As this post goes live, I’m preparing myself of an evening of Ghostbusting in the 21st century and if you have somehow missed the hounding controversy, this 2016 reboot is all women! The hate this film has garnered from misogynist internet trolls has led to more hype as this remake represents something greater than the usual Paul Feig flick. I now must to attend not just out of interest but to represent my people which is a gender that makes up more than half the population. Ghostbusters has become a statement against sexism which is quite a high bar for a movie involving buckets of slime. My enthusiasm for this upcoming release prompted me to compile a list of some of my favorite female led comedies. I sadly realized when I put the kibosh on including rom coms and love triangle centric stories it made choices quite slim. I wanted my top picks to not only have the Bechdel seal of approval but that the driving factors not be about relationships with men. I love Reality Bites but half of that movie is Laney deciding between her opposing suitors, bohemian Ethan Hawke and yuppie Ben Stiller, a Sophie’s Choice that could only exist in 1994. Instead this list is filled with female characters that embolden me with their independence and spirit plus the recurring theme of friendships worth preserving that can’t be stated enough.
5. Charlie’s Angels (2000)
I hope I don’t lose any feminist cred over this but this new millennium action comedy was a major inspiration throughout those hellish middle school years where I would dream of being a boss like these girls. Before I realized so many of the scenes were homages (alright rip offs) of Mission Impossible, I delighted in the Angels’ detective skills, ass kicking and the ability to turn down guys left and right (please revisit the scene where Lucy Lu shuts down a bothersome party goer.) Even in spandex suits, Natalie, Dylan and Alex are highly intelligent when it comes to stopping a sexy Sam Rockwell from assassinating their employer and saving bumbling Bosley from sumo wrestling (poor Bill Murray). Their flaws are quirky as hell (Alex is such a terrible cook!) but they never back down whether it’s jumping out of planes, extensive fight choreography in well lit alleyways or dancing on Soul Train. They’re my superheroes and they taught me all the words to “Baby Got Back”.
4. Welcome To The Dollhouse (1996)
Dawn Weiner is one of the most iconic indie cinema characters. A young Heather Matarazzo brings such pathos to this awkward, bratty twelve year old that even if you didn’t have middle child syndrome, you could completely relate too. It’s an unconventional coming of age story that has the pastel splashed dark tone that is Todd Solondz’s suburbia. There’s not much hope for Dawn at this young age as she already attaches herself to unavailable or emotionally abusive men. Junior High has mercy on no one and her world is relentlessly unkind from the likes of cheerleader and burnout bullies. She is the personification of not fitting in and Matarazzo both looks the part and plays it so well.
3. For A Good Time Call…(2012)
Aside from having to suspend your disbelief that a phone sex hotline could still be a lucrative business in the internet age, For A Good Time Call… is about the sweetest sex comedy I can think of as two sworn enemies down on their luck become roommates and go into business with each other with a dirty talk phone service. Ari Graynor and Lauren Anne Miller have fantastic chemistry as polar opposites in every facet of their being yet becoming the solid relationship missing from each others lives. Graynor shines as she coaches Miller in the art of verbal seduction and fake orgasms. The venture becomes a sexual awakening for both characters as well as introducing viewing audiences to two underserved comedic talents.
2. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
On the surface, Romy and Michele are two dumb blondes slumming it on Venice Beach who go to trashy clubs and are incapable of holding down a job. Some of that is true but it’s a travesty to insult the intelligence of two creative women with an eye for fashion and the greatest “fake it till you make it” attitude. In the pursuit to impress their former high school rivals ten years later, our titular characters (played by the underrated and under appreciated Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow) fabricate careers and romances that lead to a falling out only to realize their strongest assets are each other. This movie is all about 90’s career women with strong supporting characters like cigarette pioneer Heather Mooney (a grungy Janeane Garofalo) and Vogue editor Lisa Ludor (Elaine Hendrix) who launches the girls’ groundbreaking fashion careers. I respect any movie that commits to an almost thirty minute dream sequence and any actresses willing to commit to even more outrageous platform heels. Who cares about success, all you need is a best friend and Pretty Woman.
1. Josie and The Pussycats (2001)
When Josie and the Pussycats not so subliminally states it’s the best movie ever, it’s not half wrong. The pop music satire may be a time capsule of the early 2000’s but it’s witty, reference soaked dialogue and rocker chick songs still fill me with glee. Bookending this brief list with trios, Josie, Melody and Valerie put friends first as they battle the corrupt and illusive music industry run by Fiona (Parker Posey) who has a thirst for power in the form of popularity. It’s insane that a story so blown out of proportions as a mysterious organization that controls mainstream trends would feel so on the nose. Writer/director team Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan make these women more than just the two dimensional characters they were originally drawn as but small town musicians who struggle to maintain their Riverdale roots in the big city which will swallow them whole. Bigger than “Archie”, this film is a hit in my heart and I can only hope inspired female garage bands everywhere or in my case lip syncing ensembles to the tune of “Three Small Words”.