Women Is Losers – Bentonville Film Festival 2021 – Film Review

The 1960s and 70s were turbulent years for women trying to carve out a career as their position was deemed to be restricted to the home as seen in Women is Losers. One of the most challenging areas for women to assert rights during such time was over their own life choices and reproductive systems, which the film explores being based on the lives of real women. With a title bearing the same name as a Janis Joplin song, Women is Losers captures the highs and lows in the life of Catholic schoolgirl Celina, captivatingly played by Lorenza Izzo. The film depicts frustrating elements due to a lack of rights with wit and poignancy in equal measure as Celina’s unending battle in San Francisco is followed in intense detail. A tad melodramatic and contrived perhaps but at least Women is Losers has fleshed out, driven female characters and charts their journey as they seek to combat entrenched patriarchy.   It is an engaging portrayal from writer-director Lissette Feliciano with amusing snapshots as characters break that fourth wall and disrupt the status quo, effectively.

With a modern-day lens, the unjust incidents unfolding within Celina’s life seem overtly tragic. This cleverly crafted film establishes this framework for Celina from the outset where the inferior position of women within careers is explicit as a school friend utters that everyone knows that women can’t become pilots. The tone is therefore set for an unenviable struggle for Celina after an unfortunate incident sets the full extent of the patriarchal system in motion to thwart her aspirations. The judgement directed towards Celina due to such incident is impressively visualised in a moving montage evoking that sense of isolation as others cast scornful looks.

In a world before many feminist movements evolved, the film depicts a time where the women are determined and the men in their lives are fickle, drunk and violent. These emotional, powerful and melodramatic themes under Feliciano’s gaze yields a mesmerising showcase for the captivating Izzo. Izzo’s presence transforms the tale beyond familiar tropes to produce an emotionally layered performance highlighting the plight of naive women ignorant of the unspoken transactional nature of relationships.  Izzo carries the film with aplomb easily fluctuating between the sombre to the amusing elements of the film.

Lorenza Izzo and others in Women is Losers
Lorenza Izzo and others in Women is Losers

Indeed, despite the bleaker moments within Celina’s trajectory there is a celebration of her growth as she becomes wiser but not cynical to the unwritten rules governing her position as a single, independent woman. Sexism is rife within the film and so too is mansplaining, via disjointed vignettes.  The bureaucracy and prejudice that Celina faces, as a Latina, are disheartening to observe as a relic of the past when renting a flat as a single woman was impossible.  But, the knowledge that some cultures maintain such practices to this day, is alarming which Feliciano successfully highlights without labouring the point.

Fortunately, Izzo’s charisma, combined with the witty fourth wall comedic narrative prevent Women is Losers from being overwhelmed by the claustrophobic terrors exposed within a woman’s life in such era. Equally a few lighter moments with colourful dresses for dance routines reminiscent of West Side Story and La La Land provide an insight to some of the playful rituals within the period. Women is Losers transforms such idealistic positivity into grounded reality over the course of the film and highlights the impact that one fateful decision continued to have.

Women is Losers is a riveting, dramatic tale illustrating that a good storyline and central performance can transcend a heavy plot. The film is a cautionary tale demonstrating the difficulty in making the right choices and the importance of having some support to obtain opportunities. Women is Losers does not present a clear message but offers that encouragement to achieve a goal despite adversity and so leaves a triumphant feel.


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