“Bitch” is the very definition of a truly independent, super low budget film, and it’s incredible how much was done with so little money (especially the stunning lighting and visuals). Director Marianna Palka creates a provocative, highly disturbing and deeply unsettling pseudo-horror film with this feminist tinged tale of a suburban mom gone crazy.
Palka plays the lead role of Jill, a mentally distraught and suicidal housewife with a practically useless workaholic (and cheating) husband, Bill (Jason Ritter). Jill can barely function from day to day and becomes obsessed with a dog that constantly stares at her from the front law. When Jill finally loses it and assumes the characteristics of a vicious dog, Bill is left in charge of the household duties and their four children. He enlists the help of sister in law (Jaime King) to try to keep his family life afloat and prevent the total destruction of his slowly crumbling family.
Ritter gives a fantastic leading man quality performance here, and one that’s laced with angst and tragedy as well as comedy. You can feel his desperation and frustration, yet he manages to be sympathetic and tender when necessary, even when some of the screenwriting fails him. Palka is believable as a mom who finally reaches her breaking point and cracks under the pressure. Plus, it’s not easy to spend most of the film on your knees and covered in fake feces.
There’s a heavy reliance placed on the soundtrack to this movie, and it’s as strange and intense as they come. The random background sound effects, noises and music is what I can only describe as “ear assaulting.” It’s intensely loud on purpose, with an absurdist, almost avante garde original score that features a literal cacophony of drums, slide whistles, cartoonish blips and bleeps, and 1950s-era spaceship special effect sounds. By the time the end credits rolled, I felt like I was becoming as unhinged as the lead character and my ears were aching. That may be the point, but it was distracting because it was literally painful.
The film is distressing with its surrealism, but also painful and tragic. It’s an absolute one-of-a-kind original that will make you laugh with its shock humor, but the story eventually becomes a serious exploration of mental illness and gets dark really quickly. Love and acceptance finally become the cure for Jill’s pain, but it doesn’t make the film any more unsettling.
Forget the stresses of being a mother and a wife: simply being a woman is a full time job that will drive you crazy.
This film was screened and reviewed at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.