The Charms and Flaws of Hannah Fidell’s ‘6 Years’

Back in February of 2015, I got a screening invitation for a movie called 6 Years. Though I was intrigued by the poster, I couldn’t make it to the screening. Months later, I noticed it, while doing the random, late night Netflix search and decided to give it a watch.

While the film is definitely flawed, I found it to be mesmerizing and thought provoking. Produced by the ever-wonderful Duplass brothers and written/directed by Hannah Fidell, 6 Years unflinchingly explores all sorts of relationship issues including adultery and physical abuse. However, to me the film at its core is really about the fact that sometimes, as sad as it is, we outgrow relationships. There’s still love, but a time comes when both parties need to move on and that’s more heartbreaking than anything!

If you’re not familiar, 6 Years follows Melanie (Taissa Farmiga) and Dan (Ben Rosenfield), two halves of a young couple that has been together for six years (title!). Dan is about to graduate college and possibly move away for a job. Melanie still has a year left of school. Thus, they’re in a weird phase of their life and drama ensues.

Here’s why you should watch 6 Years on Netflix ASAP:

The Creative Team

The Duplass Brothers, who directed this film are for real responsible for many of our tv/film obsessions. They’ve produced the much lauded HBO comedy Togetherness (I’m still mourning its cancellation!), The Overnight, and the upcoming sure-to-be-amazing Anna Kendrick film, Table 17. They’re great about supporting indie writers/directors like Hannah Fidell, who previously wrote and directed A Teacher, which was another Sundance gem.

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As my mother would say…they’re very Jewish.

The Cast

The strength of this film rests largely on its two young, intensely talented leads: Taissa Farmiga and Ben Rosenfield. Taissa is the younger sister of acclaimed Bates Motel actress, Vera Farmiga, and she certainly got the acting gene. She’s emotional, yet I never felt like a moment was false.

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What if he was just like, um, no?

Similarly, Ben Rosenfield is a revelation in this film.You might know Ben from his stint on Boardwalk Empire or as one of Logan Lerman’s roommates in the recent indie, Indignation. However, 6 Years is his chance to shine and he does. He’s insanely charming and I’m not just saying that because he has great hair, though of course he DOES. 

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Also, can we talk about his hair PLEASE?

Both of their characters do some pretty awful things and yet, Dan and Melanie are still relatable. That’s called acting chops, people!

The Script/Outline

IMHO, this no-real-script thing is usually a detriment and I do think that this may be one of the film’s major downfalls. However, what the film loses in wit, it gains in verisimilitude. Fidell’s script was apparently an outline which included pictures. Similar to Drake Doremus’s Like Crazy, the outline was more of a jumping off point than anything else. Rosenfield and Farmiga knew what was supposed to happen, but they improvised their actual lines. Though according to my dad the film had one too many curse words, 6 Years presents college age kids the way they really talk and thus, makes the characters feel more genuine.

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BURNNNNN.

The Incredible Indie Soundtrack

I’m not gonna lie – the soundtrack for this film is maybe eighty-five percent of why you should watch it. Literally, the moment it was over, I was pulling up the soundtrack’s playlist on Spotify. It’s seriously amazing. Here’s one of my favorite songs from the film:

The Themes

For all its flaws, I loved the film because of the issues it tackles and the way it tackles them. So many times, especially in regards to serious issues like abuse, we tend to vilify someone in a relationship. From the outside, it’s very easy to do that. This person’s abusive – simple answer, leave them! The film makes you feel like you’re in it with them and as despicable as both of them can be, we relate to both of them and can’t put either of them into a box of the “good guy” or “bad guy.” They both make big mistakes, but ultimately their love for each other is real. It’s just not enough to keep them together.

The film is also about decisions in your early twenties. There’s a scene where Dan is telling his mother that he was offered a job at a record label in New York, but that he’s considering not taking it because Mel still has a year left in school. His mother tells him that the decisions you make at this age affect the course of your life and so, you need to think about yourself, be a little selfish. I love Dan’s answer too, “It’s kinda stressful.” I feel ya, Dan. Decisions are always stressful because you don’t know how they will turn out.

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So sweet. 

It’s emotional and thought provoking

When I see a movie, the thing I’m most hoping for is that it gives me something to think about. For a movie that’s only a little over an hour long, 6 Years packs a lot. While I think the film is far from being perfect or even one of my favorite films, it leaves you with something to think about and to me, that’s one of the major purposes of cinema.

It is an emotional one so only watch this if you’re in the mood to feel ALL the feels – including the bad ones! I think it’s worth it just for the performances by Ben and Taissa, who are sure to go on to big things!

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I’m feeling TOO MANY FEELSSSS.

Trailer below:

Photos and Gifs property of Netflix.

