“I have two choices: to give up and accept permanent state of spinsterhood and eventual eating by Alsatians, or not.” In 2001, Sharon Maguire shone a bright light on the pressures of the thirty-something woman (often portrayed as hapless) to meet a man and get married with British rom-com Bridget Jones Diary. More recently, Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed take on Little Women saw Jo Marsh declare her intentions to make her own way in the world, preferring to be a free spinster and paddle her own canoe. The representation of femininity in film is changing, reflecting the ever evolving lifestyle choices of women. Spinster, which marks Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Chelsea Peretti’s first lead role in a feature film, is written and directed by two women looking and hoping to reinforce the change in the female narrative. Here they bring us an honest and amusing tale of self-discovery as one women rebels against societal expectations, instead seeking her own path.
Directed by Andrea Dorfman, Spinster centres on Gaby, a 39-year old catering company owner who’s life is turned upside down when her partner breaks up with her on her birthday. Whilst navigating the various ups and downs of online dating in order to avoid becoming a lonely spinster, Gaby begins to question the outdated preconceptions of singleness for women of a certain age. Giving up on finding her Mr Darcy, she instead concentrates on a plan B – seeking her own happiness whilst pursuing her dream of opening her own restaurant.
Now how much you’ll enjoy this film will probably be down to your own personal views on marriage and children, along with whether you find it remotely relatable, because let’s be honest, who hasn’t been asked “is it your turn next” by an older relative at a family gathering?! The film is an earnest and refreshing look at the pressures women still face from society when they reach a certain age, with Gaby attempting to dispel the notion that you need a partner and kids to live a fulfilled life. Born from both director Andrea Dorfman and screenwriter Jennifer Deyell’s personal experiences of seeing close friends racing to settle, get married and have kids whilst in their mid 30s, the film features the positive message of seeking to break the mold and taking the road less travelled.
After experiencing awkward dates, one night stands and even hitting on her (unfortunately married) chiropractor, Gaby realises she needs to get her own life on track and be happy in herself before attempting another relationship. Dorman and Deyell turn the romantic comedy genre and ‘happily ever after’ notion on its head, with the heroine instead adopting an adorable older dog, reconnecting with her niece and finding a friend in her older neighbour. It’s honestly one of the most refreshing films I’ve seen about women in a while, and whilst some of the storylines work better than others, it’s an often heartwarming affair.
The ever hilarious Chelsea Peretti, who’s previously appeared in the brilliant films Game Night and Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, plays a more disgruntled version of Bridget Jones, chasing away potential wedding clients as she hilariously admits mid-pitch “it’s weird how marriage started as a contract of ownership and now it has kind of evolved into at best gross consumerism, and at worst a tax cut.” She’s sweary, brash and often out spoken, triggering a certain brand of misogyny and ageism at one of her friends dinner parties. Peretti believably brings to life Gabby’s transformational character arc, evolving from a pretty selfish person to a more caring, career focused individual, sharing great chemistry with Nadia Tonen as her niece and Trina Corkum as her neighbour. The strained family dynamic with her father (Bill Carr) and brother (David Rossetti) is where the film starts to fall a little flat however, but thankfully a charming meet-cute with a mysterious hiker (Jonathan Watton) redeems the male cast, as roles are reversed with Gaby saving him.
Overall Spinster is an insightful and well written indie film which highlights the overused stereotypes in the genre, featuring a brilliant debut lead from Peretti. Other than leaning a little too heavily on a montage with an upbeat soundtrack, this is an enjoyable 90 minute film with an inspiring and hopeful message for women’s representation and autonomy in Hollywood at the heart.
Spinster is released on VOD on August 7.
Directed by: Andrea Dorfman
Written by: Jennifer Deyell
Cast: Chelsea Peretti, Susan Kent, Amy Groening