There’s a lot going on in the trailer for Marianna Palka’s new film, Bitch, which premiered earlier this year at Sundance. Grab a chew toy and give it a look:
The premise, in a nutshell: a mother (played by writer/director Palka) is so worn down by her cheating, unhelpful husband and chaotic family life that she literally turns into a bitch. As in, she starts behaving like a female dog. It’s not some suburban werewolf horror flick, which is the direction it easily could have gone in (“Take a bite out of the patriarchy!”). Instead it’s a dark comedy, I think. About a woman’s mental breakdown? Or is there some voodoo shit going on with that staring German Shepherd? Does Jason Ritter’s dopey, philandering husband character get a redemption arc? Is the family going to forge renewed bonds and be stronger than ever by the end of the film? Is it… actually a feel-good movie?
Will Palka’s character ever stop acting like a dog?
I can’t tell. And I am FASCINATED. I watched the trailer a few times on its own before doing more research on the movie, which I hadn’t heard about before. At first I thought perhaps it fell victim to a bad marketing team, who cut a trailer that tried to misrepresent the film. Jason Ritter is an appealing guy, of course, but how could he possibly be the main focus of a film called Bitch about a woman turning into a freaking dog! But reading some of the reactions out of Sundance (Variety said: “As this scenario plays out as strangely and snappishly as might be expected, one could call Bitch a one-joke film — except this absurd conceit isn’t really a joke at all”) it’s clear that the film isn’t meant to fit neatly into one box. And I love that!
As far as feminist satire goes, is it reclaiming the term “bitch” or is it pointing out how completely ridiculous it is that it’s been applied to women at all? Is there some message to the fact that the titular “bitch” of the film, played by the woman who CREATED the film, is barely seen, while her husband seems to take center stage?
It’s also worth noting that the topic of a woman seemingly devolving in the midst of her life may have roots outside of the patriarchy: Palka herself, as revealed in the incredible short documentary The Lion’s Mouth Opens, has the genetic markers for Huntington’s Disease (read Dustin’s review of the doc here). Knowing that history, it’s impossible not to want to read into Bitch as conveying something more personal about Palka. Though perhaps the only connection is that having that sort of degenerative time bomb in her future inspired her to come out swinging with this film. She’s definitely not pulling any punches here. This movie looks challenging and exciting, and I can’t wait to see it.
Bitch opens in theaters and on VOD November 10th.