Bitch is a 2017 comedy/drama about a woman who snaps and assumes the psyche of a vicious dog as her checked-out, philandering husband attempts to keep the family together.
If there is one thing movies have made very clear, it’s that raising a family is not easy. From Mr. Mom to Uncle Buck to Mrs. Doubtfire and many others, it takes superhuman effort to take care of kids and keep the house in order. These are light-hearted comedies, designed to tap into the clichés of being a parent, offering escaping through comedy. They are familiar, common, and safe. So what is going on with Marianna Palka‘s Bitch, a new comedy (sort of) that tackles the same story but instead of diaper jokes and dishwasher mayhem, slingshots ’round the dark side of the Moon with a special kind of commitment that makes it one of the weirdest movies you’ll likely ever get emotional over.
Things start off badly for Jill (Marianna Palka), who learns in the opening moments that the light fixture above the dining room table is not strong enough to support her dead weight. Being a mom of four demanding kids with work junkie husband Bill (Jason Ritter), who isn’t all that interested, straying with a woman named Annabelle (Sol Rodriguez) in his office, has left her, shall we say, stressed. Worse, there is this dog, a German Shepard, lingering outside the house, staring, always staring, watching Jill every single day. When it becomes too much, and no one seems to be listening, one day, Jill disappears, seemingly run off, forcing Bill to contend with the chaos, having no idea how to take care of well, anything, including where the kids go to school. When they get home though, they find a big surprise. Mom didn’t actually leave, she’s in the basement. And she’s a dog. Sort of.
To call Bitch quirky would be to seriously undervalue the meaning of the word. Bitch is a wildly absurd odyssey seeped in almost unfathomable metaphor. Jill strips to her skivvies, marks her territory, urinating and defecating through the kitchen before heading downstairs and rutting about like a stray, barking and growling in the dark. This leaves Bill in a bind, already worked up over a huge crisis at work, trying to figure out what to do. He enlists the help of a few professionals to try and wrap their heads around what is happening, but finds their solutions not solutions at all, and decides to handle this on his own, along with Beth (Jaime King), Jill’s sister. That leaves Jill huddled in the shadows, literally barking away anyone who comes close, while above, a kind of family Lord of the Flies erupts as the kids try to grapple with an unsupervised home and a father barely holding on himself. Naturally, things must evolve.
While the premise is certainly odd, there is a strange kind of coherency to it, and Palka (who writes, directs, and acts) toys with our emotions, tugging on heartstrings while twirling our brainstems with bouts of heady illogic. Imagine a moment when a husband is in a pet store buying chew toys for his wife and you actually feeling kinda sad about it. That’s Bitch. It has great ideas and goes full throttle in presenting them, and while it strangely lacks the – forgive me – bite it might have, what ultimately saves it is the manic performances of the three leads, with King and Ritter especially good. Ritter delivers his best work yet, totally committing and doing so with great effect. So while Bitch is going to divide audiences and leave you with plenty of questions, it is the performances that will be most remembered. What’s more, it’s good to have people like Palka shake things up a bit and challenge conventions, flawed or otherwise.
Movie description: Bitch is a 2017 comedy/drama about a woman who snaps and assumes the psyche of a vicious dog as her checked-out, philandering husband attempts to keep the family together.
Director(s): Marianna Palka
Actor(s): Marianna Palka, Jason Ritter, Jaime King
Genre: Drama, Comedy