is unmarried. The term is not only meant to describe a woman who is single, but to identify a woman who is considered to be past “marrying” age and childbearing age. I have always desired for single women to come together to take back this word and make it something positive. When I learned Chelsea Peretti was starring in a comedy of this taboo titled film, I could not wait to watch it.
This is a delicate but all too real topic: a single woman in her late 30s who navigates the world to find herself and figure out her life path. Andrea Dorfman handles this story sometimes confidently, sometimes awkwardly--depending on the scene. Some of that awkwardness can and should be contributed to the script, written by Jennifer Deyell. There are multiple scenes where I found myself saying or thinking, “No one talks like that,” or “No one would ever actually say that to someone…” However, although both the direction and writing fall short in some moments, there are really strong moments too, and a lot of potential for more stories of this magnitude for both Dorfman and Deyell.
Gaby (Chelsea Peretti) is dumped on her 39th birthday. She lives with the guy, but only has been with him for about 3-months. Gaby is not so much heartbroken after this breakup as she is just trying to figure out what her life looks like now. Society and her peers tell her she needs to find a man, settle down, get married, and have babies, and then finally then she will feel whole and happy. But Gaby decides to take a different route: what if she focused her energy and pursued her own dreams and desires and not what society has molded for women? She wants a dog, she dives into her knitting hobby (they had to make a proper nod to the other term for “spinster”), she wants to take her culinary skills from catering to owning a restaurant, and she wants to develop a strong relationship with her niece. After Gaby befriends her “spinster” neighbor, she realizes a life of a single woman is one where she can flourish, and can be part of making it normalized. Gaby will stumble upon some men along the way to her 40th birthday; some with no potential, and some with all the potential. Could Gaby be the exception and actually end up having it all?
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
There are some awkward moments at the beginning of the film, but eventually Gaby finds her footing and becomes a loveable protagonist. You will root for her and cringe along the way during the awkward situations. The break-up with her boyfriend is unrealistic, as he moves out of his own apartment to get away from her. While doing this, it is difficult to tell if her reaction is real or comedic, because it seems to be both. The conversation Gaby has at a party with a friend of a friend about her not having kids is just so unnatural, and the acting between the characters is so forced, it sounds as if they are running lines with zero emotion. That is Peretti’s acting style though, and while it works for her in “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” she seems flat and one dimensional in this role. The dry sense of humor and delivery makes her character seem careless and out of touch.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
"It stayed true to the main character’s journey..."
The aesthetic of the set is pleasing and functional to the story and its characters. There is an appreciation in the simplicity of it, because truly less is more sometimes. For example, with Gaby’s attire. Almost all of her outfits are items I would find myself in, or could see myself wearing. It is important, especially with this plot, that her character is not out of reach. If she was flashy and fancy, it would not match the persona. The weight held to this should not go unnoticed, because then Gaby would be unrelatable and the character would be less believable.
Spinster (2020) | VOD
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There is absolutely nothing to write home about here, other than music serving as background noise or as part of scene transitions. I could not tell you one song I remember from this soundtrack.
I really, really wanted to love this film. Like, shout from the rooftops about how amazing it is; I wanted to be able to go to my single and non-single girlfriends and say, “You gotta watch this!” Unfortunately, it is just forgettable. I love that the film had an unconventional ending, and it was ultimately the ending I wanted, so it exceeded my expectations in that aspect, where it could have easily gone for the “she finally found love” ending. When I thought the narrative was going to fall into the cliche, it didn’t--it stayed true to the main character’s journey. For that reason alone, I think Spinster deserves more credit than what an average audience would give it and view it as a disappointment. Sometimes a woman running off into the sunset alone, yet still happy, can and should be enough.