Review: Always Shine (2016)


I cannot stop thinking about this movie. I’ve seen it three times so far.

Huge fan of Sophie Takal, who has only directed two films so far, this one and Green, which I also recommend HIGHLY. I am now a HUGE fan of her work and her interests and am so excited that she is so young: hopefully, we have years of films from her to look forward to.

My review of Always Shine is up at

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4 Responses to Review: Always Shine (2016)

  1. Desirae says:

    Sheila, I’m wondering if you’ve ever seen 3 Women, the Altman film starring Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek. I’ve never seen either Persona or Mulholland Drive – though of course I should – but it seems they have similar themes to 3 Women, a slow and eerie collapse of boundaries between women as their personalities begin to merge. Duvall is particularly impressive here, emanating a desperate loneliness and resentment that her character covers up with a steady stream of overconfident chatter. She’s raw enough to be almost hard to look at – there’s this part where she tries to join a pool party where she is deeply unwelcome and it’s just UGH. I flinched in secondhand embarrassment. It’s kind of a pity she’s mostly known for the Shining, where she was essentially tortured into giving a particular kind of performance, when she was so good on her own terms.

    • sheila says:

      Desirae – so sorry it took me a while to get back to this!! I really wanted to respond.

      It’s funny – I was just talking a couple weeks ago with my friend Mitchell about Three Women! I haven’t seen it in years, and that conversation made me really want to re-visit it, and so does your comment!

      // a slow and eerie collapse of boundaries between women as their personalities begin to merge. //

      Dammit, now I wish I had had it in my memory-banks to discuss in this review – since it seems so relevant!!

      I love Duvall – not sure if you’re aware of the recent brouhaha about her Dr. Phil appearance? She is clearly mentally ill and I am furious at what I see as exploitation of her. It’s disgusting.

      I remember that pool party scene – and I remember wanting to block it out as it was happening, it was so painful.

      It’s interesting, I read a review of Always Shine – by a man – and it was a wonderful review, but he expressed disappointment at the scene in the bar where Beth subtly “steals” the man Anna is interested in. Basically he was like: “Women fighting over a man … sadly, this movie will not pass the Bechdel Test.”

      This is such a perfect example of well-meaning White Knighting. White Knights often miss the point, in their eagerness to be allies to women – to take on our concerns. He totally missed the point, AND also seems unwilling to admit that women dealing with each other in terms of potential male conquests is … well, it’s extremely common. Are you a “cock-blocker”? ha. To put it crudely. Most women know that you just shouldn’t do that to each other. Here, because Beth’s boundaries are so porous, and because she has no way to express her hostility towards her friend – she can’t help herself. She sabotages the flirtation.

      The Bechdel Test isn’t meant to criticize ANY time women talk about men. Of COURSE women talk about men. The rest of the film the women are not talking about men at all – they’re talking about careers and disappointments and hopes – all having to do with acting and theatre. But of course women care about their personal lives. Caring about the men in our lives doesn’t mean we’re somehow not “badasses” (my current LEAST favorite word, and used so often to describe what we want to see in female characters that it’s become a total turn-off. “Badass” means we don’t get to be vulnerable or fucked up – and haven’t we DONE that already? These women aren’t “badasses”. They’re human beings.) One woman has a boyfriend, one does not. The woman who has a boyfriend screws up the flirtation of the one who is single. This is such a huge no-no that any woman will watch that scene and feel a prickle of nasty familiarity. We’ve all been there.

      Anyway, men like this mean well, but there’s something weirdly patriarchal in it. God forbid women take an interest in their romantic lives. God forbid women have love triangles. We’re not “allowed” to do that anymore without it being evidence of some kind of patriarchal control? Sigh.

      I think you would really enjoy Persona, Mulholland Drive. Masterpieces, both – and kind of the high watermark for this kind of stuff – but I will definitely watch Three Women again!! Thanks!

  2. Desirae says:

    Yes, I did see that awful clip of Shelley Duvall on Dr. Phil – it’s really scary how many elderly artists can’t retire comfortably even if they’ve had great success, because there’s always some leech hanging around trying to take advantage of them. And there never seems to be anyone willing to step in before it becomes a problem.

    • sheila says:

      I know!! Very upsetting. Maybe because of the publicity of that episode somebody will step up – I know many of her friends (and I think Kubrick’s daughter) expressed public outrage. Very sad.

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