Filminism: Female Friendships
If you are a woman, the relationship you have with your best girlfriends is special. It’s different than any you have with your parents, siblings, romantic partners or even other friends. Your best girlfriend almost always knows you better than anyone else. You trust her with your secrets and you know that she is someone you can turn to no matter what. She’s someone who will listen to your problems and be honest with you, even it if it hurts.
A best girlfriend will be there to console you when you get dumped at 1 A.M. by that asshole you’ve been sleeping with who’s been stringing you along for months. And even though she insisted you could do better and you should stop seeing him a long time ago, but you didn’t listen to her, she’ll take you to an all-night diner and buy you pancakes and coffee and let you cry and bitch and moan without judging you or telling you she told you so.
A true best friend will go shopping with you and tell you when a dress you’ve chosen is totally fug and will help you pick out clothes that hide your fat rolls and make your boobs and ass look amazing. She will talk you out of buying those boots you love that cost almost as much as your rent because she knows you can’t afford them and she doesn’t want you selling any of your other possessions to make ends meet — or asking her for money that she doesn’t have but wouldn’t refuse you.
A BFF will gladly judge horrible skanks that your ex is now sleeping with, but will stop you from making an ass out of yourself when you drunkenly decide to approach the bitch and tell her what you think of her. She won’t judge you when you show up to brunch with greasy bangs and mascara smudged under your eyes, wearing the same clothes you had on the night before.
She will talk to you on the phone for hours about nothing in particular, but won’t be offended if you don’t call her for two weeks. She will organize your wedding and/or baby shower, even if she hates weddings and babies. She will throw you a surprise party when you think everyone has forgotten your birthday. And if something unfortunate happens, like a death in the family or a bout of depression, she will be there with a fresh box of tissues, your favorite ice cream and many, many hugs.
She will tell you when you’re being a bitch and will expect you to do the same for her. And she will always remind you that, no matter what happens, you’re awesome and fuck anyone who doesn’t think so.
Wow. That all sounded like one of those awful “In honor of women” forwards your crazy aunt who barely knows how to use her Hotmail account sends you every other week, doesn’t it? Well, whatever. I love my friends and I’m lucky to have such fierce ladies in my life.
Inspired by a recent viewing of one of my favorite films, Walking and Talking, and the success of the hit female buddy comedy Bridesmaids (which I still haven’t seen because I’m terrible), I thought I’d revisit some of my favorite female BFFs in film. Whether they’re laughing, crying, talking about sex or plotting murder, these ladies all share a strong bond that (for the most part) can’t be broken. And that’s why I love them.
My list was originally a lot longer than this, but then I noticed that several of the ladies I had listed were BFFs who happened to also be co-workers, so I decided they’d become their own Filminism post later on.
Who are your favorite female friendships in film? Tell me in the comments!
Warning: some of the clips below might be a little spoilery.
Laura (Anne Heche) and Amelia (Catherine Keener) – Walking and Talking (1996)
Laura and Amelia have been best friends since childhood. But when Laura and her boyfriend, Frank (Todd Field), get engaged, the women both start questioning their life choices and examining their relationships.
As their lives change, so does their friendship — one minute they are laughing at a Baby Jane-esque wedding makeover Laura gets and the next, they’re fighting over Laura feeling like Amelia needs her too much. Though their friendship has its difficulties, it ultimately gets stronger and they are able to pull each other through and become much closer.
This is one of my favorite films of all time, and the relationship between Laura and Amelia is probably my favorite female friendship on film. As a single woman in her thirties whose best girlfriends are almost all married — or are getting married — I really identify with Amelia, particularly her panic at the thought that Laura might abandon her once she and Frank have tied the knot. And the chemistry between Heche and Keener is fantastic — they are really believable as neurotic best friends. The film just celebrated its 15-year anniversary and its writer/director Nicole Holofcener wrote a great piece about the movie for IndieWire last month that I highly recommend you check out.
