“Did you think that if you never admitted it, that it never happened? That if you left it out of your story it would be erased from mine?” These are questions from Asking for It, a film that challenges us to deal with the cognitive dissonance of seeking revenge while coloring outside of the lines.
Asking for It is the millennial child of The Beguiled and Sucker Punch and the wild, “bad influence” older cousin to Level 16, and I’m here for it. While vigilante justice rarely works out in favor of the underdogs, this fantastical tale of railing against the patriarchy provides a moment of self-righteous glee in a wild imagining of retribution for crimes against women. However, the film is a good reminder that with any plot glorifying destruction, be careful the grave you are digging isn’t your own.
Kiersey Clemons, who plays the movie’s main character, is flanked by Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, Gabourey Sidibe, Radha Mitchell, Leslie Stratton, Leyna Bloom, Casey Camp-Horinek, Ezra Miller, and Luke Hemsworth. Joey (Clemons) leads a pretty simple, humdrum life until she is sexually assaulted by an acquaintance. She goes on a date, becomes intoxicated, and wakes to her rapist telling her, “I think I pulled out in time, but just in case you should probably take Plan B,” while leaving money on the nightstand.
Regina (Shipp), a regular customer at the restaurant where Joey waits tables, has been watching and picks up that something is awry in the days following the assault. She invites Joey into a world where women not only dominate but take joy in making men pay for unchecked bad behavior.
Joey is shaken the first time she sees what these women do, but after a moment, she views this as an opportunity to take back her power. She forsakes the comfort and camaraderie of her grandparents’ home to chase a sense of belonging and connection to women she admires. Mayhem ensues as the group go after members of the MFM (Man First Movement), whose leader (Miller) touts beliefs such as, “Can’t be too gentle with them [women]. Gotta make sure they understand how you wanna use them. And of course we expect them to fight back because it wouldn’t be any fun if they didn’t.”
This film, written and directed by Eamon O’Rourke, receives a 3.5 out of 5 from me. On the plus side, a woman getting revenge is usually a good starting point, though their antics were far-fetched. The cast itself was great, and most of them were believable in their roles. However, Hudgins, who plays the edgy and reckless Beatrice, didn’t fully extract herself from the “good girl” image that we’re accustomed to seeing her do without it feeling just a little bit forced. The soundtrack was fire and had me bouncing more than once; it’s heavier on the trap music end of the spectrum. The cinematography feels gritty and gives indie film vibes without feeling low-budget. Each character’s name and personality are highlighted when they are introduced, making it feel like your favorite heist movie. This made a negative subject the catalyst of something fun and dangerous at the same time.
On the minus side, there was not much nuance. All of the men, with the exception of Vernon (Hemsworth), were an extreme characterization of the worst parts of the patriarchy — believing that women don’t really know what they want and need to be dominated and that breaking women down using “negging” (highlighting perceived negative attributes in conversation) is a great way to control them. The women were the stuff of anti-feminists’ nightmares — spraying men with sterilization chemicals and preparing to rape them with dildos are just a couple of examples. The only nuance that resonated was Joey’s struggle with whether the means justify the ends. There were also some plot holes, such as how these women could afford to live and dish out justice as they saw fit, how long they had been operating, and whether any of them faced legal ramifications for their behavior.
In the midsts of the ramifications of the ‘me too’ Movement, this film is probably not going to prompt regular men to be self-reflective of their choices when it comes to relations between the sexes. It probably won’t fire women up to protect and stand in the gap for other women. It does not address or underscore the justice system’s ridiculousness of victims not only having to endure assault but also then having to explain why they should not have been assaulted in the first place. The film can, however, be used as a tool for evaluation and discussion of the imbalance of power and the depravity of the system that either ignores or slap the wrists of its worst offenders. Though not a think piece, Asking for It seems to do exactly what it intended, and that is to entertain.
You can watch Asking for It in theaters and on demand on March 4, 2022.
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Celestial Holmes is passionate about the power of prose, and she uses it to uplift her people for various Afrocentric outlets. She is also a published author, writing under the pseudonym Mbinguni.