Welcome to Peculiar Picture Show, the podcast that talks about movies, maladies, and mental health. I’m one of your hosts, Brandon Gregory, and my co-host Maria isn’t with me today because we’re taking a quick break this week. You may be wondering what this episode is doing here, since we were in the middle of a series talking about systemic racism. Well, we needed a short break to catch up on some things, so you get this episode of levity. We’ll get back to our series in the next episode.
I’ve been listening to some podcasts lately, and it turns out, podcasts are really self-indulgent. Like, it’s mostly just people who are full of themselves spouting off their opinions into the void of nobody gives a fuck. So I’ve been thinking, how can I do that? How can I make this podcast more self-indulgent? And I came up with the idea to talk about my top 10 movie crushes, because, I figure, what could people care less about than that?
Before I start, I’ll reiterate that this podcast is run by two former English majors with mental health issues, so a lot of my crushes involve mental illness and metaphorical interpretations of what’s going on. So you’re still getting a podcast about movies, maladies, and mental health, it’s just a little different than our other episodes. With that explanation out of the way, let’s begin!
#10 – Clementine Kruczynski – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
From the first time I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, there was something about Clementine that caught my attention. She was kind of like that manic pixie dream girl trope you see in so many movies, but the film wasn’t afraid to show some flaws in Clementine and portray a bit of realism. Unlike to trope, Clementine wasn’t just around to make Joel grow as a character—she had her own desires and areas of growth, and I just loved her character.
Well, here’s a bit of context: the first time I saw this film was right after I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was still piecing things together. So, when I first saw it, I didn’t realize that this film gives us a relationship between two people with mental illness. They don’t come right out and say it, but I’m pretty sure Clementine has Borderline Personality Disorder. Even though my condition was different than either Joel’s or Clementine’s, I just really connected with that—initially, without even knowing it.
Also, that hair. Oh my god.
#9 – Frances Halladay – Frances Ha (2012)
I think I’ve got a thing for independent women, and that’s definitely Frances. First, let’s take a step back, the movie-making industry is dominated by men, so that’s why we get so many poorly-written women in film. There are so many films out there where the plot is about some man realizing things about himself while a woman helps him figure it out. So it’s really refreshing to see a film about a young woman realizing things about herself, having flaws and growing beyond them. And, on some level, a man does help her figure things out, but it’s not about the man or the romance—it’s about Frances. I’ve said before, strong female characters are characters that are allowed to have flaws, to be imperfect and deal with that. That’s definitely something we see in Frances.
Really, Frances is just a fun character, and this is a fun movie. The scenes of her play-fighting with her friend Sophie really captured that raw feeling of just goofing off with your friends. And this film also captured that weird feeling of being in your 20s and trying to figure out life. Like, what is my purpose, but also how do I make money and not starve to death? Frances has to learn that what makes life important for someone else isn’t necessarily going to work for her, and her answer may not make sense to someone else. I don’t know about you guys, but that’s definitely something I related to in my 20s.
Also, Greta Gerwig. Oh my god.
#8 – Princess Leia – Return of the Jedi (1983)
OK, I first saw this film in… You know what, I don’t even have to explain this one. You know.
#7 – Allison Reynolds – The Breakfast Club (1985)
OK, THIS film, I first saw in high school—which I will stress meant that I was the same age as Allison—and I instantly fell in love with Allison. She was my favorite character, she was adorable, and I strongly suspect she had undiagnosed mental illness. Now, I talk about Allison’s probable mental illness and how I related to that at length in a previous episode entitled “On Growing Up with Bipolar Disorder: A Retrospect in Film,” so I’m not going to talk too much about it here, but I will say that I really related to Allison, although it was years before I realized why—I didn’t get diagnosed until my senior year of college.
A lot of films would have just stuck with that generic movie-crazy that a lot of movies seem to go for, which isn’t really mental illness, it’s just quirky. I think Allison had a little more depth than that. She’s obviously not 100% realistic, as I think this film was a little over the top across the board, but there was enough truth there to connect with me.
And, yes, I’ll address the elephant in the room here: she’s a high school student, so I obviously don’t have a crush on her now as a 38-year-old man. But she was about 17 in 1985, so she’s, what, like 52 now? I actually prefer older women.
#6 – Amelie Poulain – Amelie (2001)
First up, fact: every heterosexual man has a crush on Amelie. If you don’t know that, I’m going to say it’s 100% true. Amelie is adorable, and she’s so kind, and she speaks French, and those are all good things.
