Early in writer-director Coley Sohn’s debut feature, Sassy Pants, Bethany Pruitt (Ashley Rickards) goes into her closet for something to wear and pointedly reaches past a sea of pink items for a plain gray sweatshirt. It’s a simple and evocative image that not only demonstrates her mood in that moment, but also says something about her life: This isn’t a modern teen girl’s closet, but that of a doll, forced into a confectioner’s nightmare of girlish pink every day to satisfy some higher power’s notions of sweet femininity.
Sohn quickly makes it clear who’s keeping that closet looking like a Barbie Playhouse: Bethany’s domineering mother June (Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn), a prudish obsessive whose reaction to her husband running off with another man has been to shield her children from the world, home school them and essentially keep them under house arrest.
That pink closet as a symbol of oppression, and the minor act of rebellion in choosing the dull gray sweatshirt, are both underlined when June takes Bethany for a high school graduation dress. She dismisses the fetching little red number Bethany chooses as “something your dad might wear” before pushing a pink dress with a suffocating neckline at her, insisting to the shopkeeper that pink is her daughter’s favorite color. The moment hammers home a point that was made more elegantly in the earlier scene. And that’s an effective summary of both the strengths and weaknesses of Sassy Pants, which often undermines its stronger sequences with on-the-nose overemphasis.
Continue reading the rest of my review over at NPR.
Tags | NPR | review | coming of age | Haley Joel Osment | comedy | drama