Moll Flanders, A Cinematherapy Pity Party Movie

When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, unable to spot silver linings or “Keep Your Sunny Side Up,” as the old song goes, a Pity Party movie is a good way to remind yourself that things could always be worse. Let’s face it, it’s easier to feel grateful for what’s going right when you spend ninety minutes watching everything go wrong for someone else.


Pity Party Movie: Moll Flanders

Stars: Robin Wright, Morgan Freeman, Stockard Channing

Director: Pen Densham

Writer: Pen Densham, based on the novel by Daniel Defoe


Eighteenth-century England is not exactly a supportive setting for a plucky and compassionate young woman who has no interest in meekly submitting to patriarchal expectations or rules. Unfortunately, while Moll Flanders (Robin Wright) is able to escape her birthplace—Newgate Prison—and a convent where nuns are more than two centuries away from being able to contact Ronan Farrow regarding Reverend Creepy—the outside world proves quite a trying place, too.


Taken in by a woman of wealth (Stockard Channing), Moll finds her self-esteem plummeting when her job description changes without notice. Her youthful determination to achieve financial stability has blinded her to the warnings that she’s going to have an awfully hard time exploring other opportunities after she consents to a red-light-district life.


When at last Moll finds the courage to dream again, a plot twist throws her right back into utter despair. And then things really get ugly. And then better. And then—really? I mean, is there no justice? Okay, maybe it’s looking up… No. Seriously. Come on, already, people!


By the time you learn what really happened the night of that deadly storm, you’ll be more than ready for a cathartic ending that will wash out all your pent-up frustration, anger, resentment, and grief and leave you feeling that maybe your own life might not be a hopeless cause after all. Moll Flanders: Cinematherapy for when you need to throw a Pity Party and work your way back to feeling strong again.



Cinematherapy image Moll Flanders Pity Party Movie

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Cinematherapy: Shirley Valentine, a Finding Your Voice Movie

Shirley Valentine (1989)

Stars: Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Bernard Hill

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Writer: Willy Russell, based on his play


No worries: Shirley Valentine Bradshaw (Pauline Collins) isn’t climbing the walls. She’s just talking to them, including the fourth one, which lets us into her thoughts that she doesn’t bother sharing with her husband (Bernard Hill). A middle-class British housewife, Shirley has lost her sense of who she is beyond the wife who gets eggs-and-chips on the table by six o’clock prompt. Her husband (Bernard Hill) left his playfulness and flirtatiousness back in the disco era. As for passion, Shirley grumbles, “I think sex is like supermarkets—you know, overrated. Just a lot of pushing and something and you still come out with every little at the end.”

For all her flippant comments, though, Shirley is on the brink of packing up some panties with lace and a silk kimono to spend a fortnight in Greece. But it isn’t a lover she’s seeking—although hey, a frolic with a local innkeeper (Tom Conti) might go well with that Greek wine and sunshine. No, what Shirley really wants is to jump feet first into a bottomless ocean of sensuality and reclaim a self that isn’t afraid to make waves, enjoy a meal by herself, and tell someone “no,” putting a period at the end. She’s setting new terms now that she’s found that paradise is writing your own rules and letting go of the old ideas of who you are and what limits contain you.

When you find that your unflappable younger self seems like a dream child that became lost somewhere around the time that Thursdays petrified into steak-and-potatoes night, Shirley Valentine is the perfect aperitif, a tonic that will rejuvenate you and remind you that all you are seeking is within and always was.


Points to Ponder:

Is there a part of yourself that you need to reclaim, and if so, what rules are going to get smashed if you do?

Do you have enough silk kimono occasions in your life and if not, why not?

Who is the you that is reading these questions and how can you help her express herself?





Shirley Valentine movie poster

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When You Need a Catharsis Movie: Contagion, Your Cinematherapy Rx


(Warner Bros., 2011)

Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne


This movie was made in 2011, which makes the fact that it absolutely mirrors what we are experiencing in real life during the 2020 pandemic so chilling and so cathartic.  There is nothing like watching exactly what you’re going through, down to the period costume detail and the enforced socially distancing laws, to help you get it all out and feel better.


Beth Emhoff, a young, beautiful, and ambitious-in-the-twenty-tens-sense-of-the-word executive returns from a business trip only to die mysteriously of a flu before the horrified eyes of her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) and her two young children. The next morning, her son is dead as well, and it is up to Mitch, who is somehow immune to the virus and his daughter, Rory (Anna Jacoby-Heron), to stay in quarantine in their upper middle class suburban bungalow and survive the scourge until a vaccine can be found.


So you get the drift. Spot on. Watch this movie when you want to objectify the very real world around you, and watch from a distance as humanity struggles with a worse virus than this one and comes out okay on the other side. This movie reassures you that even though things are pretty freakish and downright surreal at the moment, at least you’re not alone. Matt Damon and even Gwyneth Paltrow are going through exactly the same thing that you are.




Contagion movie poster


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Cinematherapy for a Pandemic


(Netflix 3 seasons)

Starring: Jason Bateman, Laura Linney, Julia Garner


This is a great series to watch when you’ve got a bad case of cabin fever, because literally, every time the hero in this series sticks his head out the door, somebody tries to shoot it off. Marty Byrd (Bateman) is an unassuming, mild mannered albeit very creative accountant, who discovers when his partner dies that their company has been laundering money for a Colombian drug cartel. What’s worse, a whole bunch of it is missing. In the first of many fancy high wire acts that Marty and his wife Wendy (Linney) perform with increasing ease and without a net, Marty talks the drug lords into sparing his life so he can launder money for them by building a new Monte Carlo in, wait for it, the Ozarks.


