By Bears Fonte
Set in the suburbs, Palka plays Jill, an overworked, underappreciated cliché of a wife whose high-power businessman husband (Jason Ritter) is cheating on her. After a failed suicide attempt, Jill begins to check out on life, eventually hiding in the cellar and barking and biting like a dog (and crawling around on all fours). It’s the kind of premise that makes you say ‘I have to see this movie’ but also, ‘how can they possibly pull that off?’ Palka is actually quite good in the film, and her canine transformation is terrifying – it’s like stumbling into a method actor studio’s free play ‘what kind of animal are you’ exercise gone into chaos. And Jason Ritter is, as always, charming and full of depth as he gradually takes on responsibility for the family and trying to be available for Jill, even in this new form.
To me the film fails because at its core, it is just an exercise in shock tactics. The filmmaker grabbed on to a provocative premise and thought that would be enough to carry the film. But so little of the film is spent on Jill and instead we watch scene after scene of Ritter’s Bill getting his comeuppance, and sitcom-esque scenes of forgetting school lunches and having temper tantrums. The kids never quite know how to handle their mom, at one point in time even giggling like it’s a joke. They seem to be in an entirely different movie. The tone of this film is all over the place because the filmmaker doesn’t seem to know how to tell a story to get to the core of what she wanted to say. Or maybe she just has nothing to say and it’s all about the tactics of shock with the premise. Adding to that argument is the oppressive sound design of yelling and dogs barking and general household noise that gave me a splitting headache 20 minutes into the film.
Past the premise and the well-executed dog embodiment by Palka, there is not much to this film. I can’t help but thinking the script was another three re-writes away from being about something, or another director would have solved the tone problems and put together an edit of the film that told a cohesive story. This is unfortunately the case of a first-time writer/director taking on more than they should have and putting together an unforgettable but ultimately unrealized film.
BITCH had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2017.