Good Girls (Brave ragazze)

Italy (2019) Dir. Michela Andreozzi

“I am woman, hear me roar”

No matter how much men hate to admit it, women are made of much tougher stuff than they are given credit for. And, like us chaps, when they are backed into a corner they will come out fighting with all they have, even if it involves breaking the law.

Gaeta 1981 and four friends are about to have a run of bad luck relating to their financial woes. Divorced mum-of-two Anna (Ambra Angiolini) loses her part-time factory job, hotheaded tomboy Chicca (Ilenia Pastorelli) is fired from her job on a fruit stall then gets her sister Caterina (Silvia D’Amico) fired from her waitress job. Elsewhere, Maria (Serena Rossi), is in an abusive marriage, beaten by husband Giuseppe (Massimiliano Vado) for spending money on herself.

Desperate for money, Chicca jokingly suggests they rob a bank, but when Anna tries to get a bank loan and the manager (Pietro Genuardi) makes a pass at her, she agrees to it. Dressed as men, they return to the bank and getaway with hefty haul but this is soon spent so they do a second heist which goes wrong. Worse still, the man who has been wooing Anna, Gianni Morandi (Luca Argentero), happens to be the police inspector in charge of the finding the robbers.

Actress turned director Michela Andreozzi may have co-written the script for Good Girls with a man but her feminist colours are firmly nailed to the mast. Luckily, she has the grace not to make this a preachy film and sell us a tale of oppressed women rising up against the male patriarchy. In a subversive manner, this is about correcting the male perception of women symbolically not having the balls to do what they can do.

Promoted as a comedy, this is a little misleading as this is very much a provocative drama and any laughs engendered are wry little giggles from the occasional visual gag – like the women stuffing large pads of cotton wool down their trousers when dressing up as men – or incongruent reaction to something serious. Even then, the drama can be quiet slight too, and the rushed finale undoes a lot of the suspense building up to it.

Whilst the message isn’t “all men are useless scum”, many of the male characters are basic tropes women encounter every day, more so with this being set in the 1980s, like the lascivious bank manager. This may never change, but at least women today have a voice to shout back at them. They may not be oppressed in the sense of being chained to the kitchen sink, with the exception of Maria, but they are posited in this instance as “just women”.

Caterina is the youngest, dreaming of studying in England, whilst wild child Chicca is loud, brash, and capricious, and quietly revealed to be a lesbian with a huge crush on Maria. This explains why she is the angriest every time they take Maria to hospital after her latest beating. Yet, Maria is not a victim in the traditional sense in that she is scared of her own shadow and is convinced it’s all her fault – she knows she needs to get away, she just needs that extra push.

By turning the notion of them being hopeless girls on its head, the ploy to dress as men is genius, despite the obvious physical differences they need to disguise. Hidden behind dark glasses, handkerchiefs, wigs, and caps the ruse works and Morandi is searching for a quartet of male robbers. But being careful spending the money is soon ignored, leading to the need for more sees a second, less successful heist that gives Morandi a new direction to take his investigation.

However, it is a third job for a huge amount that is successful but the one that proves to be their downfall as it coincides with Maria finally fighting back against Giuseppe with tragic consequences. At this point, Anna is aware of who Morandi is yet she still gets closer to him, but will he find out that one of the robbers that evade him was in his bed the night before?

Unfortunately, there isn’t time to explore this with any depth as he finally twigs with ten minutes left to go. Mileage will vary as to whether this was a missed opportunity to ramp up the tension and bring out new layers of conflict in the characters, or if we dodged a bullet of mawkish melodrama of regret and deception. It seem odd that this is such fertile ground on which to build a dramatic crescendo, only to blow it all in the space of a few minutes, but there we are.   

So much of what precedes this hasty conclusion is well crafted, with small details about the women and their lives playing a part in their eventual demise as criminals, such as Maria’s religious convictions. One constant facet is the women may be felons but they are retaliating against a male-led society that drove them to it, the “good girls” of the title resorting to desperate measures to free themselves from under male feet, playing them at their own game.  

The four leads give their all to make the characters rise above the script’s occasional lapse into convention, and in creating a chemistry that on paper seems unlikely for such disparate personalities. With the focus being predominantly on Anna and Maria, Ambra Angiolini appears to be the nominal star but the best performance is from Serena Rossi as Maria.

As far as films with ambitious plots and potent messages to impart go, Good Girls has all the ingredients to succeed in this, whilst offering a refreshing take on a stale idea. However, it falters in the final stretch by sprinting towards the finish line and running out of steam when it still had some way to go. A decent watch on the cusp of being a great one until then.

Currently available on Amazon Prime