Eye For Film >> Movies >> Stand Up, Girl (2017) Film Review
Stand Up, Girl
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Some people feel lost in the world throughout their lives. For others, the problem is that the world never seems big enough for them. Lila (played by writer/director Nawell Madani in a tale loosely based on her own life) is one of the latter. Living with her younger sister and her widowed father when we first meet her, she can’t wait to get out into the world. A horrific accident in childhood which destroyed part of her scalp has done nothing to dent her confidence. Her father has raised both his girls to stand up for themselves, but he’s not altogether prepared for the consequences.
Lila wants to be a dancer. She practises hard and has acquired the skill, but she’s a little naive about what most people seeking to employ young female dancers are looking for. In fact, she’s a little naive in general. It’s no wonder that her father worries about her running away to Paris to live on her own. But there’s one other skill he has cultivated in her, and that’s a fierce wit. At the lowest point in her life, she realises she can always fall back on making people laugh – and having realised that, she becomes determined to get to the top as a comedian instead.
Several recent indie films on this theme have been made in the US and turned out hyper-wacky or just dull. Set in Paris with a Belgian Muslim protagonist, Stand Up, Girl is a beast of a different stripe. It’s argued that good comedy must come from a place of honesty, and Madani is to be congratulated on maintaining so much control over the project yet not succumbing to the temptation to lionise its central character, nor to overlook the feelings of other key figures. Lila’s relationship with her father is really the crux of the film, the reason why she feels a need to prove herself (especially against male competition) and yet something she can’t always see clearly. This gives depth and complexity to a film that could easily have been superficial.
Competing ideas about what comedy ought to do are also given room to flourish here, without the film coming down too hard in favour of any one position. Some people tell Lila she’d be better without the profanity but she feels that it helps her to win respect from others. Her coach urges her to think carefully about the kind of people she targets and says that comedy doesn’t need to be cruel. Lila is adamant that she should be free to address any subject – but, like most people in her profession, having more freedom doesn’t always help when she’s struggling creatively. What does help is her day job working in a kitchen – this is not the sort of film that fails to recognise that its young hopeful needs to eat and pay the rent – and learning to pay more attention to the world around her.
Smart, witty, and with endearingly flawed characters, Stand Up, Girl hits the mark more often than not. Underneath its playfulness is a solid emotional core and a sense of the absurdities of real life that makes it far more than just another string or hit or miss jokes.Reviewed on: 23 Feb 2018