Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: A Girl & A Gun

Documentary about the mixture of fear and empowerment that goes along with female gun ownership suffers the occasional editorial misfire, but ultimately shines light on a worthy subject.

July 2, 2013

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1380428-Girl_Gun_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Cathryne Czubek's ultimately thought-provoking documentary about female firearm ownership buries the lead, squandering time on women who burble about loving guns because "they're pretty" and phallic before getting to the ones living with the aftermath of actually using deadly force, including a young widow and mother who killed the intruder who kicked in her door as she waited for the police.

That's not to say that director and co-writer (with editor Amanda Hughes) doesn't aim to cover the issue as thoroughly as possible, ranging from America's history of gun-toting women (notably Annie Oakley (1860-1926), a sharpshooter, supporter of gun instruction for women and bona fide Wild West-show celebrity), to perfectly manicured Tai Chi Robin Natanell, whose cheerful, commonsense advocacy eventually churns up the revelation that she bought her first gun because she was being terrorized by an ex-boyfriend (a bodybuilder twice her size enraged at being dumped) and discovered that in her home state of Massachusetts, she couldn't legally own a Taser or a stun gun, but she could and did get a rifle.

But Czubek's editorial judgment often fails her. Yes, it's important to represent the commercial concerns that help drive women to buy guns, which was in part a product of ‘70s and '80s social trends, including the increasing willingness of women, including women with children, to abandon unsatisfactory marriages or not marry at all. Advertisers quickly spotted and exploited a niche market—women looking to protect themselves and their children (in many cases from angry men looking to straighten out the uppity bitches who dared walk away from them, a point that goes unexplored). It's hard to say which is more infuriating: Tradeshow footage of vendors hawking skinny, pink-handled guns and pastel shooting accessories for the "lady market," or shots of an oily pitchman conducting what looks like a weaponized Tupperware party in a middle-class living room, terrifying the assembled women with sexual-assault statistics and then promising that "nobody ever raped Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Wesson." Good stuff.

Yet she also cedes far too much screen time to San Francisco-based geek-girl Violet Blue, a blogger and TED columnist given to hipster pontification about women as societally designated natural-born victims who own their "freedom, power [and] womanhood" by keeping a loaded handgun under the pillow. The odd thing is, while Czubek doesn't seem be feeding Blue enough rope to hang herself, she holds back footage of Blue mentioning that she was stalked and viciously threatened while working as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle—information that would have grounded Blue's pretentious noodling without undermining her self-possession had it been introduced earlier.

When it comes to the big-city gal contingent, no-nonsense New Yorker Margit Sawdey, who took up shooting as a hobby and is studying for her instructor's certification, comes off far better when she tells one of her brothers exactly why she won't keep her guns at home. She's willing to face an intruder unarmed rather than start blasting away in the two-bedroom apartment she shares with her teenage sons—small space + thin walls = recipe for disaster—and she knows the lockbox hasn't been made that a determined young adult can't get into. So does New Jersey mother Stephanie Alexander, a former junkie who turned her life around only to nearly lose her teenager, Aieshia, to a drive-by shooting. Having reinvented herself as an outspoken, community-based victims-rights activist, you can see her heart breaking when she shares the screen with the wheelchair-bound daughter defending her decision to buy a gun of her own.

In the end, even the best documentaries face an uphill battle, but A Girl & A Gun (a show-off title that alludes to Jean-Luc Godard's smarty-pants recipe for movies) is worth sticking with: its missteps are annoying, but anyone who walks out not aching for a discussion wasn't paying attention.


Film Review: A Girl & A Gun

Documentary about the mixture of fear and empowerment that goes along with female gun ownership suffers the occasional editorial misfire, but ultimately shines light on a worthy subject.

July 2, 2013

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1380428-Girl_Gun_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Cathryne Czubek's ultimately thought-provoking documentary about female firearm ownership buries the lead, squandering time on women who burble about loving guns because "they're pretty" and phallic before getting to the ones living with the aftermath of actually using deadly force, including a young widow and mother who killed the intruder who kicked in her door as she waited for the police.

