Tag Archives: 90s

Beauty in the Movies: Party Girl

The past few films I’ve featured have been naturalistic, English, and decidedly rural, so this week I thought it would be fun to swing in the opposite direction and highlight an indie classic set in ’90s Manhattan—Party Girl.

Mary (Parker Posey) makes a living throwing wild parties (or what in the ’90s we called “raves”), unfortunately she always forgets to obtain a liquor license. When her unorthodox profession finally lands her in jail, she looks to her godmother Judy (Sasha von Scherler) to bail her out. Judy is a librarian who makes a habit of reminding Mary she’s just like her mother who was “a woman with no common sense”. In order to prove Judy wrong, and avoid eviction, Mary takes a position as a library clerk and finds she might have a surprise talent for the job.

While Mary is in the midst of starting a new career she finds herself infatuated with Mustafa, (Omar Townsend) the hunky, Lebanese, proprietor of a street falafel cart. Unfortunately Mary’s self-centeredness is a big obstacle in the way of her happiness in every aspect of her life, especially where romance is concerned. Mustafa introduces Mary to the myth of Sisyphus which parallels Mary’s own struggle and is made reference to in many different ways throughout the film—like a guy who always seems to be carrying a box up the stairs.

There are a bunch of great secondary characters like Mary’s flamboyant friend Derrick (Anthony DeSando), who has one of the most lovely Jersey accents ever, Liev Schreiber as her cockney jerk of an ex-boyfriend, and her roommate aspiring DJ, Leo (Guillermo Díaz). Really though, this is Parker Posey’s movie. She is so charmingly obnoxious and straight-up weird that you can’t take your eyes off her, not to mention her outfits. Colored tights and shorts are all over the place at the moment and I like to think it all started right here.

Party Girl is from the era where an “indie” film actually meant it was independently funded rather than just a label to acknowledge it was somewhat outside the mainstream or quirky. According to IMDB.com this film was made for $150,000 dollars which seems totally insane by today’s standards. I mean, I know, inflation and all that but still, wow, that’s really cheap for a movie. Consider that “independent”  films of the last few years like 500 days of Summer or Little Miss Sunshine were both made for around $8 million—which is still super cheap by Hollywood standards.

The editing and music in Party Girl are sort of strange (the music really sounds like a made-for-ABC-family movie at times). You get the feeling a lot of the costumes and set decorations were thrown together from what people had on hand or could acquire with a meager budget. These things make the film so much more interesting though. It feels unique, it feels like New York, and it captures the feeling of a specific moment in the 1990s.

Figuring out what you want to do with your life is a huge decision, and so often in movies everyone already seems to have that worked out, especially in films for women. “Chick-flicks” or romantic comedies always seem to feature ladies with perfect careers who are just trying to find the right guy. As most of us know, finding the perfect career can be much more of a struggle. While I’m pretty confident most women could get along just fine without a guy, the same can’t be said for a job—we all need one of those (unless you have a trust fund or a wealthy spouse or something).

This movie is a cult classic because it gets funnier the more you watch it and the clothes and style are still appealing over 15 years later. In a way Party Girl is a coming-of-age story, at 24 Mary doesn’t know how to be a grown-up mostly because she has no idea what she wants to do. She keeps screwing everything up, and the boulder rolls back down the hill on top of her over and over again. It isn’t until she embraces what she actually likes doing, despite its lack of glamour, that she finds fulfillment. Party Girl also teaches us the important lesson that librarians can be hot and fashionable—you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

Miu Miu leopard print coat
2,170 GBP – net-a-porter.com

Fur jacket
79 GBP – aubinandwills.com

Clemens en August slim fit blazer
177 GBP – theoutnet.com

TopShop opaque tight
$12 – topshop.com

MondayMarch red short
60 EUR – welikefashion.com

Jane Norman short short
18 GBP – janenorman.co.uk

Padded bra
$7.99 – tillys.com

High heels
67 EUR – modekungen.se

Pierre Hardy stiletto high heels
$1,020 – net-a-porter.com

Diana Warner cocktail ring
$95 – maxandchloe.com

Cross jewelry
625 EUR – stylebop.com

D G heart chain necklace
$93 – zappos.com

Red glove
$12 – unique-vintage.com

LESCA Round framed glasses
$249 – farfetch.com

Miss Grant Junior Girls Navy Blue Sequin Shorts
73 GBP – childsplayclothing.co.uk

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Beauty in the Movies: Pleasantville

This week’s film passes the Bechdel test, but features both prominent female and male characters. Although I usually focus on strong female leads, it’s important to note the real goal is equal presence and development of both sexes on film. While Pleasantville does have strong female characters, it is really a story about liberation for all.

