See You Next Tuesday – Drew Tobia and the ugly real. (Sydney Underground Film Festival Film Review)
Even in the year 2013, it’s a courageous film that shows women at their worst. Not a caricatured worst, but a real, low-down and dirty, dare I say it, unattractive worst. As Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine sweeps the film watching world (a film about an extremely attractive female playing a supposedly unattractive female falling apart) Drew Tobia offers us See You Next Tuesday (CUNextTuesday) a film about a very real young woman on the verge of giving birth, falling apart. The difference in the two films that examine similar issues is startling. Kate Blanchet at her best working from a Woody Allen script is something we relish and suck up with a grin, loving to hate/hating to love the character of Jasmine. And yet Mona, wonderfully portrayed by Eleanore Pienta is more like a train wreck we can’t look away from as she, in obvious need of desperate assistance, walks away from every offer of assistance or possible support sinking deeper and deeper into her own disaster on behalf of her feeble need for freedom. The primary difference is one of beauty. Woody Allen has never had the courage of the kind Drew Tobia exhibits, in that he is never willing to get dirty. And yet, as we watch these two females go through their paces, there is a purity in See You Next Tuesday that Blue Jasmine couldn’t dream of aspiring to.
The opening credits of See You Next Tuesday show us Mona staring into the camera in a long, real take, her vacant stare barely interrupted by her own signs of life, breathing and blinking. She exists separate from her day, separate from her self, in a walking daze, unaware that she lives, disinterested in the matter of her existence.
Mona is a young woman, knocked up, and unable to afford any sort of medical attention in modern-day Brooklyn. She is obviously close to the end of her term, but she has no idea when the baby is due, is not interested in its sex, and rejects all ‘advice’ that suggests she needs a plan or some sort of stable responsibility in her life as part of the preparation. She is a social misfit, living as though she chose her place at the edges of society as if she were a Beckett-style tramp or a female version of a Mike Leigh inspired Johnny. She is sullen, foul-mouthed and highly intelligent living her life with a detached observation that never divulges into analysis. If you are a Beckett fan, you’d think of her as a contemporary genius, though of course she is ridiculed and belittled wherever she goes and her femininity opposes any sort of reluctant complimentary observation from the other. She doesn’t know how to apply make-up, wears old dirty decrepit clothes and mysteriously can’t manage her finances. She is a superb character, a modern-day anti-hero, separate in every way from femininity, except of course, that she is heavily pregnant.
There are two people in Mona’s life that she loves, hates, abuses and uses. They are her recovering alcoholic mother who loves her and takes her abuse like a life time penance she acquired for doing her girls harm when they were children, and her sister who is in a stable lesbian relationship but struggles with intimacy as she refuses to communicate with her mother. Mona acts as a kind of mid point for the three, although ultimately she will prove to be the most unstable of each of them. A crises occurs when Mona has a fight with her mother, and as the camera’s roll, literally falls apart without the questionable stability her mother was trying to provide. Mona uses ugliness to reject everything, and it works in a society that needs females to be attractive and grateful, even to the point where she pushes away the advances of friends and family.
Along side the brilliant characterization of Mona runs the insightful and brief examination of contemporary racism. It’s fascinating to watch racist slurs emerge as previously PC white females turn on black co-workers and lovers. When white people want to hurt black people they turn to racism, as if it is a substantive accuracy that normally they are too polite to mention. It’s disturbing, particularly in a long scene when Mona’s sister Jordan (Molly Plunk) gets drunk and turns on her long-time lover Sylvie (Keisha Zoller). The two women erotically whisper racist passages from Gone With The Wind (emblematic of the deep south) as foreplay but later Jordan will turn this against Sylvie in public display using the most unpalatable language to defame her patient and stable girlfriend. It’s a shocking moment, revealing the depths of emotional abuse Jordan is willing to go to, as Sylvie stares at her with a grimace on her face identical to the viewers. Only when Mona comes to stay for one night is Sylvie witness to someone even more screwed up than Jordan. When Mona is evicted from her apartment, she leaves an enormous orange swastika painted on the wall as a parting gift.
And yet, despite the dark and often frightening subject matter, the nature of the film is very funny and at times playfully light. Mona is such a well drawn character, and so obviously loved by Tobia, that we care about her at the same time as we throw our hands up in exasperation. The viewer is left with hope, not for Mona, but for humanity, that somehow all this struggle will make us stronger, or at the very least give us something to do while we are here.
Drew Tobia is a popular film maker in the underground film making world with his controversial film Leperfuck winning the AUFF The Wall award at the Atalanta Underground Film Festival. It’s an interesting short film, available here, if you have the stomach for it. While Leperfuck has its own peculiar charm, Tobia has really come into his own with See You Next Tuesday, an insightful contribution that heralds a career to watch. Make sure you catch it if you are going to the festival.
See You Next Tuesday is showing at the Sydney Underground Film Festival. Tickets can be purchased here.