Did you love I Hate Suzie? Billie Piper’s new film, Rare Beasts, continues the star’s exploration of being a modern woman.
“Money. Cock. Promotion.” These are the affirmations that a chorus of women internally repeat while tapping their heads and walking around London in Billie Piper’s Rare Beasts. It’s one of many scathing scenes in the film that address the anxieties of being a modern woman.
Much like Piper’s recent hit series, I Hate Suzie, it follows a woman in her 30s who is navigating a crisis. Piper has said she wants the story to “encourage debate and conversation” – and that’s exactly what it does, but you need to stop and really think about what you’ve just watched first, because there’s a lot of ground covered here.
Mandy is a single mum – whose idea of a healthy relationship is skewered by her parents’ complicated breakup – writing about a love that no longer exists for her job in television and dating a man (Pete) who, despite being utterly intolerable to watch, she continues to try to forge a relationship with. She’s also juggling the news of her mum’s cancer diagnosis, the return of her absent dad who she hates, and her young son’s behavioural problems.
“Even though I feel scared and angry, I still love and respect myself,” is her own head-tapping mantra.
As Mandy navigates all of this, she creates a slew of memorable scenes. Take, for instance, Mandy’s awkward striptease for Pete, where she introduces her physical flaws one by one before she can relax enough for them to have sex. Instead of being outraged that Pete negatively comments on her boobs, back, caesarean scar and feet as she strips, Mandy actually feels her insecurities are validated and she warms to him.
There’s also the beautiful but archaic wedding that Mandy attends, with a ceremony that focuses on the wife obeying her husband. The bride (played by Lily James) reveals to Mandy afterwards that she chose it herself, claiming she’s a “post post post feminist”. And there’s the scene where Mandy and her friends sit around a dinner table sniffing endless lines of cocaine as they relentlessly bitch, complain and compare their lives. “I shouldn’t be crying on coke,” one of the women shouts in floods of tears.
It’s an endless stream of anxiety-inducing moments that make for a chaotic (but very stylish) viewing. It’s the last scene, however, that actually offers some needed clarity.
Mandy admits that all she wants is “an easy life, a five-hour day, and a nice bloke”. The ‘forbidden’ thoughts of a modern woman are laid bare; but in turn, the female chorus gets angry and shouts at her for having these very thoughts. In saying out loud what it is she really wants in life to feel happy, Mandy’s feminist values are questioned.
Piper has said that this film is about “a female nihilist trying to navigate this liberated progressive time in women’s history, and the crisis and confusion that comes with that.” And haven’t most of us grappled with similar thoughts around our professional, romantic and family lives at some point?
Rare Beasts is released in UK cinemas on 21 May.
Images: Republic Film Distribution
Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…