To the Bone – Review

I finally watched To the Bone and I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. There are tons of movies about eating disorders out there already, none of which people seem to be talking about. What’s so special about this one? I’ve watched dozens of them and To the Bone probably makes it to the Top 5 but it’s definitely not the one that touched me the most at all.

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The biggest polemic seems to be about the movie supporting the philosophy that you have to be skinny to have an eating disorder. It’s true that the majority of the inpatients in Ellen’s treatment centre are portrayed as underweight, pale, sick-looking girls – and this is by any means not an accurate picture of what eating disorders look like, for they come in all shapes and sizes (you don’t even need to be skinny to be anorexic, for that matter).
However, it’s worth noticing that other types of eating disorders are also mentioned, such as bulimia and BED (binge eating disorder). I’m going to take a wild guess and argue that the director might have chosen to not dwell too much upon those because they didn’t affect her personally (as far as I know, she only struggled with anorexia).
On the same note I would also like to say that I did appreciate the fact that one of the patients is a boy, which shows that eating disorders, although being typically prevalent in females, can also affects males.

Some people made a point that To the Bone might be triggering to people who have suffered from an ED, are in recovery, or have an actual ED at present. I totally get this, however I would respond that if you are struggling with a disordered eating mentality you don’t need to watch To the Bone to find out new “tricks” on how to purge or chew & spit. You probably know them all already. I’ve had an ED before YouTube and I didn’t need anybody to tell me how to skip meals. At the same time though, I do agree that if you’re not 100% recovered it’s probably not going to be easy to watch a film about somebody starving themselves.

Another big argument against To the Bone is that it’s not representative of eating disorders among women of colour. Watching the trailer it’s definitely easy to think, Great, another film about a rich white girl struggling with a rich girl’s problem (read more about whitewashing here).
Well, what can I say? That’s true. The only black person in the movie is one of the patients (oh, and the nurse), which is only a secondary character and has maybe two lines at most. And I admit among all the films I watched, not one was about a woman of colour struggling with an eating disorder. They were all white, and preferably loaded. However, I’m sure there are also lots of white girls who cannot afford treatment as well as black girls who can afford treatment –and I’m saying this from the point of view of the white young woman I am (who could afford treatment).
Overall, I do agree that non-white women should be included and represented more in general really, not just with regards to eating disorders. However (and I’m ready to get shit for this), this is probably not relevant to the director’own experience. I’m not trying to defend her or anything, all I’m trying to say is: Marti Noxon is a well-off white woman so that’s what she chose to represent.

Certainly To The Bone depicts a very thin slice of the whole picture, but at the end of the day we should also remember that this is not a documentary on eating disorders.
When you tell a story, you need to narrow it down to a specific subject. If it’s your story, it’s going to be about you. You can’t be all races, all genders, all social statuses and all religions, and you can’t have all the eating disorders.
(Also, good luck putting something on the internet and not offending anyone. I’m probably offending a whole bunch of people myself right now, which is why I’m glad nobody really reads my blog).
So the best approach is probably to take it for what it is: somebody’s personal experience.

Having said all that, I’ll conclude by saying that I didn’t really like it.
I do believe eating disorders deserve more attention, and I’m sure it’s hard to make a responsible movie about EDs without glamorising being thin and turning anorexia into a white girls’ problem; but as I mentioned earlier I’ve watched a bunch of other films about eating disorders and there are quite a few that do a much better job at denouncing such a delicate topic in a more comprehensive way.

 

Book review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

On my bedside table: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

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Why I picked it up: Just one of my library raids.

What it is about: An anonymous narrator and her boyfriend Jake are driving through rural American to have dinner with his parents. They’ve only been dating for a few weeks  but she’s already thinking about ending things. At first it’s hard to imagine why she would, as their conversations are deep and filled with inside jokes, her noticing little details and reminding herself that the way he adjusts his hair or scratches the back of his neck are some of the reasons why she likes him.
But during the first half of the book we also find out about some dark secrets this girl is hiding. The Caller, for example: this mysterious presence that keeps on calling her and leaving the same mysterious message over and over again. And the strangest part is: he seems to be calling from her own number.

