The Good Girls (CIFF 2018)

review by Kate Blair

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The Good Girls depicts the downfall of an affluent family during the 1982 Mexican depression. Using an expressive visual style, director Alejandra Márquez Abella depicts the lavish lifestyle of a community living out its final days as members of the elite. At the center of the film is Sofia (Ilse Salas), a wealthy housewife, and her network of similarly-situated friends. While their husbands conduct business deals, the women gossip about who should be admitted to the club and compete for who can host the most effortless, opulent gatherings.

The film opens at one such party, thrown by Sofia. She examines herself in the dressing-room mirrors, framed so that her reflection, draped in white silk, is multiplied infinitely. It’s a virtuoso shot that has become stale with overuse, but it conveys its intended message here: Sofia’s main focus is on her own image of class and wealth. But this image is about to shatter. When an economic crisis strikes the country, Sofia and her husband, Fernando (Flavio Medino), lose their entire fortune, but their reaction is delayed, like the creeping pain that follows a burn.

As Sofia’s awareness of her situation grows, she is careful to maintain a veneer of normalcy. She continues to go dress shopping and dine out. When her credit cards are declined, she writes checks that are destined to bounce, more immediately concerned with saving face than anything else. Meanwhile, Sofia holds tight to her classism even her actual money disappears.

She particularly resents the charming Ana Paula (Paulina Gaitan), who doesn’t have the kind of upbringing Sofia believes befits her inner circle, yet remains unaffected by the depression. Ana Paula’s ability to see right through Sofia’s act make the scenes between them among the most memorable.

The Good Girls is a stylish drama, but it’s often as listless as its characters, who lie around waiting for something to happen while their lives disintegrate around them. I had to ask myself, do I really care what becomes of such people? The Good Girls makes me think of Sofia Coppola’s films, which tend to center the isolated lives of the wealthy and privileged. Like Coppola’s leff effective work, Abella directs film that’s lovely on the surface, but frequently doesn’t penetrate much deeper than that.

Screened as part of the 54th Chicago International Film Festival