Bitch (2017) [Fantasia International Film Festival 2017]

A stay-at-home mom is overworked, under-cared-for, and finally snaps.  As she turns into a dog version, or a literal bitch, her clueless husband wants to save face more than anything else.

Written and directed by Marianna Palka, Bitch is one of those movies that is rare and hard to create, one where the story, direction, and acting all come into place to create something special.  Here she creates an odd tale that will resonate with housewives everywhere as well as with working spouses who seem to do it all while their significant other does very little at home or to support them outside of paying for everything.  The film and its characters explore family ties and dynamics and what happens to them when one key member cannot function anymore.  The characters built here are fantastic and realistic in their crazy situation.  Love and care are central themes as well as self-discovery and the importance of caring.  Palka creates a relatable story from a completely crazy premise.  Her characters feel familiar and connect easily with the audience.

The cast here does a fantastic job with the situation they are put in.  Marianna Palka herself plays the titular Bitch, the over-stressed mom of four who loses her mind.  Her transformation into a vicious, scared dog is fascinating to watch as she gives it her all.  How she manages to show emotions and communicate in this state is amazing.  She just gives one of those performances that will mark viewers.  Playing her husband is Jason Ritter who plays him as kind of a caring asshole who is a tough nut to crack but has many layers to his character.  He does this with talent and conviction.  Playing the lead’s sister, Jaime King adds a lot of care and tenderness to her character that creates a sort of balance to the other adults portrayed.  The kids are played fantastically well by young actors Brighton Sharbino, Rio Mangini, Jason Maybaum, and Kingston Foster, each having to deal with some very challenging roles and emotions in terms of relating to children who’s mom has turned into a dog.  They do this with talent and that sweetness and innocence kids can have in even the hardest of situation sometimes.  All of these performances show a care from the entire cast and from the writer/director in terms of wanting to make this crazy story into something that is touching and emotional.

The film’s cinematography by Armando Salas creates a very direct approach and head-on look for the story and its characters.  The camera never flinches or avoids the main emotions by keeping them out of frame.  It’s on the characters, watching their emotions, letting them transfer these to the viewer who will inevitably connect at one point or another with the one of the leads, may it be through their family connections, their relationships, or the strain in their mental and emotional capacities.

Bitch is one of those movies that have a crazy premise for a story that needs it to break some barriers and show emotions dead-on.  It’s a movie filled with emotions and feelings, but not one of those lovey-dovey or TV-style movies.  It’s raw and emotional; it shows the truth of being an over-worked person with too much stress, too little support, and no real outlet.  The way the story is built and acted is fantastic and connects with the audience in way that slowly builds throughout the film.

Fantasia International Film Festival runs from July 13th to August 2nd.