Film Review: BitchAn unhappy housewife chooses a unique way to opt out of child care and housework in this polemical film about the price of maternal sacrifice in the 21st century.
Frustrated artist Jill Hart (Marianna Palka, who also wrote and directed this) has become a shadow in her own life: Her four children—Tiffany (Brighton Sharbino), Max (Rio Mangini), Cindy (Kingston Foster) and Jed (Jason Maybaum), who range in age from teens to pre-schoolers—are slaves to tightly organized schedules of school and enriching activities, which means Jill is a slave to their schedules. And husband Bill (Jason Ritter) is a smartly dressed baby-man who just about lives at the office, the better not to deal with his unruly family. No matter how desperately the mad-housewife-in-the-making craves a little time off her fancy leash, there's no time for her to take, say, a two-week time out for a painting seminar. Jill is the rock on which the Hart family stands.
All of which changes the day she tries—and fails—to hang herself (with Bill's belt, no less): Jill is reborn as a snarling, snapping, barking bitch, crawling naked on all fours and rolling in her own excrement in the basement. She may not be a literal dog, but she's abdicated the role of supermom as definitively as it can be abdicated and everyone else—including her level-headed sister (Jaime King), who knows better than the others what Jill gave up to become what everyone else needed—just has to deal with it.
Make no mistake, Bitch is a blunt tool that dares to suggest that Mother's Day cards notwithstanding, actually being a 21st-century American mother is simultaneously fetishized and denigrated: Everyone is awed by the mother of three who also runs her own PR firm, raises funds for war orphans and looks like a Victoria's Secret model (nannies, housekeepers and serious gym time required), but being "just a mom," well, it's all in the "just." And speaking of tools, Ritter nails a particular brand of narcissism, the kind specific to a man who can lament that if he'd only been born with a smaller one, maybe all this wouldn't have happened.
Though Bitch sometimes feels more like a absurdist play than a film, U.K.-born filmmaker and actress Palka (of the acclaimed Netflix series “GLOW”) delivers an unnervingly feral performance as Jill-the-bitch, and King is a strong foil as the sister who married better...not richer, better. The film's sound design (heavy on barking dogs) and composer Morgan Z. Whirledge's weirdly jaunty score are both remarkably effective; neither is unobtrusive, but both work organically with the narrative. Bitch is not every viewer's cup of tea, but is should connect with more adventurous moviegoers.
Click here for cast and crew information.