Review of Johanna Goldstein’s The Girl in the Green Dress
This review is part of our double feature on The Girl in the Green Dress. Please also see our interview with Leah McKendrick and Sara Fletcher.
The Girl in the Green Dress (2015). United States, 16 minutes. Directed by Johanna Goldstein. Starring Sara Fletcher, Leah McKendrick, and Brian R. Norris.
The Girl in the Green Dress, a film written, produced, and directed entirely by women, highlights the complexities and struggles faced by women living in the U.S. during the 1950s. The film intends to complicate stereotypical portrayals of housewives living simply and tending to their homes and husbands during that time period. Through the layering of contemporary dance and beautiful imagery, The Girl in the Green Dress showcases the passion, ambition, and strength often fueling the core of strong female bonds.
From the first few seconds of the film, I was immersed in the underlying tension so vividly illustrated by both the dialogue and the visuals on screen. In the opening scene, a group of women sit around a coffee table in what appears to be an immaculate home. Led by Margaret (Courtney Hawkins), the women discuss their reactions to the book Lolita, debating the suitability of this book as a selection for their book club. As the women discuss the book and its potential indiscretions, the camera slows down and pauses on women’s faces, allowing viewers to linger a little longer as they see into the faces of women who are frequently overlooked. The camera captures an unspoken attraction between Ann (Sara Fletcher) and Page (Leah McKendrick), two women who exchange stares across the room amidst a seemingly mundane conversation.
As the film progresses, the tension between Ann and Page continues to escalate. While the women share passionate looks across the room during their book club meetings, they are simultaneously portrayed giving and receiving blank stares with their respective husbands at home. When Ann attempts to tell her husband about the book club over dinner, for instance, she is immediately shut down, left to sit alone at the dinner table before cleaning up the room as her husband goes to bed.
Eventually, Ann and Page get closer, engaging in vivid dancing signifying their passion and desire. These dance scenes showcase Ann and Page being liberated from reality, allowing themselves and their bodies to be free and in motion. Ann and Page dance together beautifully, showcasing their undeniable chemistry.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the blend of narrative and contemporary dance represented in the film, I also think it’s important to always be conscious of potential misinterpretations that may arise from this type of symbolism. As a viewer, I wonder if the indirectness of the sex scenes between Ann and Page could (unintentionally) contribute toward hesitancies and resistance against homosexual partnerships in the media. After all, we do see their unfulfilled sexual encounters with their partners. The contrast between Ann and Page’s dancing and the sexual encounters with their respective husbands provides an interesting portrayal of passion and desire that adds to the artistry of the film. The art direction and stunning costumes brilliantly illustrate the emotions moving the plot.
Ultimately, Ann and Page’s desire for one another faces extenuating circumstances, once again forcing the women to choose between their own desires and the societal pressures imposed upon them. The ongoing pressure of adhering to societal expectations while fighting one’s aspirations is so vividly represented in this period piece. The director does a remarkable job showcasing the journey of two women who arduously navigate the challenges of their contemporary society. Fletcher and McKendrick portray these tensions throughout the film, both through their eloquent delivery and powerful non-verbal movements. Throughout the film, viewers experience the contrast between desire and guilt at the core of these women’s identities, providing a space for us to question the societal structures and prejudices that fuel this tension. The Girl in the Green Dress, though in some ways confirming the stereotypes that it aims to fight against, also gives viewers a chance to think through the challenges women face as we push beyond gender binaries and societal pressures.