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Animals: The party goes on too long in this feminist Hangover

 

ANIMALS
directed by Sophie Hyde

The Dublin-set story of bosom buddies bonded by booze induces its own hangover effects.

The smartest, albeit borrowed, line in this Dublin-set film is when an older sister berates her hard-drinking sibling for being locked in a cycle of partying that is not becoming of her 32 years. “You get left behind,” she warns, “and you become a tragedy.” To which the ever-loyal best friend replies, glass raised: “Well, tragedy plus time equals comedy.”

Unfortunately, Animals is not filled to the brim with laughs, although it is overflowing with young women guzzling white wine and stumbling out of bars in op-shop furs and sequinned dresses. This is, in its own way, a refreshing feminist take on the Hangover comedy genre of men behaving badly, and perhaps we should celebrate that women can behave badly, too. But, actually, all this partying just makes you feel tired.

Laura (Holliday Grainger) is a barista-cum-writer who admits that she has only written “about 10 pages” in the 10 years she and best friend Tyler have known each other. Thick as thieves (right down to the shared bed in their messily bohemian flat and synchronised monthly periods), the women live boozy, single-girl lives in the Irish capital, where Tyler’s mysterious American origins provide a counterpoint to Laura’s happy Irish family. The initial ambiguity of their relationship soon becomes perfectly, predictably clear when teetotal pianist Jim (Fra Fee) becomes a third wheel.

English actress Grainger delivers a fine, accent-perfect performance as Laura, one of the most annoying people you wouldn’t want to be friends with. It is amazing that her irresponsible friend/sister/girlfriend antics fail to alienate anyone very conclusively. Ironically, Tyler (Alia Shawkat, from television’s Arrested Development and countless US indie movies) is much more over-the-top and yet a more realistic character.

The two actors have a natural chemistry, which just about makes up for the clichéd and undercooked trials and tribulations these bosom buddies are put through. In particular, Tyler’s rant about the patriarchal institution of marriage sounds as if it was written decades ago, though the script is by Manchester writer Emma Jane Unsworth, adapting her well-reviewed 2014 novel. The film has not only shifted the Manchester setting of the book but dropped many of its edgier details.

Still, Australian director Sophie Hyde pulls together a sharply edited and prettily photographed portrait of female friendship. But, although it’s a well-intentioned counterweight to all those boozy bloke films, it’s a shame it’s not one you want to look at for long.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★

Video: Picturehouse

This article was first published in the October 26, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.