Part horror movie, part feminist screed, part sitcom, Bitch tells the tale of a housewife, Jill (Marianna Palka, who also wrote and directed), who after an unsuccessful suicide attempt experiences a mental breakdown and starts acting like a wild dog. It’s an intriguing setup, and Palka throws herself into the role with jarring physicality and an intense stare. It’s a bit frustrating, then, when much of the screen time is given to Bill (Jason Ritter), Jill’s insensitive yuppie husband, as he tries to cope with the situation and properly parent their four charming kids. Bill is thinly sketched, and though his persona does evolve, slightly, as he comes to have some empathy for his wife, it’s hard to care about a guy who we see early on having sex in his office with a low-level employee and who declares, when faced with his wife’s predicament, “If my dick were smaller, none of this would’ve happened.”
It’s difficult to get a sense of what Jill is really like, and what kind of relationship she and her husband had, beyond the far too typical image of a woman whose emotional labor is consistently dismissed by a self-absorbed man. We don’t see her before her breakdown, and she remains unknowable throughout the film, other than that she’s dealing with clear mental health issues and not given the support she desperately needs early enough. While it’s refreshing to see a portrait of a woman’s unraveling that doesn’t romanticize mental illness, and that’s actually directed by a woman, it’s easy to wish Bitch probed a bit deeper into the protagonist’s pre-dog life.
Written and directed by Marianna Palka
Dark Sky Films
Opens November 10, Village East Cinema