As they finally approach Jake’s parents’ house, a secluded farm wrapped in darkness, it’s obvious that things are about to go terribly wrong.
After an awkward dinner where you could cut the tension with a knife, the narrator finds some time to explore the rest of the house, which is pretty much what you would expect at this point: locked doors, mysterious presences, creepy paintings in the basement, and black and white photos depicting little girls that look just like her.

After dinner, the two hit the road again. It’s late at night and the snow is whirling. By now there have been so many omens that you just want to scream, GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE!!
When Jake takes an unexpected detour to an abandoned high school, things really take a turn for the worst.

Would I recommend it: MAN. I am not kidding you, this is one of the best books I have ever read (something I seem to be saying in every single review I write). I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of those stories where you are in someone’s head but by the end of it you’re no longer sure whose head you’re in. I read it while I was dogsitting in a house I’d never been before, by the time I finished it it was dark outside and I couldn’t bring myself to leave the couch for how freaking scared I was. Brilliant.

Book review- The Regulars

I’m reading a lot recently, so here, have another book review.
Disclaimer! Minor spoilers.

On my bedside table: The Regulars by Georgia Clark

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Why I picked it up: It was all over my Instagram feed when it came out in the UK and all my ex colleagues were raving about it. It was forever on loan at the library so when I finally spotted a copy on the shelf I grabbed it and now I don’t want to return it ever.

What it is about: Evie, Krista and Willow are three best friends trying to make it through their twenties in New York. They are the Regulars: regular girls with regular jobs, cool but not popular, not ugly but not stunning-beautiful, never really standing out.
Wannabe-journalist and passionate feminist Evie is a copyeditor at a glossy magazine, where her attempts to cover issues such as bisexuality, women’s representation and rape victim support are perpetually dismissed in favour of “Find your inner bad girl!” or “Is Facebook killing your sex life?” articles.
Krista is a hot mess who dropped out of Law School in order to be an actress, but she’s forever late for her auditions and hasn’t paid the rent in the last seven months.
Delicate and sensitive Willow lives under the pressure of her father’s presence, a successful film director who makes her photography look bland and lifeless.

But everything changes when Krista is given a small purple bottle containing a mysterious potion called Pretty, which has the ability to turn anyone into the sexiest, hottest version of themselves.

One drop, one week.

One by one, the girls give in and take the Pretty.  To their dismay, they soon find out that prosperous breasts, a flat stomach and shiny hair can in fact open many doors: Krista is offered a role in a movie co-starring her childhood crush, Willow finds inspiration to take photographs that will be exhibited at her first successful exhibition, and Evie gets to date her favourite writer and long-lived wet dream Velma Wolff.

But the Pretty has some side effects too (beside turning your insides out right before the transformation): Willow has to sacrifice her mental stability in order to capture the perfect angle, Krista is fired twice in consequence of accidents involving masturbating with a Tween King trophy and exposing her crush’s micropenis to the World Wide Web, and Velma Wolff turns out to be a bit of a bitch.

The Regulars is a brilliant Comedy of Errors that sees three ordinary girls experiencing the world from a different perspective, enduring a rollercoaster of emotions, gradually realising that in spite of a hot body it’s still them inside of it, and eventually learning that they don’t need the Pretty or any other magical elixir to be themselves, and to love their bodies and personalities just the way they are.

Would I recommend it: YES. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s such a page-turner: witty, clever, and most of all HILARIOUS. Go grab a copy NOW.

Book review – We don’t know what we’re doing

On my bedside table: We don’t know what we’re doing by Thomas Morris

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Why I picked it up: British author, black&white mugshots on the cover.

What it is about: From stuttering teenagers being arrested, to manic-depressed sisters befriending Japanese tourists, to flabby stag parties, Thomas Morris’ collection of short stories portrays a wide array of different people in different situations, all located in Caerphilly, South Wales, and brought together by the fact that they all have no clue what they are doing.

Would I recommend it: Yep. Witty, funny, this collection reads smoothly while delving deep into the lethargy and blandness of a sleepy town reality.