Jennifer and David are teenage twins from a broken home. Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) is popular and promiscuous (FYI: singer Jenny Lewis makes a brief appearance as one of her friends), while her brother David (Tobey Maguire) is shy and geeky. He’s also obsessed with a black & white Leave It To Beaver-esque TV show called Pleasantville which he sees as a perfect world, unlike the one he is living in.

David and Jennifer don’t get along, and after fighting for control of the TV and breaking the remote, Don Knotts appears at their door as a mysteriously chipper TV repairman. He gives them a new remote which transports them into the sterile, black & white world of Pleasantville, where they have two happily married parents (Joan Allen and William H. Macy), and nothing bad ever happens.

There are no fires or death in Pleasantville, there’s also no need for toilets and no such thing as sex. David wants to play their parts while they figure out how to get home, but free-spirited ’90s woman Jennifer proves unable to assimilate so easily. When she seduces her chaste TV boyfriend, Skip (Paul Walker), she unwittingly brings about a revolution.

David sets change in motion as well when he accidentally introduces the idea of free will to Mr. Johnson (Jeff Daniels), his boss at the soda shop. As creativity and curiosity begin to blossom throughout Pleasantville, so do hatred and ignorance, turning this “perfect” world completely on its head.

The metaphor in this film is obvious but also effective. Not only as an illustration of the absurdity of racism, but also that the price we pay for perfection is imagination. Pleasantville is the garden of Eden and woman is once again the cause for its downfall, but in this reality the expulsion is actually an emancipation.

Gary Ross, the writer and director, has said his intention wasn’t to make a feminist statement, especially in regard to Joan Allen’s character. However, since equality and repression are both major themes of the film and Joan Allen is a fantastic actress, intentional or not, her story arc is the most compelling and does convey a feminist message.

Pleasantville received Academy Award nominations for Best art direction, best costume design, and best original score (by Randy Newman), all of which were well deserved.  The film was shot in color, mostly on digital, and then selectively desaturated, which makes for striking visuals.

Pleasantville drops us into a society that is still longed for by many Americans, a world without sin or emotion, and then shows us how stifling it would be to live there. It’s a simple idea with complex repercussions and overall it’s beautiful and magical to watch—what more could you want?

Beauty in the Movies: Pleasantville
Beauty in the Movies: Pleasantville by justinez featuring a yellow cardigan

Dress
99 GBP – vivienofholloway.com

Vintage dress
150 GBP – lovemissdaisy.com

Knit cardigan
$75 – topshop.com

Dorothy Perkins short cardigan
22 GBP – dorothyperkins.com

River Island peter pan collar blouse
25 GBP – riverisland.com

Cardigan
95 GBP – lkbennett.com

Oasis summer tee
45 GBP – johnlewis.com

Eastex yellow cardigan
60 GBP – houseoffraser.co.uk

Dorothy Perkins short sleeve top
17 GBP – dorothyperkins.com

Bennett
75 GBP – lkbennett.com

Giambattista Valli tweed pencil skirt
441 GBP – net-a-porter.com

Alice by Temperley pleated skirt
$126 – theoutnet.com

La Perla bullet bra
$86 – journelle.com

Pleaser halloween costume shoes
$28 – endless.com

Rupert Sanderson high heel shoes
$575 – boutique1.com

Vintage leather handbag
$35 – modcloth.com

Vintage handbag
$40 – modcloth.com

Vintage clutch
$35 – modcloth.com

Double strand pearl necklace
$99 – myjewelrybox.com

Monet pearl earring
25 GBP – houseoffraser.co.uk

Vintage glove
$20 – modcloth.com

Vintage hat
$40 – modcloth.com

American apparel
$8 – americanapparel.net

Marc by Marc Jacobs gold hair accessory
$22 – couture.zappos.com

Old Navy hair accessory
$3.50 – oldnavy.gap.com

Poodle Skirt
69 GBP – irregularchoice.com

Estee Lauder Radiant Bloom Powder Compact
$175 – bergdorfgoodman.com

Pride and Prejudice
$20 – modcloth.com

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Beauty in the Movies: Muriel’s Wedding

This week for Beauty in the Movies we look at Muriel’s Wedding, a film that falls into the sadly rare comedy/drama category and is as heartbreaking as it is hysterical.

