The Lost Girls
Peter Pan may have been onto something. Adulthood can be a scary and daunting thought. Especially if your college career consisted more of booze, pizza and late night You Tube sessions and less of vigorous preparation for post university life. It would certainly be more convenient to be whisked away to Neverland where all we do is hang around an island in nightgowns. Unfortunately “lost girls” do not exist because, as Peter Pan explains, “girls are much too clever to fall out of their prams and be lost.” So for us, there will unavoidably come a time when job hunting becomes a little more complicated than picking up some babysitting gigs here and there.
If you’ve been pushing these daunting thoughts of real life aside, know that you’re not alone. In fact, there is an entire movie genre practically committed to dealing with twenty-somethings and their struggle with maturity. Mumblecore is a genre of independent film that emerged in the early 2000’s. Typically characterized by extremely low budgets, amateur actors and ultra realistic dialog, these film’s genuine plots and awkward silences feel more like a reflection of our own lives than anything else. The stories consist of characters just like us. They are educated, artistic and smart but struggling to find their place in grown-up land.
Lena Dunham’s 2010 film, Tiny Furniture introduces us to Aura, who has recently graduated from school in the Midwest and wants it to be made painstakingly clear that she is having “a very, very hard time.” She has moved back into her family’s TriBeCa loft with her mother who is a successful New York City artist, and her younger, academically inclined sister. Back in the comfort of home where she has unlimited access to frozen food and red wine she quickly loses motivation to secure a job so she can get an apartment with her best mate from college. Instead she opts to lounge around with her mischievous childhood best friend, get some tattoos and update her YouTube channel. With two semi-romances that are clearly going nowhere, you become conflicted as to whether you pity her or think she’s a serious slacker. Either way you are certainly made aware that she is indeed “having a very, very hard time.”
Greta Gerwig is brilliant in Joe Swanberg’s mumblecore 2007 feature, Hannah Takes the Stairs. Gerwig’s character, Hannah, is also a recent graduate. She lives in Chicago and works as an intern at a production office where she mostly hangs out on a tacky floral couch exchanging stories and making fake six packs with her two male coworkers. Her boyfriend recently quit his job and now has a new mission in life, which is simply to “go to the beach.” After his attempt to seduce her using ice cubes and foreplay he saw on Cinemax goes awry, the situations transforms into a break up. Hannah then quickly becomes involved with her two coworkers. Initially she is interested in Paul (played by Andrew Bujalski, who is often credited as the godfather of mumblecore). Paul is an average looking guy mostly shown in bland office attire, telling moderately funny jokes. Eventually their relationship, which was a bit bland from the start, fizzles out and she moves onto Mark, a slightly more attractive guy who bonds with Hannah over their mutual ability to sort of play the trumpet. As the film comes to a close we see Paul getting scolded for being the only one who showed up to work while Mark and Hannah sit naked in her bathtub playing their trumpets together.
At first glance, these stories sound somewhat uninspiring, probably only adding to an existing fear of adulthood. Aura and Hannah are attractive, intelligent women who, despite their college education, still can’t seem to find their place in the world. They are hooking up with men they know they will never love, working at jobs they know will go nowhere and don’t seem to be doing all that much to dig themselves out of the sluggish hole they have fallen knee deep into. Some of their troubles, such as the dreary economic climate, are out of their hands. At one point in Tiny Furniture, Aura’s friend acknowledges their bad timing by saying, “we picked the worst possible time to graduate.” But can you really blame them for having a rocky start? They have probably spent their entire life in school, working towards who knows what. Then suddenly they are graduated and expected to know exactly where to go and how to get there. But the reality is maybe you need some time uninterrupted by exams and parties to really figure your next move. Aura and Hannah show us a much more honest portrayal of a young, urban women’s plight than what we are used to seeing on the big screen. They too have fallen into a rut but you can feel that both of these women will find their way slowly but surely.
With back-to-back stories about recent post-grads ending up back at home, as if those four years of semi-independence never even happened, it is easy to become discouraged. We see “reality shows” like The Hills and The City and watch L.C and Whitney live it up in these big cities while working as interns for Teen Vogue. Naturally we imagine our early careers will go as swimmingly as theirs. After all it is reality TV right? Sorry ladies, I have some tough news- that is not how it’s going to go. At first, you too will have, as Aura puts it, “a very, very hard time.”
You’ll get rejected, tired, feel like giving up, calling mom and curling up in your childhood twin sized bed. But don’t do it. Well you can call mom, she’s usually good for some words of wisdom. Know that you will struggle at first, probably for a while. You’ll have to do things you know you are overqualified for but don’t feel belittled. Aura could use a reminder of this as she quickly gives up on her newfound job as a hostess claiming, “it was really boring and I have a college degree so I didn’t see any reason to continue.” Every great success story needs a gritty first chapter. With perseverance comes strength and subsequently success. Accept the post-grad slump; but after a few weeks of waking up at noon on a Wednesday, give yourself a brisk slap in the face, think about how funny all of this will be when you’re 50, and just start moving forward in anyway you can.
Written By: Cortney Clift