Book review – Paulina & Fran

On my bedside table: Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser

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What it is about: Paulina and Fran are two curly girls in their late teens/early twenties who attend art school in New England.
Paulina is someone who “records her orgasms and listens to them for her own amusement”  and fantasises over her funeral (featuring “swans, celebrities and rivers of tears”) at someone else’s funeral. In Paulina’s world, she comes first. Bold but scornful, she’s a self-proclaimed queen bee, well aware of her sturdy body and its sexiness. Paulina also seems to be the only art major who thinks that art is useless and unnecessary (“Art is an adolescent impulse to busy oneself with oneself”).
Fran is also quirky but in a more subtle way. She’s sweet and dreamy, a bit of a wallflower, but more serious about her art aspirations.

The two girls are drawn together during a study trip to Norway by a common sense of detachment from the rest of their peers and an ambiguous interest for each other.
Fran seems the first human being Paulina is genuinely interested in. They quickly grow inseparable, building a relationship that revolves around a mutual inability to relate to anyone else. They bond over their curls and a make-believe sexual adventure with a Nordic stallion named Blood Axe.
However, their friendship is intense but brief. The girls quickly drift apart when Fran starts dating Paulina’s discarded boyfriend, Julian.

Among student parties and weekly trips to SUPERTHRIFT, Glaser’s characters move in an aseptic scenery where the future looks blurry and  everything concerning art has already been said.
After graduation, Paulina proceeds to launch her very own hair salon chain, Supercurl, while Fran moves to Ohio and ends up abandoning her art dreams in favour of a dull cubicle job.
As the years go by, Paulina and Fran are leading separate lives, apart from each other yet interlaced by past lovers, forgotten library cards and other small traces that constantly remind them of each other’s existence.

Would I recommend it: Not to everyone. I found it interesting but a bit slow at times. This book is more about personal development and charatcer relationships  rather than things actually happening. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s more into action.

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Book review – The Girls

WARNING! Minor spoilers.

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On my bedside table: The Girls by Emma Cline

Why I picked it up: This novel came out when I was still working at Hachette in London and I remember a bunch of colleagues praising and applauding it. I was immediately intrigued by the cover (although the US version is better than the UK one, in my humble opinion) as well as by the California/summer/Sixties/hippie-ness aura around it. I knew it was getting brilliant reviews but I wanted to wait for the paperback, as I don’t particularly like the hardback format (plus they are too expensive). But then we moved to New Zealand and I wasn’t technically allowed to buy books, so I postponed it again, until I got a library card here in Wellington and saw they had a copy in the Bestsellers section. I grabbed it straight away.

What it is about: The novel is set in Northern California and the story is told by the point of view of Evelyn Boyd over two different time periods, the present and the summer of 1969. Present-day Evelyn seems to be dragging the remains of her teenage years loneliness with her, as she house-sits for an old friend and is reminded of her obscure and troubled past by a couple of teenagers’ remarks. This gives her the change to bring back to life her fourteen-year-old self, loundign around on long summer days and jostling between her mother’s ever-changing boyfriends and her own lack of friends.
But everything changes when she stumbles upon Suzanne: barefoot, filthy, long wild haired, stealing toilet paper from the local store. To Evie, she is the epitome of freedom. Suzanne exhales an incredibly attracting energy that Evie can’t excape. She becomes obsessed with her, until Suzanne takes her to the ranch – this excluded, dilapidated commune inhabited by an extensive group of other girls and kids and run by Russell –somebody who you will immediately dislike if you’re a woman reader, but who the girls in the book seem to adore. Evie is irremediably drawn into this circle of nonconformist, anti-establishment people.
As the story progresses, for us outside spectators it becomes more and more clear that something is going terribly wrong. But for Evie, desperate to feel accepted, living at the ranch is her chance to finally be part of something. As she retracts more and more from her old civilised life and gets more involved in what seems to her a new exotic world, everything around her starts to crumble, until the cult reveals itself in its true deadly essence.

