20somethings Harper (Bridey Elliott) and Allie (Clare McNulty) share an apartment together in New York and basically, do nothing. Harper constantly collects money from her rich daddy, whereas Allie is joining the Peace Corps for a mission in Liberia, if only so that she can tell people that she’s “joining the Peace Corps”. Together, they’re best friends who love to make fun of others around them, but at the same time, like all best friends tend to do after a certain amount of time, get on each other’s nerves. This begins to happen a whole heck of a lot one day when, for no reason other than to just relax, Harper and Allie decide to go to the beach. Problem is, getting there’s not as much of a joy as they’d expected it to be, what with transportation, money, responsibilities back at home, and all that. Mostly though, it’s Harper who seems to be holding the trip back, and this is something that irritates Allie so much that she eventually reaches her breaking point and puts their friendship into perspective.
Or so I think.
A problem with talking about a movie like Fort Tilden is that it’s so simple, easy-to-follow, and limited in its scope, that it’s hard to talk about its strengths, without sound so ridiculously repetitive. That these characters spend the whole movie constantly moaning and complaining about everything in their life, for nearly an-hour-and-a-half only makes more sense considering that I’m having a hard time recalling what it is about this movie that really worked for me. Was it that these two characters perfectly portray the millennial, me-me-me lifestyle? Or, was it that it’s a movie that didn’t seem to try too hard to be anything other than a small character-study of two characters we don’t get to see much of?
It’s a little bit of both, but ultimately, what it all comes down to is that the movie doesn’t pull away any sort of punches.
This is mostly in the department of how these characters are written, what they say to one another and others, and how it affects them, as well as those around them. Because Harper and Allie are annoying, snarky, mean, and are always putting others down for shallow reasons, it would make sense that spending a whole time with them as they try to helplessly navigate their way to the beach would just be downright dreadful, right? Well, if that sort of thing bothers you and you don’t think you can get past those problems, then sorry, move onto the next item.
However, for those of you who think that there’s more to that, then stick around cause eventually, you’ll find it. Though co-writers and directors Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers don’t exactly make these two characters the nicest human beings alive, there’s something sympathetically pathetic about them that makes it seem like all of their mean-spiritedness comes from a place a passion; the same kind of place that, had it been tuned-down a whole bunch, probably would make these two some very likable ladies. But because they aren’t likable and are never stray away from making people feel worse than they sometimes do, it makes them all the more interesting.
It would have been easy for Bliss and Rogers for Harper and Allie to eventually have their comeuppance, get together, turn the other cheek and play nice, once and for all, but they aren’t concerned with this at all. They know that these characters, for better and for worse, may never, ever change; they may always stay miserable, hurtful and nasty forever. But they’ll still be awoken to the world around them and realize that maybe, just maybe, their problems aren’t the only ones in the world that are worth caring about.
Although Allie knows this more clearly about Harper, they still share enough of the same views and ideas that makes it understandable why they’re besties in the first place. They both love to sick the fangs into others around them that they meet and they most definitely love spending money on stuff that they can’t actually afford, but still want anyway. But together, there’s something about them that seems a bit off and it constantly makes this movie tick – almost as if some metaphorical bomb were to go off.
And eventually, it does, but the way in how it’s handled, is still smart for a movie that could have clearly gone the sentimental route.
It should be noted, too, that Harper and Allie are as good as best friends here, if mostly due to the fact that Bridey Elliott and Clare McNulty share incredible chemistry together. Though they’re a lot more Valley Girl than most portrayals of the millennial generation would have you believe, they still feel raw and honest, as if Lena Dunham had gotten tired of working for HBO and wanted to show the real people she hangs out with on a regular-basis. Maybe that comparison is already scaring people away, but have no fear: Girls and Fort Tilden are a little different from one another that makes it easy to enjoy one, but maybe not the other.
But like I said, Elliott and McNulty do well together and also help but their characters through the way they hold conversations together, or in some cases, argue. Harper is a lot more childish than Allie and because of this, she’s holding Allie back a lot from what it is that she wants to do with her life. Anybody who has ever had a friend, best or not, can totally understand how this feels and how it is you go about addressing the situation – they’re still your friend, however, it’s time to tell them what’s up and you don’t want to seem too much like a dick. So basically, the best way to go about it is just to be passive aggressive, hope they don’t get too offended, and see what you two can do next. Unless they’ve totally ditched you and you’re on your own. For now, that is.
Because besties always come back. No matter what.
Consensus: Fort Tilden, despite seeming repetitive at times, is insightful, funny and honest enough that makes it worth a watch if you still can’t get enough millennial flavor to hold you over till the next season of Girls.
7 / 10