A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Girlfriend's Day is a Netflix Original movie cowritten by, coproduced by, and starring Bob Odenkirk, who has a considerable fan base because of his terrific performances in Breaking Bad and its spin-off, Better Call Saul. In this short (70-minute )feature film, Odenkirk, along with the filmmaking team, has attempted a film noir spoof set in an imaginary world of greeting card writers -- a world in which those "one-or-two-line poetry" writers are famous celebrities and work in a cutthroat, competitive environment. Writers' block and depression are occupational hazards, and even murder is not above their pay grade. The film is violent, with action sequences that are meant to be comically brutal and far-fetched. No one just bleeds from a wound; blood gushes and pours. Scenes include: savage fist fights, beatings, pistol-whipping, and the aftermath of one fatal stabbing. Swearing and profanity are heard extensively ("f--k," "s--t," "bastards"), along with lots of name-calling, sexual references/insults, homosexual put-downs, and potty humor. A couple is seen kissing passionately, then in bed following a sexual liaison. One fantasy scene implies that a woman is having sex with a giant owl. Alcoholic beverages are consumed throughout; the lead is referred to as an "alcoholic." Not for kids.
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What's the story?
Everything that can go wrong for Ray Wentworth (Bob Odenkirk) already has in GIRLFRIEND'S DAY. His wife has left him, leading him to a terrible case of Writer's Block -- which, as the "Bill Shakespeare" of the greeting card industry, has proven to be disastrous. Now as a direct result of the Writer's Block, he's been fired and can't pay his rent. And making everything completely hopeless is the fact that he's depressed, and becoming dependent on alcohol. Having fun yet? No worries, things are about to get worse. California's governor has issued a proclamation declaring an annual "Girlfriend's Day," and offering a large cash prize for the best original FIRST greeting card for the occasion. So, when Ray's old boss offers him a secret deal to write that first card, and when he meets Jill (Amber Tamblyn) an attractive greeting card "groupie," in a local book store, Ray thinks things are at last looking up. That is, until he finds a competitor writhing on the floor of his office building -- stabbed, bloody, and dying. From there Ray is caught in a tangled web of lies, threats, encounters with a crooked cop, and self-hatred that doesn't let up. It's only a matter of time before Ray will either have to shake loose from the mess that his life has become or succumb to the forces of evil that surround him.
Is it any good?
Just when you think you're watching a dour comic commentary on the war on depression and creative failure, blink an eye and suddenly you're in a maelstrom of murder, deceit, and greeting card mania. You have to admire the Netflix executives. They're willing to take chances, and their subscribers must be willing to let them. Girlfriend's Day is an example of that kind of risk-taking. Working from a script that spent decades on the computers of its writers, with a documentary director making his first full-length fictional film, and a cast of talented performers, the film is a quirky, darkly comic homage to an iconic genre. Does it work? Not so much. It's too silly, too grisly, and has too much gratuitous profanity and tasteless sketch comedy (the "Bum Fights" TV show and ex-racist thugs are over the top). And while the events around the sad-sack hero change, he doesn't. The movie may find its audience -- older teens and adults with an affinity for grim, deadpan humor and the very appealing Bob Odenkirk. It's not for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of movie violence when it's intended to be exaggerated and comical. What feelings does the violence in Girlfriend's Day evoke? Do you laugh, or are you thrown off balance by the cartoon brutality? How does your response differ when on-screen violence is played for real?
Look up the term: film noir. How does this film fit the definition of the film noir genre, which reached its pinnacle in the mid-20th century?
Now check out the meaning of film parody (or spoof). How does this movie fit the definition of parody? Do you think the two genres work well together here? Why or why not?
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