Even if you haven’t heard the term Mumblecore before, you’ve probably seen a film of that genre. Mumblecore has been gracing screens for the past decade and is known, generally, for its low-budget and incredibly naturalistic dialogue. It is argued that dialogue should be impressionistic, should be a representation of how real people speak and not a replica. Because normal speech is boring. What Mumblecore does is replicate normal speech, which to some is boring, and to others (like myself) it can be super funny or touching and honest. But I’m not here to debate that. I’m here to talk about the ladies.
A trend I’ve noticed in many of the Mumblecore films I have seen is that they bare some similarities to rom-com set ups, but they follow none of the usual rom-com tropes all the way through: the girl doesn’t get the guy, the man doesn’t save the day. People simply exist and things happen, like real life. Because of this, Mumblecore films tend to represent women differently to how we’re often represented in mainstream movies.
Exhibit A – Drinking Buddies.
So, I’m happy straight off with this Swanberg directed film because Olivia Wilde is the female protagonist and I’ve been girl-crushing on her since The O.C. Wilde’s character, Kate, works in a craft brewery, drinks a lot with her colleagues, hangs out with the guys but does not go down the generic Hollywood stereotypical tomboy route. There is no makeover to get the guy’s attention—though we all love a good makeover montage scene—and she works out her problems in her own way. She’s a strong female lead with the ‘fatal flaws’ of real people.
Exhibit B – Safety Not Guaranteed.
Our lovely leading lady is Aubrey Plaza, a no-nonsense writer for a magazine (oh, hello!) with a deadpan approach to everything. She’s just cool, okay. She brings the funny and oh, look! No major female stereotyping. Hooray! Once again we see a female character journey liberated from the chuckles of major Hollywood clichés. It also stands apart from Drinking Buddies female journey for this very reason. By not using clichés, these films are telling very different stories that may on the surface sound like they could be similar.
Exhibit C – Frances Ha.
Oh, Greta Gerwig, how I love you. Her character, Frances, is a dreamer wandering through New York and, well, things just keep screwing up. She keeps on trying. Her dreams seem to dwindle. But life keeps going, as does the film, and even when things get better, it has little to do with ‘getting the guy’— unlike a lot of female-centric films.
These little titbits of films are basically my way of patting the Mumblecore genre on the back because they don’t follow big money-making Hollywood ideals. Instead, they stick to their guns—be it naturalistic dialogue, realistic plots, or female protagonists who can find something better for themselves without their dreamed happiness necessarily resting on a man. It’s about them. I like the honesty and reality in that. Some critics may think of Mublecore films as ugly cinematic mistakes, but I think they’re beautiful just the way they are. Mumblecore, you lovely weirdo, you.