A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Princess Cyd is a story of family reconciliation and dealing with deep pain and personal growth, as observed in a maturing teenager and her never-married aunt. The girl, Cyd (Jessie Pinnick), has a fling with another girl she meets while visiting her Aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence) in Chicago. Cyd also has a sexual encounter with a male friend of her aunt's. One girl's breasts (with pierced nipples) are seen, a girl masturbates (while clothed), and a woman stands nude in front of a mirror. An aborted sexual assault is described, as is the murder-suicide of a youth and his mother. A teen smokes marijuana, and adults drink alcohol. Language includes "f--k" and "s--t."
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What's the story?
PRINCESS CYD is the story of a high school girl sent from South Carolina, where she and her depressive dad aren't getting along, to visit her Aunt Miranda (Rebecca Spence) in Chicago for a few weeks over the summer. Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) is easygoing, bright, and athletic. The disparity is stark between her and Miranda, a successful, unmarried middle-aged writer who enjoys considerable renown but lives alone and has never ventured far from the home she grew up in with Cyd's mother. Cyd settles in to her mother's old room and announces to the writer, without either embarrassment or self-awareness, that she doesn't read. Miranda's life is work-centered and orderly, with room for friends but overridden by a dedication to church and writing. Miranda is happy to have Cyd, but she doesn't allow the girl's presence to distract her much from her routine. In contrast, Cyd goes where her urges take her. On a run through the neighborhood, she meets a Mohawk-ed barista named Katie (Malic White), and although Cyd has a boyfriend back home, an immediate flame is lit. Miranda makes it clear that she's fine if Cyd beds the cute guy next door or the flirtatious barista, and Cyd does both. Cyd smokes marijuana and Miranda's only protest is that she did it in the house. They grow fond of each other and it isn't long before Cyd seems to entertain the possibility that reading might be more interesting than she'd originally thought. It's implied that the aunt-niece pair will keep in touch after the summer.
Is it any good?
It would be difficult to say exactly what the movie is about, and perhaps its refusal to fit into preconceived categories and recycle over-used cinematic clichés is its greatest strength. In a more conventional film, we'd only understand Miranda through young, selfish Cyd's point of view: a spinster aunt seemingly stuck in her routine life, alone, entrenched in her childhood home, glued to her native city, a woman without a sense of adventure or a yen for romance or pleasure. During an interview, Miranda tells an adoring audience that her story ideas don't originate from observations of others or a desire to investigate concerns, but rather from inside herself. It's confirmation that even as a writer she doesn't venture far from familiar territory.
Director Stephen Cone sets himself apart from more formulaic filmmakers by not forcing on Miranda a "blossoming" into a vortex of middle-aged lust and liberating experiences. Cone seems far more interested in sketching a couple of smudgy but believable portraits of two women making their own idiosyncratic ways in a world that leans toward labeling and certainty. Princess Cyd perhaps raises more questions than it answers, but you have to admire the filmmaker who opts for ambiguity and seems to feel fine with the resulting achievement, however on- or off-target it may be. Jessie Pinnick plays the blunt, affable Cyd as a figure growing into someone or something right before our eyes, leaving us curious to know who or what she will be. It's fun to watch her ask startling, almost impolite questions, not to be challenging or combative, but just to hear those questions out in the world, as if she has a need to formulate them so that she can begin to answer life's riddles on her own. Rebecca Spence radiates warmth and regret as Miranda, guiding her performance carefully between sympathetic and pathetic. Mature teens and parents will find lots to think about and discuss.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coming-of-age tales like Princess Cyd. Why are they so popular? What are some others that you've seen?
The movie is accepting of difference, of different ways of being happy. Many people outside of this movie's world aren't so accepting. Why do you think that is?
What do you think of the movie's treatment of Cyd's sexual relationship with another girl? Cyd has a boyfriend and doesn't seem surprised by her attraction to a female. Does it seem realistic to you? Why or why not?
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