The Magical Power Of Female Friendship
BY DANNY VIKRAM BELL
6 MARCH 2021
After a year of social restrictions around the globe, one of the things many of us miss is our friendships—those people who get us through life’s non-stop rollercoaster. While we might have managed frequent video calls or socially distanced walks, we’ve all felt the physical distance of our favourite people.
Netflix’s new series, Firefly Lane—starring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke—is a perfectly bingeable and highly enjoyable 10-part celebration of true BFF friendship over the course of three decades. In a deliciously cute extra touch, music for the series is created by best friends and former partners Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, aka Wendy & Lisa, who made their names working for Prince in the 1980s.
Based on the bestselling novel by Kristin Hannah, Netflix describes the show as a “premium soap” and that’s exactly what it is. Expect love triangles, divorce, career rivalry and some very questionable haircuts. A huge hit, the show went to number one on the streaming platform across the globe.
In the spirit of Firefly Lane and HBO’s wonderful Italian and Neapolitan-language series My Brilliant Friend—centered around two friends growing up in Naples in the 1950s—here are eight movies that celebrate the magical power of female friendship. Sit back, enjoy and then video call your best friend and tell them you miss them.
1. Beaches (1988)
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At the top of the list is the greatest female friendship movie of all time. New York stage-school brat CC Bloom (Bette Midler) meets rich kid Hillary Whitney (Barbara Hershey) on holiday in Atlantic City, at 11 years old. Despite being different people, it’s the beginning of a heartwarming friendship that lasts a lifetime. The two iconic leads take you on an emotional rollercoaster through love, divorce, self-doubt, death and so much more. My babysitter took me to the cinema to see this when I was 12, and I cried so much that I spilt nacho cheese all over my new denim jacket. A film that can be watched repeatedly forever.
2. Ghost World (2001)
A cult classic about two high-school outsiders, Enid is played by Thora Birch and Rebecca by a young Scarlett Johansson. Based on a cult graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, everything about this film is cool: the styling, the soundtrack, the script, the story and the performances. But what really gives it the edge is its refusal to adhere to the archetypal Hollywood ending. A film that breaks the mould from beginning to end, its effortless aesthetic still gets referenced two decades later. For those of us who never quite fit in, this is essential viewing.
3. Divines (2016)
First-time French director Houda Benyamina exploded into the world of European cinema with this debut, which won the Caméra d’Or at Cannes. Divines is about two young women who dream of making enough money to escape their housing estate on the outskirts of Paris—the multicoloured, multicultural suburbs of Paris that Emily didn’t quite make it to.
Dounia is played by Benyamina’s younger sister, Oulaya Amamra, and Déborah Lukumuena plays her best friend, Maimouna. Both young women turn in raw, powerful performances. This is a brilliant, exciting film about crime, youth, friendship and womanhood, set in a part of France often forgotten by cinema.
4. Lady Bird (2017)
Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut (following 2008’s Nights and Weekends with co-director Joe Swanberg) is a coming-of-age story about 17-year-old Christine, played by Saoirse Ronan. Christine wants to escape Sacramento, or “the midwest of California” as she calls it, and start her real life at school on the east coast. She constantly clashes with her mother, played by Laurie Metcalf (who picked up an Oscar nomination for her performance), but it’s the scenes with her best friend Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein, which really stand out. More from Vogue
Since this film, Gerwig hit another critical home run with Little Women (2019), and is now co-writing the Barbie movie with her partner, Noah Baumbach (director and writer of 2019’s Marriage Story). Margot Robbie is signed up to play the title role, and there are rumours that Gerwig is directing.
5. Very Good Girls (2013)
The directorial debut of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Naomi Foner (mother of actors Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal). Opening at the Sundance Film Festival, Very Good Girls is the story of two best friends, Lilly (Dakota Fanning) and Gerri (Elizabeth Olsen) spending their final summer together before college.
There are lots of things about the film that aren’t great—in one scene, their shared love interest, ice-cream-man David (Boyd Holbrook) asks Lilly to read Sylvia Plath to him before they kiss—but it tenderly captures the relationship between the two teenagers. A star-studded supporting cast includes Ellen Barkin, Demi Moore, Richard Dreyfuss and Peter Sarsgaard.
6. Waiting To Exhale (1995)
Forest Whitaker’s feature-length directorial debut is written by Terry McMillan and based on her bestselling 1992 novel of the same name. We meet four very different Black women and discover the highs (and lows) of their relationships with men. They search everywhere but have a hard time finding a good man that matches their own excellence.
The late, great Whitney Houston plays Savannah, a successful TV producer and her best friends include housewife Bernadine (Angela Bassett); beauty shop owner and single mother Gloria (Loretta Devine); and high-powered executive Robin (Lela Rochon). The soundtrack, featuring Houston’s stunning centrepiece (Exhale, Shoop Shoop), was a massive hit in its own right—you’ll be streaming the soundtrack within minutes of watching.
7. The Joy Luck Club (1993)
Based on Amy Tan’s bestselling novel, this is the story of four women born in China, now living in San Francisco, and their American-born daughters. The women’s stories are revealed through flashbacks throughout, with past and present interwoven to create the fabric of this beautiful, complex film. For those of us from families who emigrated to the west and whose own family histories are a world away from our own—yet are the heart of who we are—this film is particularly poignant.
8. The Florida Project (2017)
Director Sean Baker’s film about a single mother struggling to bring up her daughter in the Magic Castle—a fading, pastel-colored motel in the shadows of Disney’s Magic Kingdom — is a brilliant, original, breathtaking piece of filmmaking. Central to the movie is the heartrending relationship between Halley (Bria Vinaite) and her six-year-old daughter Moonee, faultlessly played by Brooklynn Prince, as Halley’s life inevitably falls apart. For both actors in their debut roles, these are genuinely stunning performances. After watching this, I sat alone in the cinema for 20 minutes trying to take in what I’d just experienced: Instagram-filtered heartbreak. A true masterpiece.