MOVIE OF THE WEEK October 22, 2021: WOMEN IS LOSERS

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The patriarchy is far from dead, but every woman lucky enough to come of age in the United Stats in a post-RBG, post-Roe v. Wade world is likely to find Lissette Feliciano’s earnest, scrappy ’60-set drama Women Is Losers an eye-opening reminder of how much harder things used to be. It also serves as a powerful argument for why it’s so important not to lose the progress we’ve gained.

Set in San Francisco, the story follows Celina (Lorenza Izzo), a smart, hardworking Catholic school student who bristles at her parents’ restrictions — especially those of her abusive father — but has plans for a bright future after she graduates. But without adequate sex education or access to birth control, she accidentally gets pregnant the first time she has sex with her boyfriend, Mateo (Bryan Craig). And since legal, safe abortion isn’t an option, either (a fact that’s tragically underlined), she finds her hopes and dreams screeching to a halt.

More than anything, Celina wants to build a good home for her son, but everywhere she turns, men and their sexist beliefs and power structures get in her way. Without a high school diploma, her career options are limited. She works long hours at two jobs — a custodian at her old school and a typist at a bank — but barely makes ends meet, and her father is constantly pressuring her to pay them more rent. Bank manager Gilbert Lee (Simu Liu) takes an interest in her success and offers her a teller position and savvy financial advice, but his motives aren’t necessarily purely altruistic. She can’t get a mortgage because she doesn’t have a husband or father to co-sign with her. And so on.

In telling Celina’s story, Feliciano is making a very clear point about how past circumstances conspired to oppress women like Celina, as well as people in other traditionally marginalized groups. Characters break the fourth wall to address viewers, commenting on their circumstances and pointing out the failures of so many of our social and economic institutions. Women Is Losers is a “message movie” that delivers its message with refreshing spirit. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Marilyn Ferdinand While women have made some gains since the 1960s and early 1970s, the period in which director/screenwriter Lissette Feliciano’s debut feature film Women Is Losers is set, most women viewing this film today will be able to relate to the troubles and obstacles its female characters face. Celina, played by a thoroughly relatable Lorenza Izzo, is an academically gifted teenager whose naïvete about love and sex lands her “in trouble” and struggling to manage as a single mother without a high school diploma. Feliciano hits on many topics—abortion, racial prejudice, domestic abuse, the difficulties soldiers returning from combat face—but the film never feels rushed or less than engaged with the issues it raises. This movie will be eye-opening for younger viewers who may not realize how little power women had before the second-wave feminist movement kicked into gear—and how much work is still needed to correct the unequal power dynamics between men and women.

Leslie Combemale Director Lisette Feliciano’s company Look at the Moon Pictures was among the first production companies to mandate 50 percent BIPOC representation in leadership positions both in front of and behind the camera. This production is a byproduct of that mandate. Women is Losers is buoyed by a committed and electric performance by its lead Lorenza Izzo, who is aided by a magnetic collection of co-stars, in a story that celebrates feminist pluck and resilience while being an entertaining crowdpleaser. Read full review.

Jennifer Merin Lissette Feliciano’s debut feature is a 1960s-set indie drama about a bright Latina lass, Celina (beautifully brought to life by Lorenza Izzo), who is physically and emotionally abused by her parents and, thanks to a parochial school education, is woefully naive about men/sex. The story follows Celina through her first sexual encounter and the aftermath, an unexpected and unwanted pregnancy that upends her plans for college and a career, and sets her life into an ongoing struggle to find her way to decent circumstances for herself and her child. And it’s quite a fight — mostly pointing to feminist issues. From the start of the film, Feliciano breaks cinematic convention, establishing her unique storytelling style. She interrupts scenes to have her characters address the audience directly with verbal and visual comments that lead us to a deeper understanding of their needs and problems. She inserts musical numbers that actually illustrate current socio-political issues of poverty, discrimination, exploitation and other day to day problems faced by Celina. The film’s theme is relevant and relatable. The story, style, characters and performances are engaging. Lissette Feliciano is a filmmaker to watch.

Loren King Lissette Feliciano’s debut feature is a highly original and touching depiction of pre- Roe v. Wade America and what that time was like for young women. Lorenza Izzo shines as Celina, a high school math whiz in the late 1960s whose life and dreams as derailed not just by an unexpected teen pregnancy but by an abusive father, a passive mother, limited job opportunities, and a patriarchal system that discriminates and devalues girls and women. Women is Losers may not have the budget or star power of, say, Mrs. America or If These Walls Could Talk but it conveys just as powerfully the high stakes of then and now with freshness, humor and heartbreak. Feminism and sisterhood emerge naturally and often unexpectedly in the story as Celina makes her way in the world with a little help from her female friends, past and present.

Liz Whittemore Women is Losers has a style that makes you want to stand up and cheer. Beginning with the opening scene as the cast speaks directly to the audience. The film is a history lesson wrapped in a compelling narrative. The tongue-in-cheek manner in which we’re presented with the facts is delicious. Lead actress Lorenza Izzo wears her heart on her sleeve. Her vulnerability combined with spitfire directness is perfect. Filmmaker Lissette Feliciano smartly weaves a story that speaks to today’s generation more than ever. The film takes on discrimination, sexism, gender roles, and the total miseducation of an entire generation. As a lapsed Catholic schoolgirl, I am more than familiar with the lack of sexual education. This could have easily been my mother’s story had it been set in 1979. With Roe V Wade teetering on the brink in the Supreme Court, Women Is Losers tells us where we came from, where we are, and how much further we still have to go.

Cate Marquis Woman is Losers is an odd title but an impressive indie film, a tale tracing the coming-of-age of a bright young Latina in the late ’60s and early ’70s, along side the evolution of rights for women, Native Americans, Latinx, Blacks and Asians in that era. Director Lissette Feliciano makes a strong feature film debut with this appealing, fresh tale that follows Celina (Lorenza Izzo) from her high school days at Catholic school into an adulthood beset with difficulties, as she rises to its challenges in a progression that cleverly mirrors the changing times. Inspired by true stories, the characters occasionally break the fourth wall to address the audience directly to put events in historical context, a technique that sounds awkward but is surprisingly effective and presented with sly wit. Grounded by Lorenza Izzo’s strong central performance, Woman is Losers takes us on a personal journey that plays almost like epic, telling the story of its times as well as Celina’s own inspiring story.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: Women is Losers

Director: Lissette Feliciano

Release Date: October 18, 2021

Running Time: 84 minutes

Language: English, Spanish with English subtitles

Screenwriter: Lissette Feliciano

Distribution Company: HBO Max

Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sherin Nicole, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).