Coffee And Curiosity

"There's a quiet spirit in this space, where words - wrought into an ethereal cadence, depicts the scale of tenderness and turmoil that dwells in the beauty of self expression."

The Champagne Cocktail that is The City of Girls: My favourite book of 2019

“Never has it felt more important for me to tell stories of joy and abandon, passion and recklessness. Life is short and difficult, people. We must take our pleasures where we can find them. Let us not become so cautious that we forget to live.”

Named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2008, Elizabeth Gilbert returns with a sequin-studded, gin fizz consuming companion: City Of Girls. A coming-of-age fictional masterpiece so delicious one does not simply read, but devours. As thrilling as it is tumultuous, this is a tale told from the perspective of an elderly lady who reflects fondly – with a touch of regret – on the whirlwind of her youth. It explores the depths of sisterhood, recklessness, resilience and female sexuality whilst also conveying the peculiarity of love.

Upon being exiled to Manhattan in 1940 by her affluent parents, protagonist Vivian Morris no longer finds herself on the periphery of life but right in the centre of it. Instead of taking offence to the exile she greets it with delightful, child-like optimism: “I knew I was being banished, but still… in style!” Her sassy, larger-than-life personality that seen her kicked out of Vassar and sent on her way by exasperated parents were precisely the attributes that were cherished when she arrived at eccentric aunt Peg’s crumbling yet resplendent theatre – with which, she falls hopelessly in love.

What followed was an invigorating, champagne sodden, all singing-all dancing escapade (in heels) through WW2 New York; rich with character, fulgurant rendezvous and unpredictability. We experience the exhilarating highs as Viv and her sisterhood of showgirls dance on the extremities of respectability and, ultimately, the sobering severity of consequence. The ebbs and flows of life are enticingly depicted through the lens of ignorant youth, a journey of finding oneself, losing oneself then arriving at a place of clarity and understanding. Absurdly, I feel like I have made a friend from these pages, who I believe will remain a constant source of wisdom for me when I need it most – dressed in feathers, of course – and will laugh as she urges me not to take life too seriously. When a book can do that, in my understanding it is not just a book at all, it’s a work of art.

Gilbert herself describes her novel as a “champagne cocktail – light and bright, crisp and fun.” It goes without question that she delivered– effortless as always – and leaves us with a new, profound understanding of life that we didn’t think we needed. “Resist change at your own peril, Vivian. When something ends, let it end.” Duly noted, Aunt Peg: I’ll move swiftly on... the moment I find a book as delicious and enchanting as this one. Honest.

'Girl, Interrupted' Is The Under-Appreciated Movie Adaptation We All Needed

"Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy."

"Girl, Interrupted" is a wistfully insightful account on the arduous journey through the realms of mental illness, often pulling the strings of introspection. In the midst of Spring 1967, while her peers are finding their feet and making arrangements for college, Susanna Kaysen has lost her way and is committed to Claymore, the local, though reputable, mad-house. Based on the best-selling 1993 memoir by American Author Susanna Kaysen, "Girl, Interrupted" illustrates the 18 months that was spent within the care of Claymore; creating bonds, breaking them, straying from sanity and then fighting for freedom from the clutches of the malady.

Upon the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, Susanna (Winona Ryder) ventures with the aid of her journal and newly ignited friendships, altering her kaleidoscopic view on reality, ultimately leading to a deeper understanding of the illness and where it stems from. Rebel misfit Lisa, (Angelina Jolie) temporarily invokes this within Susanna, claiming with jubilation how life on the inside gives you freedom. She finds her place amongst the inmates quickly, with regard to the face of innocence, Polly (Elizabeth Moss), the deeply troubled, though also somewhat childlike, Daisy (Brittany Murphy) who likes her father's rotisserie chicken and Georgina (Clea Duvall), Susanna's new room-mate who dreams of living in Oz. Their loving and warm, but savage supervising nurse played aptly by Whoopie Goldberg, sees the progression of Susanna's condition and is not afraid to say it as it is.

The beginning of the film juts back and forth to different moments in time, as it would do for Susanna in her mind. The existence of the upper-class system is evident from the offset when we are introduced to a family party held for Susanna's father. Perhaps as an ephemeral release from her hopelessness and lethargy, Susanna self-medicates to counteract this with regular sexual activity, our first insight into this when we see Susanna urging off her father's business partner at the birthday party. Disputably, Claymore's female psychiatrist (Vanessa Redgrave) deems this behavior as "promiscuity," which from an early-rising feminist standpoint, Susanna challenges, and in my opinion, rightly so.

"How many guys would I have to sleep with to be considered promiscuous, textbook promiscuous? Ten, eight, five. And how many girls would a guy my age have to sleep with to be promiscuous? Ten? Twenty? A hundred and nine?"

Promiscuity becomes the theme of Susanna's diagnosis, alongside ambivalence, even though it could now be seen as the beginning of women's sexual revolution. Lead actress, Winona Ryder, plays an exceedingly progressive and convincing role as doe-eyed Susanna Kaysen, so much so that I feel we experience the full tempestuous spectrum of her predicament. What is surprising albeit not incomprehensible, though, is the main possessor of nominations and awards out of the entire adaptation is our supporting actress, Angelina Jolie. Where Winona possesses a kind of quiet strength of character, Angelina captivates the audience with her steely stare and poignant dialogue. This, I believe, could only ever have been depicted by her. No other actor, in my opinion, would have done Lisa's character justice.

James Mangold is known for his dark and brooding though pragmatic approach to directing. Some of his most highly esteemed and nominated films being "Logan" (2017), "The Wolverine" (2013) and "Walk the Line" (2005). Mangold, though only winning twice, was nominated seven times for the Best Adapted Screenplay for "Logan." however there are no known nominations or awards for his direction of "Girl, Interrupted." This is a shame, in my opinion, as he captures the unspoken moments of an illness that can not be verbalized, painting a picture for us to analyze in our own terms. A masterpiece in my mind; the magic is in the slow coming on of awareness that awakens us to the knowledge that mental illness is everything that me and you experience, only amplified. None of us are immune. The beauty of the mind and its complex disposition and how it is something to be marvelled at and worked with, not undermined.