In Hollywood parlance, a “period piece” is a script or film that takes place in the past. Girl Flu, a film written and directed by Dorie Barton, which premiered at the LA Film Festival ( @LAFilmFestival) on June 6 in Culver City, gave a new meaning to that phrase. It’s a film about firsts. Without a doubt, it is the only film you’ll ever call charming, funny, and heartwarming that has menstruation as its focus. Really, before seeing this film I had no idea that’s what “girl flu” meant.
The protagonist is bookworm Bird, played with a subtlety beyond her years by Jade Pettyjohn (United States of Tara, Nickelodian’s School of Rock). Bird’s normal world of big thick books and Barbie dolls is shattered when “the curse” unexpectedly makes its first appearance at the sixth grade end-of-year picnic. She was wearing grandma’s white pants and “everyone” saw.
Bird really didn’t have anything to worry about though, because Jenny, her mom, was available to come to the rescue. But, wait. Jenny, played with whimsical and uninhibited MILFness by Katee Sackhoff (Syfy Channel’s Battlestar Galactica, Longmire) is the ultimate shallow narcissist. Bird is the real adult in the house, and Jenny has to do a lot of growing before she can help her daughter deal with this new phase in her life.
But, Bird has friends she can talk to, right? No such luck. Bird and her mom recently relocated from “the Valley” (as in “Valley Girl”) to a working class LA neighborhood called Echo Park. She has no friends.
Early on in the film, Jenny’s boyfriend Arlo, played by Jeremy Sisto (Robot and Frank, Break Point), goes outside to the front porch to have a smoke when the red flow crisis erupts. As I watched that scene, I wondered if I should do the same. But, I stuck with it and got to see an excellent film. I also learned things about tampons and pads of which I was completely unaware.
Highlights of Bird’s journey include a ritual introduction to womanhood by Jenny’s hippie girlfriends, a misguided appeal for help to an abortion clinic, and her struggle to get her mom to stop calling her “Little Bird” (The character’s real name is Robin).
There is one more first for Bird: a first kiss. This comes from Carlos, played by Diego Josef (Ugly Benny, Message from the King).
The interactions between Bird, Jenny, Arlo, and Carlos are both entertaining and believable. Although, from a screenwriting aspect, Jenny is the antagonist, none of the leads are really unlikable, though you may want to scream at Jenny for her incessant, impenetrable self-centeredness.
In a statement provided by publicists for the film, writer/director Barton admitted that the film was somewhat autobiographical. “I’m so grateful to be able to bring to the screen a story that 50 percent of the human population goes through but that so few of us talk about because it’s still considered a taboo subject. There’s a shift toward lifting that taboo, but we’re just getting started. I’m glad this film can be part of that.” More comments from Barton can be seen in the video below.
Girl Flu is not yet rated. And, yes, that thing the lady is hanging on to in the poster is a tampon. See, I learned something.