Saint Frances: The BRWC Review. By Alif Majeed.
I was recently reading an old interview of Kristen Wiig’s where she said what studios need is, “to see women acting like guys.” Growing up, watching TV was very limited as we often had to fight with our sister for our time on the television. Due to the constant fighting, our parents had assigned designated timings for watching TV for us. So we were inevitably forced to watch whatever caught the other person’s fancy at any given time.
One of the more delightedly asides of hers when watching her movies and shows during her time, especially the ones where the protagonist was a well written female character, was when she would say, “That could only have come from a woman’s mind.” And it was not just a protagonist who is successful and brilliant in name but also a fully rounded female who can also be a failure and average. And it turns out while checking out the credits, she was mostly right. So while watching Saint Frances, I couldn’t help but remember my sisters’ words.
Saint Frances is a showcase for Kelly O’Sullivan, who both wrote and stars in the movie. As the movie starts, you find the main character Bridgette as a perennial underachiever and an overall average person. One can almost get wary about her character and think it is like countless other indie movies about underachievers. (I was immediately reminded of Obvious Child and Short Term 12 right off the top of my head.) Especially when she starts a job as the caretaker for a six-year-old Frances (an adorable Ramona Edith Williams).
When Bridgette’s unwanted pregnancy drives a further wedge in her life she has to choose between the pregnancy, and how it affects her life is what the movie is about.
Watch out for her reaction in the very first scene of the movie. As the man trying to flirt with her has unwittingly put her down, she realizes in horror that what he is describing, is her own life. Anybody who looks way younger than their actual age and had been to a date or an interview where they were very patronizingly told that they have so much to achieve as they are still young, only to be blown off when their actual age is revealed will know where that scene came from. That reaction when she tells her age to the guy who flirted with her, who promptly walks away, not wanting to waste his perfect made-to-impress story on an underachieving over-the-hill server sets up the rest of the hopefully star-making performance in the movie.
Equally good is the reactions of Jace played by Max Lipchitz to the same revelation of her age. His sweet acknowledgment of her age AND her blood all over the sheets and their faces after the first night they had sex shows just how accepting this guy can be. The matter of fact way in which it is dealt with along with many other bodily changes a woman goes through shows how intuitively Kelly has written the movie. Or like my sister says, “Yup, that came from a woman.”
It is interesting to see how Frances’ parents Maya and Annie have polar opposite reactions to the new nanny. Annie, the working mother being more business-like and wary of Bridgette, and Maya, who is going through postpartum depression after the birth of their second child. They initially come across as a typical same-sex movie couple (again, the indie version, not the dialed up hammy version). Especially Annie, who is the strict uptight working mom. But Lily Mojekwu’s outburst in front of Brigette about the pressures of having to do all the heavy lifting does a lot to help us to root for her. Charin Alvarez is also great as Maya, who is going through her changes as a result of her childbirth.
But you have to reserve your praise for Ramona Edith Williams as the titular Saint Frances. When she makes an innocent and sweet pact with Bridgette at the end of the movie, it is such a lovely moment that you root for them to make it happen.
Outwardly, the story sounds like it came straight from a studio comedy with the nanny slowly changing the lives of the family in hilarious ways. Thankfully, Kelly and first-time director Alex Thompson does more than enough to inject the tale with much needed honestly and freshness.
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