I always feel a certain amount of pressure to like independent films. I feel like it takes a particularly deep person to “get” them. I’m pleased to say that in this case, comedy That’s Not Me had all the heart I would expect from an independent film without any of the forced liking.
At a Q&A I went to with the film’s creators Gregory Erdstein and Alice Foulcher, Foulcher said that lots of people came up to her after seeing the film just to say, “wow, it was made with only sixty grand and it’s not shit!” No, actually it was very enjoyable – and hilarious. That’s not why I’m writing this review, though. I’m writing this review because I think That’s Not Me has something important to say about friendships between women.
Our main character is an aspiring actor named Polly (played by the writer Alice Foulcher). She’s trying to get cast in meaningful roles but has the wind taken out of her sails when her twin (also an actor) abruptly becomes more successful than her. The rest of her story plays out in the comedic trials and tribulations of figuring out who she is outside the context of twinhood.
It was so easy to connect with Polly. She is every struggling young adult coming to grips with the hand life dealt her, earnestly looking at her cards, trying to figure out how to make her dreams come true with a low pair and a single ace. She is often funny, sometimes courageous, and gets her ass handed to her frequently enough for me to love her despite her flaws.
Even her twinhood was something I could connect to. I’m not a twin, but I have definitely experienced friendships that follow the pattern of Polly’s relationship with Amy – particularly the competition. Things are strained between the sisters before the movie even starts. Polly flippantly explains it as ‘a twin thing’ and avoids all of Amy’s calls. It really doesn’t help that casting agents, managers, parents and even dates can’t have a single conversation with Polly without comparing her to Amy.
Her family and friends tell Polly she needs to be the ‘bigger person.’ The expectation is that she should accept her failure, enjoy Amy’s success, but also somehow be emotionally supportive toward Amy as she deals with the stresses that go along with fame. I couldn’t help thinking that if Polly could see Amy’s success as something separate from her own (despite the constant comparisons thrown at her) her quarter life crisis would have been much more livable.
Foulcher and Erdstein’s comedy did an excellent job of making me feel the unfairness of the whole situation without disguising the truth of what they were saying. Comparison is the thief of joy and all that. What’s worse – women are pitted against each other in real life and it hurts our chances of becoming successful if we don’t have each other’s backs. So many of us will try and hide our success or not even aim for it because our success is offensive to so many people. We feel like we have to either be one of those ruthless power women or a nobody. It’s so unfair.
Actually, part of the problem is that Polly starts out as seeing herself as a ruthless power woman. She turns down roles that she sees as beneath her and describes herself as “the good one” when compared to her twin. It’s actually one of these smaller roles that Polly turns down that catapults Amy in to fame when she accepts it. And to be honest, it was pretty funny.
Watching Polly come to grips with her complicated relationship with her twin made me realize how important it is that we work together as women. If we have a policy of staunchly lifting each other up, then not only will our relationships thrive, but when it’s our turn for success we’ll benefit from returned support.
At the Q&A, Foulcher said that as they marketed the film they made a point of following the progress of other Aussie films in production and supporting them at every turn. It’s such a myth that there’s only room for so many films at the table – audiences actually have an infinite appetite for great movies. It’s true for women, too. Let’s not pretend that our friend’s success diminishes our own chances. Polly learns that she and her twin could be successful differently, even simultaneously, and I did too. I’m determined to celebrate my friends successes – No need for comparison.