Godmothered – Disney+
Godmothered is the spiritual sequel to 2007’s Enchanted. Remember Enchanted? Starring Amy Adams, it told the story of Giselle, a Disney animated princess who was thrown into real-world Manhattan. Similarly, Godmothered sees Jillian Bell’s Eleanor, a fairy-godmother-in-training, go to the real world to help adult single-mother Mackenzie (Isla Fisher) figure out what she needs to change her sad, cynical life. Enchanted marked the beginning of Disney’s self-referential style that can be seen prominently in films like Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph 2, which explicitly critique the Disney tropes like love at first sight and damsels in distress. Self-awareness and irony have proven to be popular for Disney, and it’s understandable why- consumers are (or, at least, we imagine ourselves to be) savvier to the Disney formula, so it seems good for the company to be in on the joke as well.
Yet these movies, especially the live-action remakes, which have followed Enchanted, tend to slap a coat of girlboss paint and incredibly shallow “wokeness” on the story in order to make their movies seem more modern and grown-up. At best, these efforts can be genuine attempts to correct the sins of the past for younger audiences. At worse, this self-deprecation/irony is a lazy attempt to match our current sensibilities towards female empowerment, but only in the ways that are most profitable and the least disruptive. And also, make no mistake, these efforts are making a point, the point being: you, adult woman, still need Disney in your life! We realize that you don’t believe in Prince Charming and talking animals anymore, which is why we’ll make fun of those things, but you still need our inspiration, our joy, our product.* Of course there’s nothing wrong with loving Disney as an adult. But it’s difficult to reconcile the Disney magic with the way Disney is able to wield its own nostalgia- and critiques of it- for its own benefit.
Enchanted, while it started this trend, is a genuinely charming, clever, and well-made film. Is Godmothered just as good? Godmothered has its moments but replays the classic fish-out-of-water story without much variance. Bell and Fisher do a nice job, but both could play these roles in their sleep. The first twenty minutes setting up the premise is nothing short of excruciating, which makes the rest of the film much better in comparison. However, after the first twenty minutes, it is harmless fun that a family can enjoy, so if you need a holiday movie (the story takes place at Christmas) to pass the time, it’s not a bad option.
Run – Hulu
Hulu’s Run, starring Sarah Paulson and newcomer Kiera Allen, mines some of the best tropes of horror- isolation, illness, perversion of motherhood, and actors with good “scare face”- to make an enjoyable thriller about a mother with Munchausen syndrome by proxy and her wheel-chair bound daughter who will do anything to escape. Allen is particularly excellent, especially with her daunting action sequences. Run isn’t particularly original, but it’s well-executed and very enjoyable. Especially for people like me, who are squeamish with horror films, this is a tense but not-too-scary movie to enjoy.
Time – Amazon Prime
Time is a documentary about Sibil Fox Rich, a woman who works tirelessly to shorten the sentence of her husband Rob, who was sentenced to 60 years of prison without parole after the two of them attempted to commit armed robbery. By using traditional documentary techniques with home videos made by Sibil herself, the film paints a rich portrait of a family’s inner life.
What’s striking about Time is that it is not interested in the typical narratives or rhetoric that go along with stories about incarceration. The specifics of the robbery are barely addressed. There is really no time spent discussing whether Sibil and Rob deserved jail time or how much of it as a consequence for their actions. And that’s off-putting at first, especially if your natural inclination is to support harsher sentencing and “if you do the crime, you do the time.” But Time is telling the story of the emotions of being separated from your husband for twenty years. It’s telling the story of a father not seeing his children grow up except through occasional visits and phone calls. It’s telling the story of a woman who hits one bureaucratic roadblock after another, who must fight tooth and nail for any opportunity to get her husband a chance. It’s a story of growing up fatherless, of trying to keep a separated family together, of realizing you’ll never get back missing time, and of trying to have hope after a hundred let-downs. It’s a film that has no *time* for the narratives we typically employ in order to separate ourselves from the incarcerated and their loved ones. If you surrender yourself to Sibil’s story, you can’t help but find yourself replacing her with yourself, and your loved ones with Rob, and feeling the frustrations, anger, and sorrow at the situation. It’s an exercise in empathy, one that I think anyone would benefit from undergoing.
*For more on the trend of self-examination in Disney movies, check out “Woke Disney,” a video essay by Lindsay Ellis