SXSW 2020 FILM FESTIVAL! I remember living in Bonn, Germany, when Billie Piper became big. Let me rephrase that – when she became the youngest person to ever enter the UK Pop Charts at # 1. Before she became a beloved actress on Doctor Who and Penny Dreadful (as well as a good number of other movies and shows), she was a pop sensation. Shortly after the release of her second CD, Piper took on more and more acting roles, so now she is mainly known as an actress. With the release of Rare Beasts, Piper can add screenwriter and director to her resume as well.
Single-mom Mandy (Billie Piper) works as a writer at BBC, pitching shows and storylines. She goes on a date with co-worker Pete (Leo Bill), in which he proudly admits he does not like women much. But, he also says that he can’t live without one. The date is caustic, though the overthinking Mandy can dish back at him. Yes, their rat-a-tat of angry barbs and put-downs is how they flirt.
“…when her good-for-nothing dad shows back up because her mom is dying, Mandy must re-examine her life.”
Mandy appreciates Pete’s candid honesty, even if it is hostile at times. Pete likes that Mandy can keep up and has no qualms about putting him in his place. Plus, Mandy’s son Larch (Toby Woolf) and Pete get on pretty well considering the young boy’s obvious anger issues. But, when her good-for-nothing dad (David Thewlis) shows back up because her mom (Kerry Fox) is dying, Mandy must re-examine her life. Are contempt and maligned, bombastic conversations truly what will make her happy?
Billing itself as an anti-romantic comedy, Rare Beasts is not for everyone. There’s an unevenness to the whole affair, especially concerning Larch. Strolling through the park, Pete, Mandy, and Larch are having a decent enough time. There’s a balloon stand just down the way, and Larch really wants a donut balloon. But, another little kid has gotten the last one. This causes Larch to throw a screaming tantrum. Afterwards, he apologizes to his mom and Pete. Later on, when meeting Pete’s family, Larch is kicking their dog.
The problem is that Mandy is never seen trying to address these obvious behavioral issues. Yes, part of her arc is figuring out what she wants and how to deal with everyone in her life, toxic or otherwise. But, it is hard to empathize with someone that just stands by as their child commits these heinous acts.
"…sexist work cultures, the constant need for women to appear as if they have it all together, and upend traditional rom-com tropes..."