Women have long griped about movies made by male directors, in which the female characters can’t seem to live with a man. Well news flash, with the growing number of women behind the camera these days, nothing much appears to have changed.
And following in the footsteps of last year’s persistent female guy stalker at any cost – Charlize Theron in Young Adult – is Greta Gerwig similarly resorting to wacky infantile mode damsel-in-regress over a problematic man, in The Dish & The Spoon. Though Gerwig tends to run in the opposite direction from the source of her male rooted misery, as opposed to Charlize. Who for some unconvincing reason was all over her adamantly uncooperative object of married man desire.
Directed and co-written by Alison Bagnall (Buffalo 66, Piggie), The Dish & The Spoon stars Gerwig as Delaware housewife, Rose. Less dish than dishrag, Rose is first seen running away from home in a rage, in pajamas and boots. And speeding down stormy winter highways while weeping and getting drunk on beers, with a side of packaged donuts.
When Rose makes a pit stop along the way to wind down at a lighthouse by the ocean, she discovers a wandering youth nesting there. Very likely as depressed as she is, the shabby Brit (Olly Alexander) – who never actually divulges his name in the course of this story – does let on that he’s been dumped by an American lover. And then embarked on a nomadic life so as to “go into the damp, drizzly November of the soul” while trying to resist the temptation to knock people’s hats off at funeral processions.
Owing to their mutual deep funk, the pair hit it off quickly when they arrive at the seaside town and summer home of Rose’s parents. But not before she makes repeated visits to the home and suspected workplaces of the woman having an affair with her husband, and stages bizarre screaming fits into phones and on front lawns.
Eventually Rose is sufficiently distracted by the boy’s enormous infatuation with her, and they’re soon pretending to be getting married in vintage clothing picked up from a thrift shop and taking colonial period dancing lessons in costume. And visiting Rose’s pre-purchased matrimonial cemetery plot, where they perform a dress rehearsal pretending to be dead together.
And perhaps in the film’s most unsettling yet psychologically stunning sequence, Rose does a sort of Albert Nobbs, choreographing a gender switch dressup encounter in a neighborhood bar between the pair. As Gerwig’s broken, betrayed woman in drag unleashes role reversal, crude male predatory pickup moves on the stunned young man, consigned to momentary female passivity and related demoralization.
A raw when not tender character driven, magically crafted collage that is by turns playfully impulsive and moody, The Dish & The Spoon is also a road movie lacking any fully satisfying outcome. And finally settling on a fairly conventional, cautionary cougar romance, and a destination not nearly as adventurous or daring as its whimsically inclined if troubled characters.
2 1/2 stars