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Film / Girlfriends

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Girlfriends is a 1978 Dramedy directed by Claudia Weill, from a screenplay by Vicki Polon.

Susan Weinblatt (Melanie Mayron) is a young photographer in New York City. Struggling to find galleries that will display her artistic photos, she makes ends meet doing commercial photography. One of her main clients is friendly Rabbi Aaron Gold (Eli Wallach), who always hires her to photograph the bar mitzvahs and weddings he presides over.

Susan's best friend and roommate, aspiring writer Anne Munroe (Anita Skinner), suddenly announces that she's moving out to marry Martin (Bob Balaban). Susan struggles to keep their friendship afloat, as she juggles other friendships old and new, a romance with a man named Eric (Christopher Guest) she first met at a party, her first big break in her photography career, and even thoughts that Rabbi Gold (a married man three decades her senior) might be more than just a friend.

Produced over the span of a year on a shoestring budget, Girlfriends became a favorite on the then-embryonic film festival circuit, with Warner Bros. picking it up for distribution. While it didn't attract much of an audience in regular release, it impressed Stanley Kubrick, who touted it in an interview as the best recent film by an American director. Long considered an obscure curio, it's gained renewed attention in recent years as an early attempt by female filmmakers to touch on feminist themes, as well as an obvious ancestor of the Mumblecore movement. Lena Dunham has been an enthusiastic champion, and even brought in Weill to direct an episode of Girls.

No relation to the TV series or the manga.

This film contains examples of:

  • Awful Wedded Life: We get hints that testy Anne and nebbishy Martin aren't all that happy of a couple. Also, Anne's parents got divorced, and Rabbi Gold and his wife seem to have a shaky marriage.
  • Big Applesauce: Set in the tiny apartments and art galleries of Lower Manhattan, and it's the kind of movie that couldn't take place anywhere else.
  • Cool Old Guy: Rabbi Gold, who's gentle, funny and wise.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The most obvious shared trait of Susan and Eric.
  • Expy: Susan is like a ten-years-older version of Ginger, Melanie Mayron's character in Harry and Tonto.
  • Fan Disservice: Unless you really like the idea of seeing Christopher Guest and Bob Balaban naked (not together, though).
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: When Susan goes to find Anne after she went to the country for the weekend while leaving Martin in the city, this gets a major aversion when it's revealed that Anne secretly had an abortion because she didn't want a second child.
  • Granola Girl: Ceil, who Susan picks up hitchhiking and who later becomes her roommate.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Susan and Anne, but Anne's marriage throws a major curveball into this relationship for both of them.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: On a visual level, you have blonde shiksa Anne on one hand, then there's dark-haired and very Jewish Susan. But personality-wise, they both have a mixture of lighter and darker sides.
  • Messy Hair: Susan has quite an impressive Jewfro.
  • No Ending: Susan and Anne renew their friendship at the country house, then they see Martin pull up in the driveway for an unannounced visit, but the film ends before he enters the house.
  • Random Events Plot/Slice of Life: Basically it's a series of vignettes from a year or so of Susan's life.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Eric gives one to Susan, accusing her of being too hard on herself and projecting her own faults onto Anne.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Susan (red) is outgoing and earthy, Anne (blue) is more guarded and uptight.
  • Unbuilt Trope: While the fashion and setting are very much from The '70s, the tone and approach are remarkably similar to a modern indie film. While Weill was clearly familiar with the directorial work of John Cassavetes and Éric Rohmer, she adds her own unique spin to their influence that makes this film seem very modern.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Susan and Anne seem headed toward this fate after they have a big argument. They reconcile in the final scene, though.