By Laurie Coker
Getting into my VIRTUAL SXSW mode, settling into my office chair, and choosing my first film proved a bit more difficult than I imagined compared to face-to-face experiences of past festivals. Once I figured it all out, I chose Women is Losers as the first film I watched. Written and directed by Lissette Feliciano, Women is Losers stars Lorenza Izzo, Bryan Craig, Chrissie Fit, Simu Liu, Liza Weil, Cranston Johnson, Alejandra Miranda, and Shalim Ortiz and it offers a vivid and sometimes darkly humorous look at women’s issues in the 1960s seen through the eyes of a catholic school girl, Celina Guerrera (Izzo).
Celina, a promising student, who finds herself fighting against social norms and poverty. She works against the odds to rise above what life deals her. Celina traverses the male dominated world where women were kept from owning property or nailing jobs that did not fit the feminine mold. She makes mistakes, faces challenges only a woman, especially one like Celina, would encounter. We follow her life from high school to adulthood, emphasizing her mistakes and achievements and obstacles pile up in seemingly insurmountable ways. And for many women they were, but not Celina.
What is beautiful about Feliciano’s vision is her ability to press the issues and drive her themes without being heavy-handed or preachy. Her story moves along with eye-opening clarity and a comfortable understanding that gently guides the audience deeper into some extremely dark situations with a steady tug. Celina captures our attention in the film’s opening sequence by asking the audience directly, “How do you pull yourself by your bootstraps when all you have left is skin?” And Feliciano shows us in a sometimes comic, sometimes shocking story of a woman who is denied contraception, refused a loan (without the signature of a man), can’t move forward in employment because she has a GED regardless of her stellar work experience.
Cecilia represents all women during that time, especially Latina, catholic women who are victims of societal norms, poverty, and customs. Celina rises above the challenges in spite of it all and Feliciano and an excellent ensemble cast capture the reality of the serious situations presented. The lessons it teaches on perseverance, self-sufficiency, and the liberty that contraceptives give still ring true as do its messages on money matters and responsibility to self over family. Feliciano puts great emphasis on self, pride, and determination. Women is Losers while set in the 1960s manages a timely thematic connection to the 2020s. It easily earns an A+ in the grade book.