Girl Picture - Strand Releasing - Alli Haapasalo
Credit: lkka Saastamoinen/Strand Releasing
by Zachary Goldkind Featured Film Horizon Line

Girl Picture — Alli Haapasalo

August 15, 2022

Girl Picture is a pop-oriented confection of little substance, vapid writing, and seeming contempt for its characters.

Alli Haapasalo’s Girl Picture is a confounding frustration. Set amongst the topsy-turvy angsts of a trio of teens, the film jerks and wrenches though a hyper-manufactured dramaturgy that has about as much reflexivity of its reductive cruelty as Dick Cheney would have speaking on the woes of imperialism. While two of these girls, Mimmi and Emma (played respectively by Aamu Milonoff and Linnea Leino) quickly fall in love — thus contriving establishing the plot’s focus from which unceasing conflict shall arise — our secondary protagonist, Rönkkö (played charitably by Eleonoora Kauhanen) scouts out plausible partners, on a mission. The presentation of Rönkkö is admirably restrained, even slight, a respite from the obtrusive break-neck affinities of both the film’s churlish formal navigation and the aggrandized sordidness of Mimmi. In fact, her and Emma’s relationship is as apt a reflection of the film as can be: immediate, of no conceivable material import, and lacking any sense of roundedness, of curiosity. The film throw viewers in and out of this central conflict, Mimmi’s persistent articulation of her own traumas projected right back onto Emma without even a glimmer of sympathy, even perspective, from the camera. We’re forced to almost bask in the malevolence, the film seemingly proud of its ability to construct such hurtful circumstances. Never once are we allowed to take a step back to perceive this dynamic with an ounce of patience, nor even a second of pause. We are thrust into their mess as quickly as we are hurled back out: Haapasalo establishes what she wants to achieve through the film’s strained narrative circumstances, and as the film itself seems to assert, that is seemingly all that matters. The conclusion that must be drawn, then, despite how unlikely it is as a governing intent, is that the filmmaker has great detestation for these characters.

But let’s briefly talk about the form: it seems most indebted to a contemporary music video creation. It’s a product of deficient attention, a reduction of both image and montage. Indexicality and immediacy are the two parading principles, overwhelming the capacity for the script, in its blatant floundering, to find any real footing. Scenes are scrapped together, hard-cutting away from what should be necessary moments of meditation, instead taping together some semblance of momentum through a playlist of anonymous pop hits. It’s frankly grating just how unruly and disorganized the construction here is — time seems to be an amorphous concept that alienates the characters. It’s all a feigned gesture meant to articulate the disarray of youth, a grotesque masquerade of the modern. As for the final words here, be warned that the ending will be given — it’s required in order to punctuate just how utterly lost Girl Picture is. As Mimmi reconvenes with Emma during a celebration of her success, she meekly approaches to, one assumes, ask for forgiveness. In the previous sequence, Mimmi, seeing Emma’s discomfort and misery, doubles down on underlining that upset by moving into another room with a stranger to engage in intimate acts (for context, Emma and Mimmi are in a relationship). Mimmi has broken Emma’s trust and aggressively mocked their relationship to her face, creating a spectacle of Emma’s interiority. How, then, is/are the filmmaker/writers set to reconcile this act of callousness? It’s almost laughable to say: we won’t find out. Sound cuts out, music takes over, and Mimmi whispers something into Emma’s ear, to which she smiles and embraces Mimmi. It’s a hilariously unfathomable decision that leaves room only to interpret Mimmi and an abuser and Emma as her victim. She forgives — it’s true that this is conjecture, but the film offers so little to interpret any other explanation — and forgets. It’s too timid filmmaking, too timid writing — Girl Picture is an embarrassment of riches for those seeking an exemplar of the cinematically inept, suggesting substance where only vapid fakery exists.