I Could Barely Sit Through this Movie.
Updated: Jun 14, 2020
Directed by Stephen Cone
From Perks of Being a Wallflower to Booksmart to Eighth Grade, I am easy to please when it comes to coming of age films. The complexity of the characters and the usually honest portrayal of the awkward and uncomfortable qualms of growing up are comfortably relatable. So when I read the logline for Princess Cyd, I felt delighted to spend the next hour and a half watching it. However, this was so unbearably cringey that I while I wanted to shut my computer, I was also craving to see how it could get worse. I’m questioning how this script could have possibly been made.
Within the first few scenes, my approval was already waning. I fought to keep an open mind but was already noticing issues in the script. The 911 call that opens it up sets the wrong tone for the film and gives the first glance at its unnatural dialogue, as the neighbors casually inform the operator that there are dead bodies next door. Jumpy character introductions follow this initial call, as we meet Cyd (Jessie Pinnick) and her aunt, Miranda Ruth (Rebecca Spence). Cyd, a shameless teen, leaves her tense life at home with her dad and moves to live with Miranda in Chicago for about three weeks during the summer.
Cyd’s summer adventure in Chicago starts when she meets the local barista, Katie. The two share obvious initial chemistry, and they go on a walk to break the ice. While I appreciate the director trying to create realistic interactions rather than perfectly witty banter, the awkwardness feels so ingenuine that it creates the opposite of natural dialogue. Katie and Cyd continue to spend time and grow attracted to each other, but the awkwardness keeps them at a certain emotional distance. This distance is fine for the moment, however, later during the story, Katie runs into a problem and texts Cyd for help. Obviously distressed, Cyd yells to Miranda and the two go to help. Once Katie implicitly explains that her brother’s friend, who is passed out on the couch, tried to sexually assault her, Cyd gets so worked up that she tries to choke him to death. I was so jarred and confused, keeping in mind that Cyd has known Katie for two weeks, and we haven’t learned anything about Cyd to understand why this would cause such a violent and seemingly random reaction out of her.
Miranda’s character development also leads to insensible conclusions. The majority of her character’s arc lies in the conversations she shares with Cyd, where she meets deep questions with thoroughly contemplated answers, marking her personal security. However, the most disappointing scene in this entire movie is when Miranda looks at her naked reflection. The shot moves around from the back to the front of her exposed body as she looks in the mirror and covers her mouth, beginning to cry. Encompassing a prompt thirty seconds, I didn’t know enough about Miranda to draw proper conclusions from this scene. Maybe knowing was unnecessary. But later in the story after Miranda’s soirée, Cyd bombs a hurtful comment about Miranda’s eating habits and it hits a soft spot we didn’t know existed. Miranda gets so defensive, and we can only infer that she struggles with body image issues. I didn’t enjoy that this climatic moment came out of nowhere. I hadto take the right idea from the earlier and poorly done mirror scene for her reaction to make the slightest bit of sense. This frustrated me; how was I expected to string this complex set of emotions together based on one seemingly transitional scene?
I tried to get behind these liberated and complex female characters, but instead of applauding their empowerment, I cringed. With so many inconsistencies in the characters’ development, I couldn’t trust them, connect with their stories, nor believe them. Their lack of underlying needs was why I found myself irritated with their decisions and reactions, and these issues in the script are only magnified by the other elements of the film’s production.
Because of the poor character development, the acting was subpar, the editing jerky, and the direction weak. While I want to praise Stephen Cone for his attempt to write dynamic female characters, I can’t. Their lack of wit, extreme awkwardness, and confusing climactic reactions might have been an effort to showcase the honesty of the human experience, but having Cyd add “and stuff” on the end of 50% of her sentences just isn’t the way to do it. Moments of embarrassing awkwardness left me so uncomfortable that I couldn’t find or focus on how I could possibly talk about this film in a positive light.