Muriel Heslop (Toni Collette) is unemployed, obsessed with weddings, and living with her parents in her hometown of Porpoise Spit Australia. All the Heslop children still live at home under constant verbal assault from their overbearing and often cruel politician father (Bill Hunter). Muriel still hangs out with the popular girls from her high school. They treat her like trash, call her fat, and berate her for embarrassing them with her bad clothes, love of 70s music (specifically ABBA), and general un-coolness (this is the 90s after all!). When they plan a getaway and tell her they don’t want her to come, Muriel uses a blank check from her mother and heads off to the same resort alone.

Once at the resort she coincidentally meets Rhonda (Rachel Griffiths), another friend from high school who helps her stand-up to the bitchy girls who scorned her. Rhonda and Muriel become fast friends and move to Sydney where Muriel vows to start a whole new life, but escaping the family she left in Porpoise Spit might be harder than she thought. When Rhonda is forced to suddenly change her partying ways, it’s the true test of her and Muriel’s friendship.

Australians really have a knack for creating hysterical over-the-top characters who can also be deeply empathetic. Films like this one, as well as Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, give us overblown humor mixed in with dark subjects, but the characters feel honest so the two integrate as naturally as they do in all our lives. I get sick of movies that are all sad or all happy, everyone is either living in expensive apartments having wacky romances or everyone is dying of cancer and losing children, it’s just too much sometimes.

A great portion of the success of this film belongs to Toni Collette. A lesser actress couldn’t make Muriel, whose actions are often morally questionable, such a sympathetic character. Muriel is obsessed with getting married, not because she wants to fall in love, but because she wants to show everyone that she has changed—that she is a success. Muriel is an incredibly selfish character, she lies, she steals and she doesn’t seem to care much about any of it, of course that’s the point of the movie, but if the audience didn’t care about the character despite her many flaws, it wouldn’t mean anything when she finally realizes the error of her ways.

Muriel’s father is abusive, he doesn’t hit his children, but he might as well because the verbal abuse he heaps on his whole family (including his wife who he seems to have pushed to the edge of sanity) does more damage to them in the long run. Sadly, it’s all too common a thing to see in families, and it’s not talked about very often. Muriel’s real success is that she escapes from her prolonged adolescence and stops believing that she has to run away from who she is.

Despite what you might think, Muriel’s Wedding is not a romantic comedy, it’s dark, and despite its incredible humor, it’s depressing at times. This film completely breaks the mold in terms of what we think films about weddings are supposed to be. It’s not about two people overcoming obstacles to be together, or about living happily ever after, it’s about life, both the bad and the good. In this story there isn’t a white knight, or a perfect guy, because often in life the real person who saves you isn’t the one who comes sweeping in for the rescue, but the one who will sit beside you through anything—and make you laugh about it.

If you’re still not sold, this film is worth seeing for the awesome ABBA filled soundtrack and dance number too. Give ABBA a chance, it’s worth it, really.

Muriel's Wedding

Muriel’s Wedding by justinez featuring bridal shoes

Twirl Posy Floral Dress
35 GBP – fatface.com
Fat Face dresses »

Maje Anabelle leather dress
$685 – net-a-porter.com
Leather dresses »

Blue flower bell sleeve tunic
23 GBP – dorothyperkins.com
Blue tunic »

Stripe Crop Tee
$26 – metroparkusa.com
Raglan t shirt »

Naline cotton macramé vest
$51 – theoutnet.com
Cotton vests »

454 AMOUR Bridal Garter
20 EUR – pret-a-beaute.com
Fogal »

BKE Hoop Earring
$2.55 – buckle.com
Hoop earrings »

Gold Spiked Hoop Earrings
$75 – charmandchain.com
Hoop earrings »

Long Various Bead Necklace
$5.80 – forever21.com
Forever21 necklaces »

White Satin Elbow Length Gloves
$12 – unique-vintage.com
White gloves »

Alkemie + Spiral Flower Buckle
$240 – econsciousmarket.com
Buckle belts »

Lanvin Ostrich feather-trimmed veil
$860 – net-a-porter.com


Scrunchie
scrunchies.com


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