[Note from Frolic: We’re so excited to welcome author Gina Fattore to the site today. she has some great suggestions on what to stream. Take it away, Gina!]
The instinct to binge romantic comedies can be powerful in a crisis. Happy endings for everyone! Plus, a few laughs, some cute outfits, maybe a good makeover montage. The heroine of my debut novel, The Spinster Diaries, loves rom coms so much that she’s actually trying to write one, but who’s got time for that during a worldwide pandemic? Much more fun just to watch them. Unless, of course, you’re a singleton on Day 27 of being home entirely alone, distressed about your romantic future, and feeling the sting of physical and emotional isolation most acutely. In that case, maybe the sight of two incredibly good-looking people FINALLY kissing after 98 minutes of adorable banter doesn’t seem so entertaining to you anymore. Maybe it makes you want to…
- Ugly cry like Dawson after Joey has just run off to be with Pacey
- Eat all 28 of the single-serving bags of Skinny Pop you ordered online and had to wait a week to get delivered from an office supply store
- Throw open a window and scream, “Why?! Why does love come so easily to these women? Is it because they all look so good in sleeveless outfits?”
If this scenario sounds at all familiar to you, you may need to take a break from rom coms and supplement your viewing with a genre I’m going to call Ladies Who Have Other Stuff Going on in Their Lives Right Now, Thank You Very Much. Do these intelligent, complex heroines have time to pursue a romantic subplot or two? They do. They most certainly do. But finding a romantic partner is simply not their number one priority at the moment. Instead, they’ve got big career dreams to chase, artistic ambitions to fulfill, social conventions to defy, baseball games to win, and personal demons to conquer. So without further ado…
My Brilliant Career
Set at the tail end of the 19th century, Gillian Armstrong’s first feature stars Judy Davis as a headstrong young woman living on a drought-struck farm in rural Australia who can’t stop dreaming of a more sophisticated life filled with books and music. Much like Fanny Price, the heroine of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, she’s sent to live with her mother’s wealthy relations. Unlike Fanny Price, she speaks her mind at every turn and vexes everyone with her independent spirit.
In the 90s I had hair so big someone sitting behind me at the theater once tapped me on the shoulder and complained, and I held a wide variety of assistant jobs that required me to answer the phone in a perky voice. So when I graduated to the big leagues and got offered my first-ever, full-time TV writing job, I celebrated by watching this late 80s, star-studded Mike Nichols’ classic about a young woman from Staten Island determined to claw her way out of the assistant pool. If Joan Cusack can’t make you laugh right now, nothing can.
A League of Their Own
Geena Davis, you will always be my president. Tom Hanks, thank you for your service to the national psyche in this time of crisis. Please stay well, both of you!
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Since it wouldn’t be wise to go cold turkey and detox completely from traditional rom coms, I’m keeping this 1997 Peak Julia Roberts on the list. I think we all know why… something to do with the ending, although I won’t spoil it just in case. Special shout-out to Rupert Everett, who delivers possibly the best-ever Workplace Best Friend performance of all time. Where’s that Master Class?
Me Myself I
Keep your 13 Going on 30 and give me this little-known Australian body-switching comedy starring a pre-Six Feet Under Rachel Griffiths. Written and directed by Pip Karmel, the movie shows what happens when a single woman in her mid 30s suddenly finds herself married to The One Who Got Away and tasked with wrangling three kids and a dog. Spoiler alert: married people have problems too!
Julie & Julia
Here’s my Nora Ephron hot take: the last movie she directed is also her best. It looks just as light and fluffy as all her other joints, but underneath that shiny veneer, it’s a steely portrait of female tenacity and ambition. Come for Meryl Streep’s awe-inspiring performance as Julia Child, stay for Stanley Tucci totally owning “the girlfriend part,” i.e., a supportive spouse who isn’t threatened by his partner’s career success.
Anand Tucker’s melancholy, fairy-tale-esque adaptation of Steve Martin’s novella features the luminously heartbreaking Clare Danes as a 20something artist, adrift and alone in Los Angeles. Her mission is simple: make her art, maintain her sanity, and somehow find her way in the world. Also: feed the cat. Even in 2005, we probably didn’t need yet another movie about a beautiful young woman having an affair with a much older man, but I’m really glad this one exists.
Miss Austen Regrets
Sorry, Anne Hathaway. Olivia Williams will always be my Jane Austen: 40ish, with a fondness for wine. The title is perhaps unfortunate, implying as it does that Miss Austen regrets never having married, but screenwriter Gwyneth Hughes gets bonus points for basing this poignant portrait of Austen’s last years on the novelist’s surviving letters to her niece Fanny Knight. It was in those letters that Austen wrote the ultimate single-girl mission statement: “Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection.”
Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe star as three brilliant women who use their talents in math, computer programming, and engineering to serve their country’s space program. What could be more comforting in these trying times than a story about the best and brightest scientific minds in our country coming together to solve a problem? Could you also derive a similar comfort from watching from Apollo 13? Sure, but the outfits here are so much better.
How many other Hollywood movies starring Reese Witherspoon are about a woman alone with her thoughts for 94 days? In its closing moments, the voiceover takes pains to remind us that our heroine does eventually get married, but meeting Mr. Right is beside the point in this poetry-tinged trek up the Pacific Crest Trail. Just like the Cheryl Strayed memoir it’s based on, Nick Hornby’s screenplay, gorgeously filmed by Jean-Marc Vallee, is about making peace with memories – when memories are all you have – and about the power of nature to conquer grief. Right now all of us, both married and single, could use those lessons. In the immortal words of Cheryl’s mom: “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.”
About the Author:
Gina Fattore is a television writer whose credits include Dare Me, Better Things, UnREAL, Masters of Sex, Parenthood, Californication, Gilmore Girls, and Dawson’s Creek. Her comic novel The Spinster Diaries is available now from Prospect Park Books.
The Spinster Diaries by Gina Fattore, out now!
Our heroine, a moderately successful TV writer in L.A., wants her life to be as sunny and perfect as a Hollywood rom-com: a cool job, a wacky best friend, and lots of age-appropriate hot guys just dying to date her. Instead, she’s a self-described spinster who is swimming in anxiety and just might have a tiny little brain tumor. So she turns to an unlikely source for inspiration: the eighteenth-century novelist and diarist Frances Burney, who pretty much invented the chick-lit novel.
A semi-autobiographical unromantic comedy, The Spinster Diaries is a laugh-out-loud satire of both the TV business and the well-worn conventions of chick lit―as well as the true tale of the forgotten writer who inspired Jane Austen to greatness. It’s an endearing and refreshingly honest testament to how one person’s life can reach out across the centuries to touch another’s.