Citizen Jane Film Festival: “Bitch” Review

By Bryce Cross

Citizen Jane Narrative Films

“Bitch” was screened at the 2017 Citizen Jane Film Festival.

Spoilers follow for “Bitch.”

One could probably guess that this film’s title, “Bitch,” could work both as a double meaning and a clever joke. Unfortunately, this dull and overtly feminist satire only succeeds in one of those aspects.

“Bitch” is written and directed by Scottish filmmaker Marianna Palka, who also plays the film’s initially central character of a suburban housewife. Overwhelmed by being treated so indifferently as a mother of four, Jill (Palka) suffers through a mental breakdown, resulting in her acting like a dog. The premise is straightforward as Jill, having been treated as an afterthought (like a neglected pet) by her bratty children and despicable husband, has been driven to madness – now snarling, walking on all fours and covered in her own feces.

Most of this behavior is thanks to her husband Bill (Jason Ritter), whose narcissistic attitude, clear infidelity and disregard of Jill leads her to the breaking point. It’s only really then that he notices her, having to manage her and the mess she leaves behind. Lamentably, Bill becomes the main focus of the film as he’s forced to face the ludicrous consequences of his actions.

Much of it is supposedly played for laughs (because the film is supposed to be a comedy), yet instead, many of the humorous moments feel like they’re challenging the audience to laugh – like throwing darts at a board and hoping something sticks. There’s a moment where Bill has a childish fit at his children’s school because he’s left managing the kids as a single parent that is particularly cringeworthy. Another moment is at the start of the film where an exasperated Jill attempts to hang herself and immediately fails. For a so-called comedy, “Bitch” has some dark, unsettling moments which do not contrast well with the crudeness seen later in the film.

The feminist message “Bitch” tries to subtly show within the film is obvious, but one worth noting, as the entire film wants to hammer it home with every other scene. The progression of the film stresses how women are often subdued and ignored by the patriarchy and how men often get away with it. The message isn’t at all bad, but its execution is. “Bitch” is seemingly meant to show, through a bizarre set of circumstances, what happens when a man doesn’t get away with it. Unfortunately, while the repercussions he faces are odd, they lack serious impact when getting the message across.

When Palka recedes into the background as Bill locks his wife in the basement to tackle life in a responsible manner, the film seriously drags. Ritter’s performance as Bill is on two extremes – either boring or overdone, with little left to find in between.

If there’s one true positive of the film, it’s what we see of Palka’s portrayal of a housewife undergone a canine transformation. It’s uncomfortable to watch, but also commendable. The way in which the actress subtly changes her movement and posture, along with the barks and snarls really do make it believable that she may actually be possessed by a dog. The way the camera work is shot close to her face also lends an unsettling air to the performance.

While containing a decent concept, “Bitch” proves itself to be uninteresting, falling way short of the mark. With the feminist message clear from the start, not much is present to engage audiences. This becomes especially true when the main character and satire both fall by the wayside halfway through to focus on the redemption of her shameful, contemptible husband. Perhaps the concept of “Bitch” seemed good on paper, but here, it doesn’t have nearly enough bark or bite.

4.4/10. Bad.

Tags: , , , , , ,