That's not to say that director and co-writer (with editor Amanda Hughes) doesn't aim to cover the issue as thoroughly as possible, ranging from America's history of gun-toting women (notably Annie Oakley (1860-1926), a sharpshooter, supporter of gun instruction for women and bona fide Wild West-show celebrity), to perfectly manicured Tai Chi Robin Natanell, whose cheerful, commonsense advocacy eventually churns up the revelation that she bought her first gun because she was being terrorized by an ex-boyfriend (a bodybuilder twice her size enraged at being dumped) and discovered that in her home state of Massachusetts, she couldn't legally own a Taser or a stun gun, but she could and did get a rifle.

But Czubek's editorial judgment often fails her. Yes, it's important to represent the commercial concerns that help drive women to buy guns, which was in part a product of ‘70s and '80s social trends, including the increasing willingness of women, including women with children, to abandon unsatisfactory marriages or not marry at all. Advertisers quickly spotted and exploited a niche market—women looking to protect themselves and their children (in many cases from angry men looking to straighten out the uppity bitches who dared walk away from them, a point that goes unexplored). It's hard to say which is more infuriating: Tradeshow footage of vendors hawking skinny, pink-handled guns and pastel shooting accessories for the "lady market," or shots of an oily pitchman conducting what looks like a weaponized Tupperware party in a middle-class living room, terrifying the assembled women with sexual-assault statistics and then promising that "nobody ever raped Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Wesson." Good stuff.

Yet she also cedes far too much screen time to San Francisco-based geek-girl Violet Blue, a blogger and TED columnist given to hipster pontification about women as societally designated natural-born victims who own their "freedom, power [and] womanhood" by keeping a loaded handgun under the pillow. The odd thing is, while Czubek doesn't seem be feeding Blue enough rope to hang herself, she holds back footage of Blue mentioning that she was stalked and viciously threatened while working as a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle—information that would have grounded Blue's pretentious noodling without undermining her self-possession had it been introduced earlier.

When it comes to the big-city gal contingent, no-nonsense New Yorker Margit Sawdey, who took up shooting as a hobby and is studying for her instructor's certification, comes off far better when she tells one of her brothers exactly why she won't keep her guns at home. She's willing to face an intruder unarmed rather than start blasting away in the two-bedroom apartment she shares with her teenage sons—small space + thin walls = recipe for disaster—and she knows the lockbox hasn't been made that a determined young adult can't get into. So does New Jersey mother Stephanie Alexander, a former junkie who turned her life around only to nearly lose her teenager, Aieshia, to a drive-by shooting. Having reinvented herself as an outspoken, community-based victims-rights activist, you can see her heart breaking when she shares the screen with the wheelchair-bound daughter defending her decision to buy a gun of her own.

In the end, even the best documentaries face an uphill battle, but A Girl & A Gun (a show-off title that alludes to Jean-Luc Godard's smarty-pants recipe for movies) is worth sticking with: its missteps are annoying, but anyone who walks out not aching for a discussion wasn't paying attention.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Laggies
Film Review: Laggies

Disappointing comedic entry about a late-20s slacker who won’t grow up is writer/filmmaker Lynn Shelton’s first outing directing someone else’s material. Points here for strong cast and an occasional chuckle, but otherwise there’s just no point. More »

Rudderless
Film Review: Rudderless

Well-done indie drama about a lost-soul house painter reborn through rock ’n’ roll is a nice actor’s showcase for star Billy Crudup and an impressive directorial debut for actor William H. Macy. But in spite of some good work onscreen, both hero and story lack the edge and originality to carry this drama beyond respectability. More »

Camp X-Ray
Film Review: Camp X-Ray

Army guard and Guantanamo detainee form a grudging relationship in a thoughtful but far-fetched drama. More »

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya
Film Review: The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

As charming as it is delicate, this unusually low-key, if a tad overlong, animated feature brings yet more prestige to the famed Ghibli output. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Fury Review
Film Review: Fury

American tanks fight superior German forces in the closing days of World War II. More »

Birdman
Film Review: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Virtuosic camerawork and a stellar ensemble of actors more than make up for the occasional moment of portentous twaddle in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's latest—and maybe his best—film. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here