Tuesday, 25 October 2016

My First Mister

The film that broke me.

That's how it feels, broken inside, but in the best way possible. I decided to watch My First Mister last night after months of being unable to locate a copy. I found one streaming through Kodi. I came into it with no real idea in mind as to how the film would play out. It ended with me bawling my eyes out in the stairwell, clutching a carton of ice cream close to my chest and listening to The Cure's Pictures of You. Depressing. But in the best way possible.

To be honest I don't remember how I came upon this film. Maybe it was Carol Kane? I didn't know about it in high school when it came out, but it's certainly not mainstream and wouldn't have been playing in theaters around here. It obviously drew my interest due to the fact that the protagonist is a teenage goth/alt girl, something we seldom see in film. These characters are at best secondary in most stories. Forgive me if I spoil anything, I'm not great with words, so if you wish to watch the film before reading this give it a go.

The movie follows J, a 17 year old recently graduated goth girl with no real direction in life. J spends most of her time writing eulogies and reading Anne Rice novels or hanging out it in local goth bars...or were they coffee shops? We were never privvy to those kinds of things here but I guess in California anything can exist. She doesn't have any friends, she has no love life to speak of, she appears to never have been kissed and her only sexual experience outside of masturbating involved a red crayon when she was a little girl. She longs for a connection with someone, and the geeky Brian Krakow lookalike who obsesses over her at school isn't what she's looking for. Enter R, a fifty something year old man who manages a men's clothing shop. The object of J's affection and her doorway into a structured, supportive adult life. He gives her a job and helps her find her independence (something she feels she desperately needs as she loathes her family).

Now, you might be thinking, hold the fuck up, she's 17 and he's in his fifties?! (55 but I think they fucked up and had him say 57 at one point). This is where the film runs into issues. So many people have written My First Mister off as "creepy" because they make ridiculous assumptions about these two characters without even giving them a chance. Your mind might conjure up similar sounding films like Lolita or American Beauty but there's a BIG difference between this film and other films, and that's because R doesn't reciprocate J's romantic affections. He doesn't see her in a sexual or romantic way, and by no means is this a spoiler as this was made clear to me throughout the entire film. J, however, does have romantic/sexual feelings for R, or at least she thinks she does. Remember, this is a girl with no friends, no boyfriends, no sexual experiences to relate to. The only romance she's ever known is the kind that exists in Anne Rice's Vampire and BDSM novels. I believe she convinces herself that she finds him sexually attractive because she does connect with him on some level, but due to her immaturity she doesn't understand the nature of the relationship. She has difficulty seeing why he wouldn't be her lover and why he would choose older women over her. She's possessive and jealous and when he does share moments with other women she acts out either through self-mutilation or ruining things at the store.

J attempts to share her world with R because R is reclusive and leads a quite, solitary and uneventful life. She feels sympathy for him because he chooses not to live out of fear (he has serious anxiety problems) and he feels sympathy for her because she has no one to support and care for her as an individual. It's a beautiful, heart wrenching story. It's a dramadey, there are comedic aspects but in the end things take an interesting turn and will leave you feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

Why do I think it's a good film? 

Firstly, I think it's an excellent portrayal of a young goth girl. I can 100% relate to J. I wore boxers in my youth, cut myself, listened to loud music, felt like I was completely alone in the world even though I was surrounded by people. I felt misunderstood. Her character is handled appropriately, it's not annoyingly angsty, it doesn't pour it on. Her character has been criticized as being cliché but I disagree, because anyone in the goth scene will recognize that baby bats do clichéd goth shit all the time. Not all goths cut themselves or read Anne Rice novels, but some really do! For me, a stereotyped Goth character wouldn't be stereotypical because they wear black or listen to dreary music, it would become stereotypical when someone so obviously not goth would assume the character must do something stupid like sleep in a coffin, wear fake vampire teeth and quote Edgar Allan Poe poems. J could be a real girl in existence right now and that's something I can truly respect. Sure, she has some moments where she's whiny and annoying but I don't consider it a problem with the acting, it's just another aspect of her character; she's 17 and 17 year olds can be very whiny and annoying.

Secondly, I found the bond that forms between J and R to be very touching because it demonstrates that even though we may be entirely different in age, race, sex, or scene we can still reach out and connect with one another if we only allow it. It's far from creepy, it's heartwarming that a 55 year old man would give a girl like J a chance at a job and form a friendship with her. All too often these days we think of that as risky and call the guy a pedo. It's not true and films like this stand as a reminder that not everyone is a psychopathic creeper, there's beauty and friendship to be had in this world, as corny as that may sound. Although I struggle with social anxieties, this film inspires me to be more receptive of other people. It makes me think that perhaps I'm too quick to judge others. I never honestly considered striking up a conversation with the older man or woman at the supermarket but now I might have to rethink that. It also makes me want to get out more as both characters lead closed off lives. J especially so, despite having worked in a goth clothing store and attending a goth hang out consistently she's never socialized with the people there. She goes to the coffee shop so often that the guy at the counter knows her order. This demonstrates that even within our scene we can be closed off from one another. J wouldn't be so lonely if she wasn't criticizing the shit out of other people and fantasizing all the time. I think that's a problem for a lot of kids in the goth and alt scenes, you get hung up on the idea of what it is to be goth and different from other people, and it can taint the way you look at them. Instead of finding common ground your focusing on what sets you apart from other people. You start judging them, measuring your gothness against them, and stop seeing them as individuals.

This is a really good film for baby bats to watch. This is a story about personal growth. I love watching J's character grow into a woman. Her style goes from young and punky to a more refined corp goth look. Sadly there's not as much fashion to be had in the film as I would like but you get a few glimpses of hot outfits that look as though they walked off the pages of the Lip Service catalog. If you can find a copy somehow I encourage you to give it a watch, just make sure you have ice cream on hand and do it before bed so you can sleep your tears away.


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