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The Flaws and Charms of ‘Bachelor Mother’ and its remake ‘Bundle of Joy’

In Hollywood nowadays, remakes are more common than superhero movies and that’s saying something. But, of course, they made remakes even in the good ol’ days and the films I want to discuss are a prime example. Those films are the 1939 screwball comedy, Bachelor Mother, and its 1956 musical remake, Bundle of Joy.

During December, TCM showed all the great holiday movies and these two were included. I had already seen Bachelor Mother a few years ago when I went through my whole Ginger Rogers obsession. Bundle of Joy, on the other hand, was a new discovery. When I started watching it, I didn’t realize it was a straight-up remake with singing.

If you’re unfamiliar, both Bachelor Mother and Bundle of Joy follow Polly Parrish, (Ginger Rogers and Debbie Reynolds, respectively), a department store clerk. On Christmas, she gets fired. While looking for a job, she sees a baby on the doorstep and after picking it up for a moment, is mistaken as its mother. No matter what she does, she can’t seem to convince anyone that it’s not her baby. Then David Merlin (David Niven and Eddie Fisher, respectively), the heir to the department store, gets involved and their screwball romance begins.

So, in honor of Debbie Reynolds and because I can’t get enough of Ginger Rogers, I thought it’d be fun to compare and contrast the two films, both their flaws and their charms:

Casting, Casting, Casting

Polly Parrish

In the original film, Ginger Rogers played the Polly Parrish role. Rogers was apparently unsure when signing on to the film, afraid that the film lacked a “dramatic honesty.” After being assured that was not the case, she took the leap and the film grew on her.

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Her hat! Anyone else obsessed?

Debbie Reynolds was just 24 years old when she took on the part and she was both married and months pregnant. Still, that didn’t stop her from giving the part her all. Her appeal is what makes the remake worthwhile.

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So true! ALWAYS ENCHANTING!

The Young Mr. Merlin

David Niven played the young David Merlin in the 1939 film while Debbie’s beau and famous crooner, Eddie Fisher, took on the part in the remake. For Niven, the film marked his first romantic leading role and he is fantastic in it! His sophisticated British sensibility makes for fun when he’s a bumbling, foolish man in love.

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OH, David Niven. ❤ ❤ ❤

On the other hand, Eddie Fisher is quite unremarkable in the remake. Beyond being a handsome guy and having a great voice, his acting leaves a little something to be desired.

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lol, they couldn’t say much for his acting though…

Additionally, Charles Coburn, who I discussed in my article about The More the Merrier, plays the senior Mr. Merlin and as usual, steals the show!

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You tell ’em, Charles!

The Scripts/Music

So, Bachelor Mother was penned by Robert Krasna, but was actually adapted from a story by Felix Jackson. Although the concept is quite ludicrous, the quippy dialogue is what brings the film to life! You’re willing to go along with it because the characters feel true and you’re too busy laughing to think about how nonsensical it is, not to mention, a bit misogynistic (I mean, c’mon, it’s okay that she keeps the baby because she’s now got a man! Hmph!).

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Ginger’s expressions are also HILARIOUS.

On the other hand, even though Bundle of Joy did have a script penned by Robert Carson and Arthur Sheekman, I wonder that they even went through the effort. Robert Krasna is also given a writing credit, which makes sense, considering it’s the EXACT SAME SCRIPT. I’m not kidding. Beyond adding new musical numbers, this remake did nothing to change the way the story unfolds. The dialogue is verbatim.

But, some of the songs are not bad and this one may be its best.

The Direction

Garson Kanin, who had a hand in great screwball comedies like The More the Merrier and Adam’s Rib, directed Bachelor Mother. Perhaps because of those films, he understood the sensibility better. The film flows and is first and most importantly, an entertaining ride.

Norman Taurug, who directed Bundle of Joy, also had an impressive resume with Mad About Music, which was a Deanna Durbin film, and Girl Crazy. Perhaps the real reason the remake is lesser than the original is because it was conceived as a star-vehicle. Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds had just married and Reynolds gave birth to Carrie around the time of the film’s release. It provided a way to sell the film, but not much seemed to go into creating something original and unique, which Bachelor Mother certainly was.

The Final Report

No question, Bachelor Mother is by far superior. It was made in 1939, which is objectively one of the greatest years in film. Ginger and David carry the film with ease and you go on their journey, buying into it and feeling happy to be there!

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#SWOON

Bundle of Joy, while certainly extremely flawed, is still worth watching, if only to see Debbie Reynolds at 24, singing and dancing and living with grace, poise, and grit. The songs don’t always make sense, but they’re entertaining too.

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There are moments when you’re like, “Aw they’re so cute together.” Then, you remember that two years later Eddie dumped Debbie for Elizabeth Taylor and you’re just MAD.

Vintage Trailers Below:

 

Bachelor Mother and Bundle of Joy Gifs property of RKO Pictures.