By: Addison Wylie
New Yorkers must’ve sensed something was up when the Big Apple was suddenly populated by topless female protesters. Then, celebrities like Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne, and Lena Dunham were throwing their support behind trending hashtag #FreeTheNipple. Something was definitely up.
Alas, it was all for Lina Esco’s movie Free the Nipple and the empowering mission supporting it. Esco and various other activists seen in Free the Nipple feel very passionately about inequality censor laws that prohibit women from going topless publicly. Meanwhile, men are not questioned when they’re seen without a shirt – including formal shirtless models in local Abercrombie and Fitch vestibules.
Esco plays With, a newly fired journalist whom sees story potential in NY activist Liv (played by Gone Girl’s Lola Kirke). After meeting, they both figure out that they’re identically upset over the stigma shirtless women are exposed to. Liv and With rally together and form a movement titled “Free the Nipple”, which focuses on live demonstrations and button-pushing displays to try and pursued the right people to reevaluate modern views on this issue.
There’s no doubting the fire that fuels Free the Nipple. Like its characters and filmmakers, this is a film that charges at full speed in order to be seen and heard. However, sometimes that enthusiasm can unintentionally translate to frantic spasms through the eyes of Esco’s corner-cutting movie, which was written by London writer/director Hunter Richards.
The film embodies the same intellect as avid, free-spirited high schoolers wanting to make a difference, yet have no realization of the consequences that may follow. One of the troupe’s goals is to protest in Washington, DC, but no one is thinking of transportation or other organization. Everyone just wants to “stick it to the man”. Even when money is discussed, totals are tossed out without any real understanding behind the figures, or how costly the campaign could become and how broke the volunteers actually are. Crucial information is treated as trivial in Free the Nipple.
I hate to rain on Free the Nipple’s optimistic campaign, but realism is needed to fully engage the audience. There’s also a disconnect with how exactly the girls sign on additional help. Older overseers (including Janeane Garofalo’s Anouk, a French artist who has everything but a baguette) willingly invest time and money into With and Liv, but hardly anyone has any questions. Movie goers are supposed to take Free the Nipple seriously, but when so much sensibility is bypassed, minds start to wander and we wish for a grounded reality.
Free the Nipple is a solid start for Lina Esco’s career behind the camera. Especially when her last experience on a movie set was acting in Lisa Azuelos’ inanely vapid LOL – time for bigger and better things, Lina. Her style of guerrilla filmmaking is courageous, and she has a keen eye for attractive kitsch in a city that’s larger than life. She’s able to establish friendly connections between actors, and she sure knows how to select hip songs for a soundtrack. As long as she works on her realist maturity, I have no doubt her next movie will leave Free the Nipple in the dust.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie