The charismatic, plucky presence of star Lorenza Izzo lights up Women is Losers, Lisette Feliciano’s thoughtful but tonally confused 1960s film about one Latinx woman’s struggles to build a better life in the face of the time’s rampant sexism. Inspired by “real women”, Feliciano’s aim is clearly to lend a voice to those who battled for a fair shot, and continue to fight for it today. There’s a good, well-intentioned story here and the film genuinely sucks you in with its affecting story of hard-working San Franciscan, Celina, who convincingly transforms from naive teen into a strong-willed mother and businesswoman. This despite getting pregnant at a too-young age to her troubled and troubling boyfriend Matteo, who has just returned from the Vietnam War. She also has to cope with the sudden death of her best friend, played by Pitch Perfect actress Chrissie Fit, to a botched illegal abortion. There’s also the lack of people she can look up to as her abusive parents do little more than fight with one another.
Feliciano clearly values women like Celina, who never let any of their external hardships keep them down for long. There’s just an inconsistency in how the message of feminine strength is delivered. On occasion, Celina breaks the fourth wall Deadpool style to deliver information we could’ve picked up on ourselves. If it was used to make insightful points or to crack a witty aside, it would be one thing. But we don’t need Celina to point out everyday sexism to us, and Feliciano is scattershot with when she feels it’s necessary. It comes across as more of a cheap device than something authentic, a distraction because so much does feel as if it’s coming from a genuine place.
Izzo, who genre fans may remember from Eli Roth’s Knock Knock and Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, attacks her role with maturity, showing a chameleon-like ability to shift from quiet teen to forceful adult in the brief time it takes for Celina to grow her pregnancy belly. Feliciano shows a deft ability to blend seemingly disparate aspects, such as an early dance sequence that suggests Women is Losers will be a very different movie than it turns out to be. Another scene, involving Celina’s progression through pregnancy and the passage of time, is brilliant for how it entrusts the audience, something I hope Feliciano leans into more in future projects.