Monday, 18 July 2016

The Girls - Emma Cline




Everyone has fleeting memories associated with a particular summer. Whether that be a song, a holiday, excursions with friends, you recall it perfectly and you are transported to the summer of whatever year it was like it was yesterday. For me, the memory of my summer in 2016 will be reading the phenomenal 'The Girls', Emma Cline's debut novel. Set in the hazy summer of 1969, the book depicts a fictionalised account of the Charles Manson cult and subsequent murders, all through the eyes of a young teenage girl, somewhat trapped between childhood and womanhood,  who becomes captivated with the group of girls that dominate the cult. Basically, this is an incredibly compelling novel that everyone should read this summer.

   Cline makes it clear that this isn't about Manson, or this in case Russell, it is instead about, as the title suggests, the girls that hover throughout the novel, wearing their femininity and sexuality on their sleeve, stroking marks of independence all the while still seemingly seeking Russell's approval. Cline painfully captures the essence of being a young girl waiting to be approved by men, "that was part of being a girl-" Cline writes, "you were resigned to whatever feedback you got",  but it is not Russell who captures the affections of our protagonist, Evie, it is the mysteriously seductive Suzanne, with her "smile blooming in me like a firework, losing it's coloured smoke." The focus shifts on the relationships between women, not necessarily romantic or sexual, but the strong, empowering bonds they create. Evie longs for more than her dull friendship with Connie, subtle with dark stabs at jealously and female rivalry, vying for older boys attention. When she meets Suzanne, and subsequently spends time in her company, she blossoms and takes her first steps into becoming a woman, who we actually meet a many points in the story, as the narrative flips between present day (more or less) and 1969. This is by no means a hindrance, but rather more an insight into the adult Evie looking back and reflecting on the choices she did or should have made.

   The complexity, sadness and fluctuating emotions are beautifully captured by Cline in exploring what it is like to be a teenage girl, who so often in literature are dismissed as shallow or emotionally unstable. Evie's exploration of sexuality are so harrowing and uncomfortable at times but it feels so much more real, and Cline allows us a true insight into the mind of a teenage girl, of how Evie feels she must change herself, mentally and physically for men, as that is the supposed priority. This, contrasted with the rural imagery of the Californian suburbs and prose so searing with the flames of summer that you can almost feel it leap from the page, makes the novel so immediate and captivating. What is more heartbreaking is the present day Evie, alone in a house that is intruded upon by a young teenage boy, Julian and his girlfriend, Sasha, recognising how these attitudes still remain. Sasha, is denied a voice when discussing her own body and her boyfriend speaks for her, "'She doesn't like her tits' Julian said, pulsing the back of her neck, 'but I tell her they're nice.'" It made me extremely sad, and angry that this is the reality that most teenage girls face today, who face womanhood with such extreme frailty, but Cline must be commended for voicing, I can only imagine, the thoughts of what is like to be a girl in a male driven world.

    Which really, is the ironic thing as the novel dominates with female characters, all given a backstory and a well-crafted identity "trying to campaign for her own existence." The real girls that lived in Manson's shadow were most likely dismissed, or not even talked about, though they were the ones who carried out the actual murder. This is cleverly referenced toward the end of the novel, the present day Evie referring to herself as "the bystander, a fugitive without a crime" but notes how "even toward the end, the girls had been stronger than Russell". One again, Cline grasps the focus away from the man who is at the centre of the story but is superfluous to drive it forward, instead she hands that baton to the girls, and she them a voice, the girls of past and present; "We all want to be seen.


  Rich with scorching imagery of the summer, painfully honest in its exploration of womanhood, adolescence and sexuality and beautifully crafted with free-flowing language, 'The Girls' demands to be read in one sitting, sat under the blaze of sultry sun. Easily, my book of the summer. 



