Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the dark comedy BITCH by writer/director Marianna Palka. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
"A philandering, absentee husband is forced to take care of his children when his depressed wife snaps and takes on the psyche of a vicious dog."
Reading that description, it is hard to think that this might be a funny movie. In fact, the beginning also shows us a failed suicide attempt, which also does not quite tickle the funny bone. Needless to say, it will take a bit of forebearance, but those who stick around for a bit are sure to find an amusing dark comedy with its heart in the right place.
Right, with that out of the way, I feel as if I have to talk a bit about this feature's greatest weapon: Jason Ritter. I will be honest, I have seen Mr. Ritter in a lot over the years and, which I like him, I have never been blown away by his performances. Up until this point, he was good, but he never achieved the iconic status his father has held in my mind. As I was watching this film, I finally got to see him give the tour de force performance I have been waiting so long to see. Watching his slow transition from self absorbed man-child to an adult who actually knows the names of his own children was a revelation. Along the way he managed to portray every biting barb, physical comedy bit, or sentimental moment so well that it came across as genuine.
In a way, this versatility is required of most of the actors as this picture shifts from a dark comedy in the first half to a more standard man reconnecting with his family in the second portion. While this change in the story came about in a naturalistic fashion, it still followed a lot of the beats that many similar features have tread. I will say this, as we moved into the finale, there were a few scenes where events could have gone sideways real quick and they effectively brought to mind the teeth present at the beginning of the film.
From a directorial standpoint, I have to mention that the scenes where people tried to interact with the mother while she was in her dog mindset were surprisingly tense. Through the use of darkness and ambient noises, they really nail the threatening, uncertain atmosphere surrounding each encounter. It was interesting to see these moments interspersed with the family dramedy happening above as they served as a harsh reminder that even if the husband was beginning to reform, the damage he had caused was still present.
All in all, this was an interesting take on the family dramedy that had some stellar performances. While the beginning might frustrate people, those who stick around are sure to find a lot to love about this film. Fans of dark family dramedies with some bite like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) or movies where a self centered person has to learn to connect with his family like LIAR LIAR (1997) should definitely tune into this picture.
The Creeping Craig