Would I recommend it: Holy moly yes. This book is such a page-turner. When “the murder” is first mentioned, it came as a total surprise to me. Although it was clear that something was going to happen to break the placid flowing of events, I personally wasn’t expecting anything so dramatic. (But I’m also terrible at predicting anything at all, for that matter.)
However, I feel like the killing is nothing but a minor part of what the author really wants to project. What stuck the most with me is the general feeling that the novel conveys, which is more about the loneliness of growing up without points of reference, in a disrupted family, and with a desperate need to feel loved and to belong. Emma Cline is brilliant at developing a story where the pages are heavy with almost tangible sensations that require your whole body and senses to step into play: when you read you can almost feel the summer heath on your skin, the earthy smell of oaks and pines, the dirt between your toes.

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Film review

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Movie night: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, 2014

Why I chose it: I’m not big on vampire films, but my colleague Rob recommended it and he’s always been right. Plus I read a review on Bitch, and come on the poster looks pretty neat doesn’t it?

What it is about: Presented as “The first Iranian vampire Western”, as Wikipedia says, this description couldn’t be more accurate.
Arash, a rockabilly James Dean lookalike who drives a shiny 1950s car, is struggling to balance his life between a variety of odd jobs and paying up drug-dealing pimp Saeed to cover for his father’s heroin addiction. When Arash goes to Saeed’s apartment to get his car back, which Saeed has taken as a pledge, he bumps into The Girl leaving the place. Without questioning why her t-shirt is splattered with blood, he just proceeds to find that Saeed has been murdered, then grabs a briefcase full of money and drugs and leaves. Next time we meet him he’s selling ecstasy in a nightclub dressed up as Dracula. Having taking a pill himself, he ends up wandering the night streets, lost. And he runs into The Girl again.
This lonely silent girl is not your regular vampire. Underneath her black chador, which serves as a cape more than as a religious reference, she wears a stripy top and sneakers, and roams the night roads on a skateboard. When she’s not out there creeping people out and sucking their blood, she spends her time sporting a classy dark bob and dancing alone in her apartment. To me The Girl bears a singular resemblance to Mia Wallace, and generally I found quite a few Pulp Fiction references throughout the film. Maybe it’s just me, however this is how director Ana Lily Amirpour showed up at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival:

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Set in a dystopian imaginary Iranian underworld referred to as Bad City, another strong allusion that immediately comes to mind is Frank Miller’s Sin City: black and white sceneries, loud cigarette puffs, pimps, drugs (“This pill is nothing without you”) – although definitely calmer, slower, and not with the same amount of splatter.
(Fun fact: a graphic novel also exists and I can’t wait to get my paws on it.)

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It was edifying to watch a film where the only vampire character is a woman, especially because she’s not portrayed as the typical sensual, provocative female inspiring lust and carnal pleasure. The Girl’s character is always covered up, often quiet and almost withdrawn. This doesn’t mean she’s not powerful, though: along with potentially being able to suck you dry, she also occasionally plays the role of the Good Samaritan (i.e. helping prostitute Atti realise she does no longer know what desire is). The Girl is somebody who speaks probably less than a hundred words in the whole movie but still orchestrates the scene and gives a burst of feminism in what is portrayed as a patriarchal society ruled by generic male assumptions (“Women want kids, don’t they?”).

One theme the film doesn’t cover is religion/politics: the chador the Girl wears simply works as a cape, it’s not politicised and doesn’t serve any purpose other than adding to the vampire’s spooky look.
I enjoyed the fact that A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is not a pretentions movie: it does touch upon many subjects but at the same time it is essentially a horror film, and a brilliant never-seen-before one, as it manages to mix a classic idea (the vampire) with elements of irony and fun (The Girl pushing a stoned Arash in a Dracula costume on a skateboard) and symbolism (can somebody explain to me the trans woman waltzing with a balloon scene?), all set in an indeterminate context (the film was shot in California but is supposedly set in an imprecise Middle East).

Would I recommend it: Yes, but be ready to check Wikipedia after you’ve watch it – I’d be surprised if you grasped the whole meaning straight away. And don’t forget to check out the soundtrack, that’s pretty cool too!

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