This series is like a backwoods House of Cards. Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are like a Bogie and Bacall for a new generation, who battle together against the outside world and each other in order to find their way back to the garden with guts and glamor. Julia Garner, in a star-making role, is the white trash princess in the classic Greek sense of the word. Ruth Langford is triple scoop of disturbing deliciousness. All three seasons of Ozark reinvents for a pandemic generation the message that Depression-era audiences heard from Dorothy Gale… there’s no place like home.

—Bev West


Ozark studio image

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Cinematherapy Comfort Watching TV Shows and Movies

And THIS is why I’m binge watching the Brady Bunch on Hulu: It’s Cinematherapy comfort watching for when you want to relive the perfect childhood you didn’t have and handle no greater stressor than listening to two siblings in the family room squabble about who stole Bobby’s kazoo or Marcia’s list of campaign slogans for her student council president run. Bradys, take me away! NPR has it right: Returning to Old Favorites (Comfort TV and Books and Music Is a New Trend)
When you want pure escapism, a Happy As the Day Is Long movie or series can help you forget your troubles, stop worrying about the future, and immerse yourself in a bubble bath world as part of your own self-care. Let your cortisol levels drop and remember, the future is unknown, so you might as well imagine it to be a place filled with unicorns and rainbows where every problem reaches a heart-warming, chuckle-worthy denouement in 22 minutes.
Happy As the Day Is Long_ Cinematherapy comfort watching

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His Girl Friday: Cinematherapy Rx for the Working Girl Blues

My Cinematherapy movie Rx for you if you’ve got the Working Girl Blues? I’ve always felt His Girl Friday is a great Cinematherapy movie to watch when you are frustrated by your job (or lack of one) and want to try on someone else’s career for a spell and imagine work that excites you. Plus, with this flick, you get to enjoy the fireworks between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell and spend an hour and a half or so in a world where divorce is merely a first-act plot point to provide and obstacle to a smoldering love affair being rekindled. Makes a gal wanna believe…

So here’s the scoop. In this 1940 movie directed by Howard Hawks, written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, based on their play “The Front Page,” Rosalind Russell plays a reporter and Cary Grant is her former boss who is ready for that sturdy wooden match to spark and rekindle his passion for her. Yeah, there was that divorce thing a while back, and he knows his ex has a plan to marry some Egbert and settle down to raise a family, but he’s got an Important Career to attend to, so a renewed relationship is the last thing he’s looking for.

Uh huh.

Face it. He’s scored far too many scoops to let a chance to reunite go up in smoke, even if he doesn’t realize it. There’s a happy ending he and she are headed for if they can just make sure she misses her train to Mr. Wrong-for-a-go-get-’em-gal-like-her.

Load up His Girl Friday, set the screen to play subtitles so you can catch the faster-than-an-ADHD-brain dialogue, and remember, it’s possible to have a love affair with yourself and your job as well as a guy.

That said, let’s just take a moment to appreciate Cary Grant as a classic RomCom hunk. I’d say he goes head-to-head with Clark Gable in this category, although back in the 70s, my fifteen-year-old self was on Team Gable all the way. I’ll take both of them silkscreened on a kissable pillow or as a celebrity crush, birth and death dates be damned. In the movies, Gable and Grant live forever, so why not indulge in crushing on them?

—Nancy Peske



His Girl Friday: A Cinematherapy Rx for when you’re suffering from the Working Girl Blues

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A Cinematherapy Women Behaving Badly Movie: Beyond the Forest

Beyond the Forest (1949)
Stars: Bette Davis, Joseph Cotton
Director: King Vidor
Writer: Lenore J. Coffee, based on the novel by Stuart Engstrand

It’s hard not to reach the pinnacle of hysteria when you live in small-town Wisconsin where the sawmill spews hot flames and thick smoke all night long and you have to keep your shades drawn to blot out the inferno-like reminder that “Life in Loyalton is like sitting in a funeral parlor, waiting for the funeral to begin. No, not sitting—lying in a coffin and waiting for them to carry you out….You got a drink?” Yes, the big fun here is shootin’ critters from tree unless you get lucky one night and find yourself flirtin’ with a handsome stranger who by some extraordinary luck ends up in the local lodge for the weekend.
Rosa Moline (Bette Davis) has sharpened her snark to achieve maximum effect whenever she sees her husband (Joseph Cotton), because he reminds her of just how badly she wants to take the first train to Chicago and order up a dry martini from room service. But is Rosa Moline really all that bad, a scorpion in a mad fury ready to sting herself to eternal death due to her evil and headstrong ways? Or is she just a woman with unmet needs who is misunderstood, underappreciated, and at the mercy of a narrator prone to overwrought prose?

When you’re about to scream from boredom and ready to reconnect with your bad girl self and start misbehaving, head to your liquor cabinet, shake or stir as you prefer, and check out the Cinematherapy Women Behaving Badly movie Beyond the Forest. Girl, do not apologize for your need for self-care right now, ‘cause we know your urge is killer.

BeyondtheForest Women Behaving Badly Cinematherapy Movie

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