There’s plenty of the weird, the bizarre, and the downright awful in the wild west of Video on Demand. There are also plenty of gems if you know where to mine. First-time director Shira Piven’s Fully Loaded is one such diamond in the rough, offering up strong leading ladies under the surface of a simple plot.
Part buddy comedy, part campy mumblecore, Fully Loaded straps us into the backseat of a mom-mobile to listen in on a girl’s night out set to a rocking soundtrack affectionately known as the “Mommy Mix.” Paula (Paula Killen) and Lisa (Lisa Orkin), are best friends on the run from a hookup that’s gone south in a parking lot. Retreat to their van, the pair screech out onto L.A.’s neverending streets, telling jokes to break the tension. Before long, we’re listening in on their lives, reviewing breakups and divorces, problems with parenting, and other assorted midlife crises (cancer) and questions (can you be a feminist if you also want to be taken care of?).
Like a funnier and less tragic Thelma and Louise, Paula and Lisa are the relatable middle-class single ladies you’ve probably seen letting loose in your local bar on a Saturday night. Their problems are a little less rarefied than those of the characters in This is 40, and their values earthier than the ones on display in female raunch-coms What’s Your Number?, in which self-worth is equated with sexual restraint. Both Paula and Lisa are single mothers, and a scene in which they discuss the people they’ve slept with, Paula’s recollection cuts to a staircase teeming with men, with a number of women clustered at the top of the stairs yelling, “What about us?!” Elsewhere, they consider the dynmaics of their own friendship, wondering openly whether their closeness would have been possible if they’d sustained romantic relationships.
Working backward, the women’s backstories are intercut with the series of events that lead up to the getaway we see them make at the start of the film; while it would be very easy to topple the Jenga blocks of the storyline, director Piven is clever enough to tie up digressions when they’re necessary to move the story along. And the dialogue seems genuine for a reason: Killen and Orkin have been developing Paula and Lisa’s interplay on the stage at improv venue Upright Citizens Brigade.
Fully Loaded is not without its bumps in the road: There’s some hurried handheld camera work; the characters use some pretty ableist language, and I’m not too sure where I stand on depictions of drinking while breastfeeding. The movie probably wouldn’t pass the Bechdel Test, given that the majority of its dialogue conversation centers on relationships with men, but take that note with a grain of margarita salt. This is a movie about living past both the walk of shame and the drag of divorce, and for that, I salute it. I’d love to see Piven—who, besides being from a well-known acting family, is the mother of Pearl, the hilarious trash-talking tot from the notorious Funny Or Die video The Landlord —take on more wisecracking, straight-talking ladies. If you’re lost in the wide world of VOD, see if Fully Loaded is your choice of drink.