Hillary (Barbara Hershey) and CC (Bette Midler) – Beaches (1988)
You really can’t talk about female friendships in film without talking about Beaches. It tells the story of the friendship between wealthy, refined lawyer Hillary Whitney and eccentric singer/actress CC Bloom, who meet as children on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Though they seem like polar opposites, the two immediately connect; Hillary is fascinated by CC’s exotic life as a child entertainer and CC is drawn in by Hillary’s poise and class (not to mention the fact that her family is rich). The two keep in touch via letters throughout their teenage and college years and, after law school, Hillary arrives in New York City for work and moves in with CC. The two remain close friends the rest of their lives, through marriages, divorces, professional successes and failures, births and illnesses. Though they have their ups and downs — including falling in love with the same man — their friendship is strong and they both realize that they are the only people each other can count on.
One of the ultimate tearjerker chick flicks (I hate that term, but it really must be used to describe this movie), Beaches may be sappy and melodramatic at times, but then so can female friendships.
Enid (Thora Birch) and Becky (Scarlett Johansson) – Ghost World (2001)
One quality I value most in a best friend is her ability to appreciate — and rival — my cynical weirdness. So, of course, I immediately enjoyed the friendship between Ghost World‘s Enid and Becky. Had I gone to high school with them, I totally would’ve tried to be their third wheel. I love their sarcastic wit, their appreciation for the bizarre and their ability to find fun in the strangest things — though, admittedly, most of their fun comes at the expense of others.
But what I find the most compelling about their relationship is how it changes. Becky wants to be a grown-up with a job and an apartment and Enid seems to just want to do everything she can to escape those things. Because of this, a rift starts growing between them and becomes large enough that it threatens to end their friendship. In many ways, I think Enid and Becky’s relationship is the most realistic teen friendship ever portrayed in film.
Meg (Mary Kay Place) and Sarah (Glenn Close) – The Big Chill (1983)
You’re in your mid-30s and you want to have a baby. Without any prospects for a potential father, you decide that, while you’re getting reacquainted with your college friends the weekend after one of the group’s funeral, you’ll pick your baby daddy from the best guys you know. Except none of them are too keen on the idea of fathering a baby (it’s not you, it’s them, etc.). So your best friend, who happens to be married to the Most Amazing Man in the World, decides to help you out and offer up her husband’s seed to you — and you get to retrieve it the old-fashioned way. Talk about helping out a friend.
I think these two have one of the most mature friendships of any on this list — I mean, you can’t get much more mature than allowing your best friend to have sex with your husband for the sole purpose of his getting her pregnant so she can have the baby of a reliable man, without an ounce of jealousy. I only wish we’d been able to find out if Meg actually got pregnant and whether or not that affected her and Sarah’s friendship. (NOTE: that is NOT an invitation for someone to make a sequel to this movie.)
Carson (Phoebe Cates), Pudge (Annabeth Gish), Melaina (Bridget Fonda), Luann (Page Hannah) – Shag: The Movie (1989)
It’s the 1960s and you’re about to get married to a guy you’re not sure you’re in love with, but his family has money and everyone thinks it’s a good match and you two will make a great couple. To give you one last weekend of fun before you get hitched, your three best girlfriends take you to Myrtle Beach, where you proceed to meet and fall for a hot townie who is nowhere near as refined as your fiance, but he has a hot bod and is a great kisser. And while you’re off practicing “free love” with that dude, your girlfriends are dancing, entering beauty contests, throwing wild parties, making out with teen idols and, um, falling in love with your rich fiance. You and your BFFs certainly know how to have “the most fun.”
CeCe (Cynthia Gibb), Kelly (Virginia Madsen) and Margo (Daphne Zuniga) – Modern Girls (1986)
Some of the ’80s movies I love most center around groups of teenage 0r twentysomething girls having fun, wearing cute clothes and making out with hot boys. And Modern Girls is no exception. It follows three Los Angeles roomates — upbeat and optimistic CeCe; romantic and confused Kelly; and pragmatic snob Margo — who work in dead-end jobs by day and go party-hopping at night. When one of Kelly’s many dates, Cliff (Clayton Rohner) shows up to the house, only to find that she’s taken off in the car the women share to go meet up with her on-again/off-again boyfriend, he lets CeCe and Margo convince him to take them along to go find her. The evening turns into quite the adventure as the group, eventually reunited with Kelly, chase CeCe’s rock star crush all over the city.
