This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
katie’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
i absolutely despise the fact that i enjoyed this movie. it has everything i hate in films — poorly written manic pixie dream girls, unacknowledged sexual harassment, a misogynistic asshole as the main character, and a woman falling in love with someone who doesn’t deserve her. yet somehow it’s also a tragically poetic story with insightful takes on suicide, parental expectations, and gratitude.
cinematically, i’m in awe of the film. the flashbacks were incorporated into the film by being superimposed over the scenes. the memories were shown through an old video camera, as if billy’s most traumatic childhood memories had all been recorded as home videos. the use of superimposition throughout the movie was bold and slightly jarring, giving the film a quirky and unorthodox feel.
it features a self-loathing protagonist who’s character traits all point to being and incel. billy brown is a terrible person and wrestles with his grief and guilt throughout the film. he kidnaps layla, yells at his parents, and victimizes himself after a girl was uncomfortable with him. even when layla completely ignored all of that and is nothing but sweet + kind to him, he still loathes her, refusing to accept her love. nothing excuses his actions. but the flashbacks create sympathy for billy, showing how he grew up with verbally abusive parents who were cruel enough to create lasting damage but not so cruel that he could cut them out of his life. he went to jail to protect his parents, who certainly wouldn’t do the same for him. he is a complicated character to figure out, but the bottom line is that he is extremely damaged by factors out of his control.
on the other hand, layla is an angel of a character. christina ricci is gorgeous and i’m obsessed with her. however, i don’t like the way her character is written. despite how i adore layla’s kindness, i don’t think billy is deserving of it. i don’t think any sane woman would happily agree to pretend to be married and in love with a former criminal who just kidnapped them. billy verbally abuses her nonstop throughout the day and she falls in love with him?? layla is a textbook manic pixie dream girl, existing only to serve the desires of men. she is introduced in the dance studio as she is taking tap lessons, the frame carefully cropped to show her face and her boobs — sexualized from the moment she is shown. she listens to billy’s father sing and begs to hear more, despite his obvious infatuation with her and sexual advances. she endures physical and verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and neglect, but she is still smiling and affectionate.
i was very conflicted when i was watching the movie because as much as i hate certain aspects, it was also something i enjoyed. it has a happy ending. billy decided not to kill the football player/strip club owner because he was able to let go of his anger towards his parents. he finally stopped trying to be someone they would like, and instead he realized that even if he died he would not receive the love he wanted from his parents. even his death would not make a big enough impact. he learned how to be grateful and how to accept love from layla.