- Hannah McGill
- 9 October 2017
A stressed-out housewife starts behaving very strangely indeed in this daring satire
The Polish / Glaswegian actress-writer-director Marianna Palka was justly lauded for her feature debut Good Dick, and was recently seen as one of the 'Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling' in the hit Netflix series GLOW. She returns to the director's chair (and to confrontational movie titles) with this frenetic, horror-tinged domestic satire, in which the titular slur against a difficult woman takes on a very literal meaning indeed.
Palka plays Jill Hart, an affluent but stressed-out mother of four, whose overworked and unfaithful husband Bill (Jason Ritter) is blind to just how badly she needs things to change. When a suicide bid fails, Jill's suppressed rage finds a very different outlet – one that forces the less-than-brilliant Bill into a far more active family role.
Palka's take on this scenario is chaotic, unsettling and sweet, recalling at once the hectic emotional pitch of Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love (particularly in terms of the madcap, deliberately intrusive musical score) and the nightmarish domestic shadowlands of David Lynch's Eraserhead.
Tonal jumps from harsh black comedy to sitcom chumminess and back again are arguably fitting for the whacked-out premise, but do make for a juddery viewing experience; and if the acting is highly impressive overall, it's a shame that Ritter, in whom the film invests the bulk of its screen-time and emotional energy, is just a bit too cherubic and winning to entirely convince as a jaded midlife man-about-town. The film also suffers from a sense of narrative over-extension in its second half, as if a short film is straining to fit a too-large canvas.
But, if Bitch has some rough edges, Palka's wit and daring never cease to sparkle from the screen; and one leaves the film, if not entirely satisfied, certainly curious as to where this wild intelligence will wander next.
Selected release from Fri 13 Oct.