“Girl Asleep”: A surreal coming of age story

Graphic by Lindsey McGinnis '18

Graphic by Lindsey McGinnis '18

BY MARIANA JARIMILLO '20 

Filled with adventure and nostalgia, “Girl Asleep” captures the complicated adolescence of a young girl in the 1970s. Greta Drescoll (Bethany Whitmore) has just moved into a new suburb and her awkwardness has followed suit. When the most popular girls in school shockingly insist on befriending her, she is overcome by anxiety. Her emotions crescendo when her mother invites her entire grade over to her house for Greta’s 15th birthday party.

The party itself was an incredible homage to disco and fashion; the decorations could not have been more perfect and the costume design was brilliant. The musical numbers were an absolute joy to watch while also managing to propel the plot forward. 

Sure enough, Greta’s fears for the party come true. Her family seems oblivious to her troubles as she embarks on a surreal coming of age journey, falling into a rabbit hole world where a monster has stolen her music box, which she tries to recover with the help of a Swedish warrior. All of these odd, hyperbolized creatures are projections of her convoluted teenage emotions.

The movie trailer described “Girl Asleep” as a blend of Wes Anderson and “Where the Wild Things Are,” but overlooks that it is also a love letter to the ’70s aesthetic. In one scene, Greta’s mother Janet (Amber McMahon) listens to her daughter complain about the party while casually exercising on her stationary bike. She’s wearing a jean jumpsuit, white wedges, large air-blown waves with a sweatband and a full face of heavy makeup — if that’s not classic ’70s fit glam, then I don’t know what is.

This small art house movie is adapted from an Australian play of the same name by Matthew Whittet. The film was made possible through the Adelaide Film Festival’s Hive Fund, an organization that endeavors to bring artists from all backgrounds (including theatre) into film production. 

Because it’s adapted from a play, “Girl Asleep” maintains a lot of theatrical storytelling devices, which appear most obviously in the surreal set design and rabbit hole scenes. According to IMDb, “Girl Asleep” only grossed $2,700 during opening week. It’s incredible that the film found its way to us here in the Pioneer Valley. It was screened in conjunction with several other wonderful films this past weekend at the Northampton Film Festival.

“Girl Asleep” truly succeeded in creating a world for the viewer to get lost in. However, there were parts that dragged on longer than necessary that could have been cut. I sometimes found myself checking how much time had passed since the movie began, but it was still an enjoyable experience. Overall, “Girl Asleep” is a creative addition to the coming of age genre.

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