Have you heard about the SaltWire News app?
Black teenager launches racial justice project in Nova Scotia
Daily fall forecasts and weather facts from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
SaltWire Selects: Stories worth sharing today
What you need to know about COVID-19: September 28, 2020
I was looking for a way to sum up the philosophy and the emotional vibe of Andrea Dorfman’s newest film, but darned if she hasn’t already done it for me. Google “ How to Be Alone ” and you’ll find the five-minute short she made 10 years ago with poet/songwriter Tanya Davis. It describes the condition of being solo, nimbly navigating the line between loneliness and solitude. It’s magical.
Spinster takes a similar notion and spins it out to just under 90 minutes, a little saggy in the middle but bookended by a note-perfect opening and closing.
In the first, Gaby ( Brooklyn Nine-Nine ’s Chelsea Peretti) is turning 39 and has just been dumped by her boyfriend of several months. “We had a terrible relationship,” he tells her with finality, but she tries to correct him: ““We HAVE a terrible relationship!”
But off he goes, leaving Gaby to ask those questions we all grapple with one dark evening or another. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find love? Will it ever change?
I guess I never really listened to Rush
In the standard postfeminist rom-com, Gaby would flail about miserably, embark on some truly horrid dates, find a sweet guy right under her nose, alienate him, win him back and live happily ever after. You’ve seen Trainwreck , right?
Well, this ain’t Trainwreck , though it does feature many of the same beats, at least in the early going. Gaby feels subtly pressured into coupledom and childbearing by her mostly married friends, and has to argue with strangers about her reasons to not procreate. “Tiny feet. Big Footprint!” she offers by way of the environmental argument against babies.
Writer Jennifer Deyell has fun with the tropes of the genre, scripting one scene composed entirely of Gaby’s responses to first dates. Sample famous last words: “I guess I never really listened to Rush.” And when she manages to connect briefly with one suitor, his own parting line – “Take care, good luck and godspeed” – does not set her heart aflutter. Maybe if she were an astronaut …
Through the course of four seasons and one day – the film spans the protagonist’s 40th year – we get humour, wistfulness and a degree of personal growth, all presented far more organically than most rom-coms even try to manage. Even nicer, its set firmly in Dorfman’s hometown of Halifax.
I’m tempted to give the director the last word and let her rate this one herself, but I don’t like to share my power as a critic. But just as How to Be Alone is clearly the work of someone who “gets” this movie, I’m going to hazard a guess that Dorfman would enjoy Spinster at least as much as I did.
Spinster is available Aug. 7 on iTunes Canada and on demand.
4 stars out of 5
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020