With Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty currently lighting up cinemas, Roe McDermott looks at the best female-driven comedies of the past few years.
Appropriate Behaviour (Dir. Desiree Akhavan, 2015)
An Iranian-American writer and director, Desiree Akhavan’s work has is hilarious, intelligent, personal and beautifully observed, addressing issues of ethnicity and LGBT relationships with deep emotion and biting wit. A semi-autobiographical dramedy, Akhavan’s feature debut sees her play Shirin, the bisexual, creative anomaly in her picture-perfect Persian family. Akhavan’s offbeat, awkward humour brims with farce and pathos, making her experience and observations of hipster Brooklyn life, queer communities and immigrant dynamics equally fascinating.
Tiny Furniture (Dir. Lena Dunham, 2012)
Before she became a household name with Girls, Lena Dunham’s made her directorial bow with a comedy about New York hipsters, which puts all of the hideously indulgent, obnoxious and self-involved traits of this generation on painful display. So yeah, kind of like Girls. But Dunham’s debut feels incredibly authentic, springing from the casting of her own friends and family. No doubt due to these real relationships, the interactions are sharply written and self-lacerating, capturing the casual cruelty that occurs between siblings and the callous nature of dating in a world where emotions are, like, so retro.
The Incredible Jessica James (Dir. James C. Strouse, 2017)
The Incredible Jessica James is ostensibly a romantic comedy, loosely centered on the life and relationships of aspiring playwright Jessica, played by stand-up comedian and former Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams. But it’s actually more of a hangout film, and Williams exudes the charisma necessary for the job. Jessica is a funny, forthright ball of confidence, cynical enough to recognise racism, sexism and game-playing from a mile away – but also optimistic enough to keep trying to figure it all out anyway.
Frances Ha (Dir. Noah Baumbach, 2013)
The exquisite Frances Ha is one of those bolt-of-lightning films that simply dazzles with its brilliance. Frances (Greta Gerwig) is trying to be a modern dancer, but she’s not getting roles. Frances also lives with her best friend Sophie – or was going to, until Sophie moves in with her boyfriend. And Frances has friends, even though they don’t really seem to understand her effervescent spirits. So begins a difficult year in her life that sees her try to figure it all out. Shot in gorgeous black and white and uproariously funny, writers Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig capture a familiarity and warmth that is exceptional, acknowledging the stunted maturity of their characters – while also remaining empathetic.
In A World (Dir. Lake Bell, 2013)
In a world where it’s hard enough to successfully write, direct or act in a film, Lake Bell does all three wonderfully. The film follows Carol Soloman (Bell) as she attempts to break into a subgenre of a subgenre of a subgenre: movie trailer voiceovers. She is forced to covertly compete against her father Sam (Fred Melamed) and his protegé Gustav (Ken Marino) for the opportunity to revive the late Don LaFontaine’s famous “In a world…” set-up. The egos and competitiveness in the world of voiceover artistry are nicely lampooned, while Bell also takes aim at familial and marital dysfunction, professional backstabbing and gender inequality.