The Girls
£12.99
Vintage Publishing


Monday, 11 July 2016

Review | Ghostbusters




As I strolled into the screening of the hotly anticipated, yet, controversial of the rebooted 'Ghostbusters', I could almost feel the apprehensions and skepticisms of people floating through the air like ghoulish apparitions themselves. The film's trailer is the most disliked video on YouTube to date, and the internet is just breeding with misogynistic haters claiming that women cannot be 'Ghostbusters' and they're simply not funny. It's easy to see why some people are reacting this way, the original film struck such a fine balance in being genuinely funny and scarily frightening at the same time and for the same reasons remains a cult classic to this day. People don't want a franchise they love so dearly skewered or distorted, which I respect but, for the most part, Paul Feig's 'Ghostbusters' delivers on the humour, the scares and the source material that paved way for this film to be made, while also proving that women have always, and will continue to be, funny.

   The story follows physicists and engineer Erin (Kristen Wiig), Abi (Melissa McCarthy) and Jillian (Kate McKinnon) who are all laughed out of academia when an old book, written by the former pair, resurfaces claiming the existence of the paranormal. Shortly after, ghosts begin cropping up over New York thanks to a shady character known as Rowan, and so our gals team up with New York subway worker Patty (Leslie Jones) and their pretty-but-oh-so-dumb assistant Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) to try and save New York from a grisly doom. It's a little far fetched at times, but this IS a Ghostbusters film so really, the more sillier and extreme the better. The pacing at times does quicken at points so there are moments when scenes feel extremely rushed or poorly explained but you don't really mind that much. What really carries the film is the chemistry and spark between all four ladies, bouncing off each other with such vivaciousness and speed you can't help but smile, and laugh. Whats more is that each leading lady is given enough time do show off their distinct comedy style, McKinnon in particular stealing the show as entertainingly erratic Holtzmann, with her zappy one-liners or her quirky mannerisms. McCarthy and Wiig still bring the laughs, though a couple of jokes feel weak and miss the mark, though when they're on point, they're on point. Leslie Jones had me in stitches for most of the film, which knocks aside any accusations of racial stereotyping many have backlashed the film for.





   Chris Hemsworth also uses every moment he has on screen to gain the laughs. He perfectly grasps the character every one of us has met in real life of the boy who is incredibly good looking but also incredibly dumb. In a film that particularly focuses on gender subversion, it never felt cheap or in poor taste, it simply added to the humour. He acquaints himself perfectly with misunderstanding after misunderstanding. Speaking of gender subversion and the amount of hate the film had gotten pre-release, I felt like the film's enemy Rowan, a geeky, socially awkward sociopath hellbent on destruction , was the epitome of all the trolls and haters sitting on the internet whining and complaining. One brilliant scene even addresses the social media outpour, by having McCarthy directly reply to a comment that reads "Ain't no bitches gonna hunt ghosts", something that could either have been written for the film or taken from the comments section on the trailer. Who knows. Rowan even tosses casual insults at the gang, lambasting them for "shooting like girls", but the film constantly reminds you that these gals are tough, they work hard and they mean business. Heck, they even shoot a ghost in the crotch in the final scene in which I was screaming in my head SYMBOLIC CASTRATION. Albeit it never feels too much or shoved in my face, the film does have heart, stressing the values of friendship and belonging together as a group of outcasts.  The balance is just right, and I hope that little girls may leave the cinema, hopes raised that they can be a Ghostbuster too. 

  That being said, the film isn't perfect. It never quite lives up to its predecessor that looms over it like a mighty shadow, with the humour at times being very hit and miss or, at times, completely superfluous (looking at you, fart joke). Moreover the heavy use of CGI for the ghosts gave them a theme park look which took away from the illusion they were supposed to be giving of being frightening or intimidating. Though, the opening scene and a few moments throughout are genuinely spine-tingling, and did make me feel comfortably nostalgic toward the original. This nostalgia is heightened with brief cameos from all the cast members from the 1984 film, Bill Murray to Signourney Weaver making a visit. 

   Overall, 'Ghostbusters' bluntly, is just a hell of a lot of fun. Putting its fingers firmly up at the haters and showcasing new faces of comedy, 'Ghostbusters' pays homage to the 1984 classic nicely whilst empowering its female driven cast against the haters and also adding a much needed shot in the arm for the summer blockbuster. The haters may hate, but I'll definitely be calling the Ghostbusters again.