Friday, September 5, 2014


Eliza Hitman's debut feature is a success in my eyes because even though I was exposed to a world I obviously know nothing about (the world of a 14 year old girl) I still left the theater having fully enjoyed what I saw (coincidentally, I bumped in to one of the film's editors, filmmaker Scott Cummings, after leaving the theater the night I watched It Felt Like Love). There's so many moments in this movie that I'm sure came from a very real place that I could never personally relate too, yet I found myself fully engaged in everything. I couldn't help but wonder if the women close to me in my own personal life had some of the same experiences as Lila (the film's protagonist) when they were younger. I don't necessarily want to think about younger versions of my female friends, fiancée or little sisters of close friends I watched grow up over the years in certain particular situations as Lila, but I couldn't really help it - this movie just kinda naturally brought up all these thoughts inside me. I'm sure if I had a sister I would've felt even stronger about this movie.
As I mentioned in my review of Boyhood (another coming of age story from this year) - It Felt Like Love is definitely a film with some gender specific issues having to do with females, but it can obviously be enjoyed by any gender. Actually I think this is something that fathers, especially those with daughters, might want to watch.

In the film we follow "Lila" - a 14 year old girl who feels inexperienced in the ways of the opposite sex, especially when compared to her best friend "Chiara". Chirara isn't portrayed as "easy" in any way, but she definitely has a little more experience than Lila does (she goes through a couple of boyfriends through the course of the film). Eventually Lila becomes fixated on an older boy ("Sammy") who doesn't exactly share the same feelings towards her. The more she pursues Sammy the more agitated & aggressive he becomes to the point where Lila finds herself in a very vulnerable spot. 
We also get a glimpse in to Lila's home life. Her mother recently passed away and she's raised by her single father (it should be noted that there are very few adult characters in this movie). 
I haven't seen too many (realistic) young vulnerable female characters in recent years like Lila. American cinema definitely needed this. I always felt the "coming of age" genre was a bit shaky/inconsistent with American filmmakers. Call me cliche, pretentious, whatever... but I've always looked at French cinema as setting the standard for good/great modern coming of age stories on the big screen (A Nos Amours, US Go Home, Fat Girl, Goodbye My First Love, Blue Is The Warmest Color, etc). Obviously there's exceptions like Todd Solondz, (early) David Gordon Green and a few others, but there's just a little too much quirkiness & cuteness with American youth on the big screen (and when things aren't cute & quirky, we get forced realism). I think young American girls are sometimes treated too much like precious caricatures to the point where it becomes unrealistic and a lil' disrespectful.

On a side note - It was refreshing to see a prominent Brooklyn-based movie set outside of areas like williamsburg, park slope, bed-stuy or flatbush that doesn't strictly focus on things like 20-something year old hipsters having unimportant relationship problems and/or gentrification. When's the last time we got a popular film set in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Gravesend or Sheepshead Bay?

A few months back, Indiewire ran an interesting article that drew a comparison between It Felt Like Love & Nymphomaniac (two coming of age tales with young female protagonists). But in all honesty I didn't really find young Joe (Nymphomaniac) as interesting as Lila. I thought there was a little bit more depth to Lila and she wasn't surrounded by as many frustrating supporting characters as Joe was in Nymphomaniac. I understood Indiewire's comparison on the surface, but when you dig a little deeper you'll see that both films are quite different.
I'm sure IFLL is also bound to draw some comparison to other stuff like The Virgin Suicides or Goodbye My First Love but I was mostly reminded of Welcome To The Dollhouse more than anything else. That's not to say It Felt Like Love was trying to be like or copy Dollhouse. Both films stand alone on their own and are pretty different. It's just that both stories focus on young girls dealing with some of the same issues shown in a more realistic light: post-puberty, having a serious crush on an older boy, close friends becoming distant, making the transition from jr. high to high school, etc. Dawn (Dollhouse) is far more unpopular and catches way more shit than Lila (IFLL) and their family dynamics are different, but they're both ignored, looked over and/or treated like shit by older boys they're attracted too. 
Some other blaring differences between the two films are 1). It Felt like Love has a far more serious tone. Sure there's some awkward moments that might make you laugh or snicker, but at the end of the day it's a drama whereas Dollhouse is a quirky dark comedy.
2). Each film speaks to a different generation in my opinion. Dollhouse represents Generation Y/millennials while It Felt Like Love is, in my opinion, a film for Generation Z - a generation of kids who grew up with smart phones, tablets, social media & just easier access to all kinds of information from an early age. The teenage characters in IFLL aren't exactly zombies attached to their phones 24/7, but their faces are still in their phones from time to time, and social media does play a minor part in the story (I know people of all ages are slaves to their smart phones, but generation Z is the first demographic to be introduced to those kinds of devices at such a young age).

It Felt Like Love is definitely in my top 5 of 2014 so far along with Boyhood, Stranger By The Lake The Unknown Known & Guardians Of The Galaxy. It's currently streaming on Netflix so I highly recommend checking it out.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...