BUT—you probably saw this one coming—I also related to Amelie because I believe she also has undiagnosed mental illness. Again, they don’t really state this outright, but Amelie is a pretty good portrait of anxiety, particularly social anxiety, so her attempts to reach out past her mental illness to find love were pretty relatable to me. I talk more about Amelie’s possible mental illness in a previous episode, The Top 5 Mental Illnesses and Their Best Portrayals in Film, so if you want to hear more about that, listen to that episode.
Anyway, Amelie. I think everyone has a crush on Amelie.
#5 – Ramona Flowers – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
If you haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, it’s this weird mix of hipster culture, 90s nostalgia, indie rock music, and a bunch of other fun stuff. There’s this guy—he’s a bass player, like me—named Scott Pilgrim, and at first, Ramona Flowers is literally the girl from his dreams, but we find out it’s actually because she’s a delivery girl for Amazon and a subspace highway runs right through Scott’s brain. I don’t know, it’s not described very well in the film. But Scott falls for Ramona, only to discover that, in order to be with her, he has to defeat her seven evil exes, who have formed a league to keep Ramona from dating anyone else. If it sounds ridiculous, it is, but it’s clever, and it just kind of runs with the ridiculousness and it’s fun.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to claim Ramona has undiagnosed mental illness—there’s no indication of that. But I think the task of defeating her evil exes is actually a pretty competent metaphor for overcoming the emotional baggage a woman has from bad relationships in the past. It’s not like Ramona is really, really damaged, but she’s definitely cautious, and I think that speaks volumes for how worried she is. Ramona kind of hides behind this blasé facade, where it seems like it’s really hard to impress her, but when you go a bit deeper, she’s actually concerned for the people who fall in love with her because she doesn’t want to subject someone to all that baggage. I don’t know, I guess I like that about her.
Also, that hair, oh my god.
#4 – Belle – Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Belle was actually one of my first movie crushes, even before Allison from The Breakfast Club, so this one goes back years. And it’s not really all that complicated. She’s intelligent, she’s really caring, she has a lovely singing voice, and she does not put up with Gaston’s toxic masculinity bullshit. Also, she’s French.
#3 – Bonnie Parker – Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
OK, so we have a legendary outlaw with impeccable fashion taste and a certain discontent for life—what’s not for me to like? Nowadays, when you rob a bank, you wear a mask, you wear gloves, you disguise yourself. Bonnie comes from an era where you walk in, rob the bank, and say, “Just so everybody knows, we’re Bonnie and Clyde. Everybody got that? Did someone write it down? Bonnie and Clyde.” There was this audacity to what she did and it was really fun to watch.
But there’s a real depth to Faye Dunaway’s performance as Bonnie that makes this more than a cheap crime thriller. Bonnie has this Existential angst through the whole movie, kind of like the Beckett play Waiting for Godot, where she’s waiting for something to make her life better, but she doesn’t know what that is, and she doesn’t know what it will do, and she can’t really move on without it. There’s a real sadness underneath it all, and she never really gets to deal with that.
Now, at this point, this is a pretty depressing list, because I keep admitting to being attracted to depression, emotional baggage, and stuff like that. As someone with mental illness, this has always just seemed natural to me.
#2 – Margot Tenenbaum – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
I’m a bit of a hipster and a movie buff, so you know a Wes Anderson movie is showing up on this list, and Margot is my choice. The Royal Tenenbaums was my first Wes Anderson movie, and I loved it when I saw it in 2002. Margot really caught my attention. She had it all: really cool clothes, depression, dark circles around the eyes. I mean, she really had it all.
My co-host Maria and I are big fans of this film, which is why we chose it for our second episode of this podcast. There are things we liked as former English majors, like all the symbolism and the parallels with the works of J.D. Salinger. And we talked a lot about the family drama and resulting emotional baggage. So I might be more in love with this film than Margot herself, I liked a lot about Margot, so she’s on the list.
#1 – Fran Kubelik – The Apartment (1960)
Alright, in the #1 spot, we have a character many modern movie-goers have not heard of, but one that’s very near and dear to my heart. The Apartment is a film that manages to be both happy and sad, and it does both of those things really well—probably better than most other movies that try to walk that line. And a big part of why that dynamic works so well is the character of Fran Kubelik. Fran is a depressed character who works really hard to be cheery. In fact, this film captured that aspect of depression better than any movie for decades to come.
At this point, it should be no surprise that a character I feel could relate to my own depression is #1 on my list. Fran has other things going for her. She’s cute, she’s funny, and she’s smarter than other people give her credit for. But it’s that dogged determination to be happy in spite of all her pain that really caught my attention.