Thursday, August 6, 2020

Movie with Abe: Spinster

Directed by Andrea Dorfman
Released August 7, 2020

Society heaps expectations upon people that are, at best, unhelpful generalizations, and, at worst, potentially truly harmful. The family unit has been redefined consistently throughout history, and while it might still be most common for a male and female parent to be married before they have children, it’s far from the only option people take today. Being in a defined romantic relationship isn’t for everyone, and it’s not the only way that they can decide to be a parent, if that’s even what they want. The term “spinster” has deeply negative connotations, imparting judgment on a woman whose prospects for having a spouse or children, whether or not she wants them, seem to have long passed.

Gaby (Chelsea Peretti) works as a caterer, though the food she makes for her clients is often much more pleasing to them than the responses she gives when they offer unsolicited commentary on her personal life. After the boyfriend she lives with moves out on her thirty-ninth birthday, Gaby finds herself confronting increasing pressure from those around her to just find someone and settle down, which makes her more resolute that she should be able to chart her own path. An attempt by her brother Alex (David Rossetti) to become a stand-up comic gives her a chance to spend time with one person who doesn’t have any opinions about how she should live her life: her niece Adele (Nadia Tonen).

This film’s plot summary is immediately reminiscent of past films like “Saint Frances” or “Family” that have seen a protagonist accustomed to living a directionless life open up their perspective thanks to the influence of a precocious child. Yet this feels wonderfully different and fresh, since Gaby doesn’t have a problem with kids but instead embraces the opportunity to just hang out with a fellow human being who doesn’t feel the need to give her advice or challenge why she does something. Their developing friendship is affirming, and helps to ground Gaby, who doesn’t hold back when she feels that others, including a chauvinistic dinner party guest of her sister (Susan Kent), think they have a right to tell her what she should be doing.

Peretti is an actress best known for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” and here she brings a formidable sardonic energy to the role of Gaby, flying under the radar most of the time until she gets provoked by someone else. Tonen, Rossetti, and Kent offer solid support, but this is ultimately a movie that depends entirely upon Peretti’s charm and comic timing. This film can be seen as a willful reclaiming of its title, allowing its protagonist to steer her own story. It’s a humor-filled journey that doesn’t feel overly predictable and provides endearing entertainment along the way.


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