“Saint Frances” is a sentimental and sweet, coarse and edgy comedy about childcare, abortion and finding adulthood at 34.
Intrigued? You should be.
Writer-and-star Kelly O’Sullivan has concocted a Greta Gerwiggish star vehicle that’s laugh-out-loud funny, blushingly crude and beautifully touching.
She stars as Bridget, a careless, distracted and somewhat adrift ditz whom we think is about to have an epiphany about all those things in the middle of a party. Then a random guy (Max Lipchitz) interrupts her and they wind up in bed.
It’s not until the next AM that she realized it was her “time of the month.” That’s so Bridget. And I’m being a lot more delicate than anybody in this movie is about bodily functions and having one’s period.
Jace — that’s the pick-up’s name — just rolls with it. Bridget figures this is the time for discourse on “bloodhounds” and making a very messy situation amusing.
She’s got a gift for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Her job interview the next day is filled with such faux pas. A “fallen” Catholic, she’s been recommended by a friend to take her old job as nanny for six-year-old Frances, the daughter of two women (Charin Alvarez, Lily Mojekwu) who just had a little boy.
They may exchange looks that give away “desperate,” but Bridget’s tactless stumbles may be too much. Frances (Ramona Edith Williams) and Bridget don’t click, either.
“We’re done” the child blurts out. She does that a lot. And yet for all of that, cell-phone-distracted, “not much good with kids” Bridget ends up with the job. She has no idea what she’s in for.
The couple are strained, with Mommy (Alvarez) suffering postpartum and Mama (Mojekwu) a humorless workaholic.
Frances? She’s Mommy and Mama’s little unHoly terror. She badgers Bridget to bump her around in the stroller for thrills, then runs to her parents when she takes a tumble.
“She threw me out of the stroller!”
She’s not hearing Bridget’s “no sugar” repeat of her parents’ edict when the ice cream truck rolls by in the park. Her tantrum summons a cop, which was her six-year-old intention.
“HELP! She’s not my Mom! I don’t KNOW her!”
Bridget gets a bellyful of childcare hell and the downside of Mommyhood. She is dismayed at Mommy Maya’s decline from “funny, confident woman” to “bare-boobed unshowered perpetually-crying milk machine.”
Perfect time for Bridget to find out she’s pregnant, right? This is how she earned my “careless, distracted and somewhat adrift ditz” label. Her birth control isn’t even worthy of being called a “method.” She asserts herself as a feminist, with her “I’m for sure getting rid of it” to Jace. But like everything else, there’s a lot of “lazy” in her “I am woman”hood.
Poor Jace is younger, all empathy and “I know” at her every complaint. He’s doing his part “in our relationship.”
But “We’re not IN a relationship!”
And as if to prove it, Bridget goes all goo-goo eyes over Frances’ new toddler-guitar teacher/poet (Jim True-Frost).
All these complications, all this “feeling,” all this (literal) “messiness” is sprinkled with dialogue that will make you laugh or at least chuckle out loud when delivered by O’Sullivan. Guitar teacher says Frances is “a future Joan Jett.” Who’s that, the kid wants to know?
Rock star, “really angry — lots of ‘STATEMENT’ eye liner.” Pause. “Wonder if she’s dead now?”
O’Sullivan sells this woman’s embrace of not “having it together” with a performance on a par with Jenny Slate’s bracing and funny turn in the similarly themed and pitched “Obvious Child.”
Yes, abortion can be funny, even in a movie with lots of Catholics and Catholicism.
And then our heroine turns on a dime, letting this problem child get to her, developing empathy for Frances’ parents even as she’s clumsily making every mistake short of a fatal one with their kid.
Comedy is the most subjective film genre, and all this menstruation, abortion, Catholicism and Meeting Mr. Wrong won’t be to every taste. I found “Saint Frances” a real indie comedy shot in the arm (first-timer Alex Thompson directed). And I cannot wait to see what O’Sullivan comes up with next. Nothing that involves kids, I trust. For obvious reasons.
MPAA Rating: unrated, sex, adult subject matter and situations.
Cast: Kelly O’Sullivan, Ramona Edith Williams, Charin Alvarez, Max Lipchitz and Lily Mojekwu.
Credits: Directed by Alex Thompson, script by Kelly O’Sullivan. An Oscilloscope Labs release.
Running time: 1:41