What I love most about these three ladies is that, despite having quite a few superficial things in common, like their love of parties and hot clothes, they really do care about each other. Margo took care of Kelly when her father died and is willing to look the other way when CeCe can’t pay rent. CeCe is her friends’ biggest cheerleader, always pointing out their best qualities. And when Kelly almost gets raped, Margo and CeCe, with Cliff’s help, rescue her and support her when she reports her attack to the police. So when she’s ultimately given the choice between running away with the rock star and staying behind with her friends, what do you think CeCe decides to do?
Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon) – Thelma & Louise (1991)
There are few instances of female friendship in film as intense as that of Thelma and Louise. Louise is a waitress who hates her job and is annoyed with her boyfriend. Thelma is a housewife who hates her husband and his controlling, chauvanistic attitude. Looking to escape their lives and have a good time, the pair set off on what they think is going to be a fun road trip but that becomes dangerous, turning their trip into a getaway of an entirely different sort. That’s not to say they don’t have a little fun — Brad Pitt, anyone? — but they are constantly coming up against reminders of what’s happened on their trip as they try to escape the law. They are tough broads who love each other no matter what and who are willing to do anything to protect each other — even, well, you’ve seen the end, right? If not, let’s just say Louise drives a lot like Toonces the Cat.
Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) – Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)
High school can be hell, unless someone really fantastic has your back — especially if your back happens to be in a huge, really embarrassing brace that the mean girls stick magnets to. And your high school reunion can be hell, too, if you arrive determined to prove to the “cool kids” that you are awesome and when they find out that you didn’t really invent Post-Its, all they do is laugh at you — unless someone really fantastic reminds you that you’re way better than the “A-Group” and you definitely don’t need to try to impress them.
The really great thing about Romy and Michele is that they are ridiculous and over-the-top and they never apologize for that. They may flirt with fitting in, but ultimately, it’s their world and everyone else needs to find a way to fit into it. They realize that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of them — even when they’re doing some weird interpretive dance to a Cyndi Lauper song — as long as they have each other, they’ll do just fine.
M’Lynn (Sally Field), Shelby (Julia Roberts), Truvy (Dolly Parton), Ouiser (Shirley MacLaine), Annelle (Daryl Hannah), Clairee (Olympia Dukakis) – Steel Magnolias (1989)
With friendships that span generations, Steel Magnolias is the template young girls should follow for how to have wonderful friends of all ages. The Real Housewives do not hold a candle to the ladies of Chinquapin Parish (though, I would totally watch The Real Housewives of Chinquapin Parish). They are funny, smart, strong, supportive and sassy. They are great gossips and will have no trouble talking about you behind your back if they think you deserve it (“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”) They are fiercely protective of one another and will do anything to help each other out. And they always know the exact right thing to say in every situation. These ladies are, in my estimation, the epitome of female friends.
Juliet (Kate Winslet) and Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) – Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Remember how I said the relationship between best girlfriends is unlike any other? Well that statement can be taken to the extreme when describing the friendship between Juliet and Pauline in Heavenly Creatures. The two girls’ intense bond, fueled by their wildly imagintive fantasy lives, becomes a point of concern for their families, who think they are too attached to each other. When their families try to separate them, the girls lash out and concoct a scheme to murder Pauline’s mother.
It may not be the healthiest of friendships, but I still find their loyalty to each other, and to the fantasy world they create, fascinating, especially since it was based on the true story of the 1954 Parker-Hulme murder case. The real Juliet and Pauline went to jail for their crimes and, in an ironic twist, were never to see each other again as a condition of their release, thus ending their friendship forever.
- Filminism: The Ladies of Lynch, Part 1 (popdose.com)
- If You Wannabe My Lover, You Gotta Get With My Friends: On Feminist Friendships (lachristagreco.com)
- Definining Friendship … (justebbie.com)