Written by: Vicki Polon
Starring: Melanie Mayron, Anita Skinner, Eli Wallach, Christopher Guest, Bob Balaban, Gina Rogak
No matter how close you can be to a friend, life will eventually pull any pair apart from the perfect state brought upon by a lack of responsibility. When duty calls, different paths form, which may cause rifts but that alone does not end a relationship if a healthy one always existed. This existential feat becomes apparent with many friendships as major moments of change arrive such as graduations, marriages, and additions to the family. Something many can relate to, which makes Girlfriends such a touching and relatable story.
Aspiring photographer, Susan (Melanie Mayron) lives with her best friend and roommate Anne (Anita Skinner) until the latter gets engaged, married, and then moves out to live with her new husband. This leaves Susan alone and needing to find something to fill the void where she used to spend most of her time with Anne as she figures out her career prospects.
Watching this feature, I would be remiss not to mention its obvious influences on one of my favorite films, Frances Ha. From a thematic and plot structure, the 2011 film borrowed plenty and while the more contemporary feature may have hit on a stronger emotional chord for me, Girlfriends carries its own unique beauty in capturing the same anxieties but at a different time. With careers, marriages, and babies growing rifts between them, the relationship between Susan and Anne remains the very center of this story. They become what we root for throughout the narrative and what pulls them together allows for such an enjoyable viewing experience.
The main perspective lies with Susan and how she must pick up the pieces of Anne moving out and figuring out what the rest of her life must now amount to. When living with Anne she could live in the bliss of being young, adventurous, and with no responsibilities holding her back. With Susan’s best friend forsaking all of it for a more traditional lifestyle, it puts the protagonist in a place where she must make the same decision. Go the way expected of her or continue to persist in the way of her youth. This youthful recklessness puts her in a few binds throughout the story, but this becomes a journey, which evidently brings her back to her friend. Watching this feature allows us to see Susan somewhat grow up, not that she’s not already an adult.
Taking the next step feels so relatable because everyone growing up has this particular experience. The amount of times you see memes on Facebook from people decrying that everyone around them is getting married and pregnant becomes that moment for many where you and the people around you are no longer kids. Growing up those things remained reserved for parents and adults but now we’re the adults whether we want to believe or not. This moment of realization hits hard and the responsibility of being your own person becomes the journey for Susan and Anne in their own respective ways.
Claudia Weill’s direction of this feature allows for a certain level of intimacy in the way it captures Susan. It puts the audience right in the middle of everything she experiences. From the uncomfortable to the most gratifying, we see it all with Susan as she’s allowed to make mistakes and learn from them in solidifying her place in this world. It makes for such sympathetic characters to experience this story through. Joyous at points but also very realistic in what this life journey represents for Susan. Weill matches the poignancy of the screenplay written by Vicki Polon and their combination allows for this rich story to hit full stride for a very appropriate climax.
Any film taking place in New York almost has an obligation to have the rich city part of the story and this feature does it well in allowing the metropolitan to be the background but also the provider of opportunities. The cold walks on the busy sidewalks and the random strangers you bump into makes this such a unique experience for Susan, as no other environment can capture what it means to live in this city. Through its grainy footage, this feature feels of its time adding a layer of wondrous authenticity to it.
Serving as a good feature to watch with a best friend of any gender, Girlfriends tells a poignant story through good direction and stong acting. These two friends may take different paths in life but the only thing that matters remains that connection binding them. No matter the distance or the obstacles, if this remains strong then nothing can keep them apart. A valuable lesson for anyone going through a similar process in the different milestones life has to offer inciting major change. True friendship can persist through it all if it was ever meant to last the gauntlet of life.