LA Film Festival: “Girl Flu.” Film Review
Girl Flu. is a film I had the pleasure of seeing at the LA Film Festival and I couldn’t have been more pleased with it. The whole film industry is flooded with coming of age stories that feature boys and what their lives are like, especially since the release of Boyhood and others like it. Girl Flu. finally gives the not so pretty female perspective of that coming of age story, without sugar-coating it or making it all about looks, boys, and sex. The film follows Bird (Jade Pettyjohn) and her single free-spirited mom, Jenny (Katee Sackhoff) as they navigate their life in Los Angeles. Bird is a responsible young girl and her mom is the free-spirited, marijuana-loving woman that just wants to be happy and relax. All this changes one day when Bird gets her first period in front of her bully, Rachel (Isabella Acres) and her crush named Carlos (Diego Josef). Bird is embarrassed and becomes angry at everything and everyone. Bird is angry at her mother for everything, but particularly for making her move from The Valley and into LA, away from her friends and everything she loves.
The film features Jade Pettyjohn as Bird, Katee Sackhoff as Jenny and Jeremy Sisto as Arlo, Jenny’s boyfriend. Jade Pettyjohn’s performance in the film is stellar, and for such a young actress, I was completely floored by her performance. Her emotions were real and raw and just took your breath away. She plays polar opposites in parts of the film and she does it with such ease and confidence that every scene and every emotion was believable and true.
Katee Sackoff as Jenny, her mother was great. She was flighty and free-spirited but still had the emotional depth to portray her own issues with being a single mom and struggling with commitment. The film is not only a coming of age story for Bird but also for Jenny. She must learn to be an adult, grow up and have actual real adult relationships with her friends, Lili (Heather Matarazzo) and Celeste (Judy Reyes) and her boyfriend Arlo.
Jeremy Sisto as Arlo is a great character and does a great job of being a balance between Bird and Jenny. He adds great humor to the film and makes sure that Jenny is grounded. He has some great scenes with Diego Josef who plays Carlos. I was really impressed by Carlos’ character because he was a young boy who really tried to help Bird know that she wasn’t alone and that he knows what she’s going through because he has sisters. I thought that it was great to have a strong and compassionate couple of male characters in this film as a support system for the female main characters.
In contrast, I think it was really great to portray a female bully, which we don’t see that often. A lot of the time, we see mean girls, but not actual female bullies who get physical. I appreciated that they gave Isabella Acres such an unlikeable female character. It gave even more depth to the differences and emotional struggles even with female relationships that young women have both in the home and out in the world with others.
The film is unapologetic about the emotional struggles, ups and downs and strife that comes with becoming a woman and getting your period for the first time. It justifies all those times that I screamed at my mother and cried uncontrollably the next minute. The film is wonderfully shot and directed. It has some truly memorable lines and moments, that will be sure to have you laughing out loud and then tearing up the next minute. The film does not seek to sugarcoat anything or try to make you feel comfortable. It gives you the rawness and the hilariously horrifying moments of when you learn what the hell you’re supposed to do with a tampon. The film perfectly chronicles the struggles of growing up and changing from a young girl to a young woman and the anxiety and emotions that come along with it. Well done! Could we play this film in schools instead of the stupid sex ed video I had to suffer through in 5th grade? Girl Flu. is a female “coming of age” triumph!