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5 Indie Heroines Who Need To Get Their Shit Together

Jess Weixler’s Jillian, the heroine of 'Free Samples' (TFF 2012), is a young woman on the verge of starting her life as an adult…if she can get her act together.

Have you ever experienced a quarter life crisis? Directed by Jay Gammill, Free Samples starts with a protagonist in the midst of hers. Indie darling Jess Weixler (Teeth, Somebody Up There Likes Me) plays aimless twentysomething Jillian who takes a break from Stanford Law School and her fiancé, drinks heavily and searches for her path in life. After a hard night out and an even rougher morning, Jillian is asked by her best friend Nancy to cover an all-day shift doling out free samples from Mike's Dream ice cream truck. Jillian reluctantly agrees and, with a massive hangover, prepares herself for a day of dealing with an assortment of strange Angelenos.

Equipped with an acid tongue, Jillian takes out her frustrations on the ice cream truck patrons, suffering fools not at all. Despite being at such a strange impasse in her life, Jillian does manage to find an unexpected mentor (played by Tippi Hedren) who forces her to look at things differently. Featuring a supporting cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Jason Ritter and Halley Feiffer, Free Samples is tailor-made for the diffident millennial generation. The TFF 2012 film is now playing in NYC at Cinema Village.

Inspired by Jillian’s journey in Free Samples, we look at 5 other indie heroines who need to get their shit together.

Jersey Girl (1992)
Jami Gertz as Toby

Every Friday night we go to the same place with the same people, we eat the same garbage food. The last guy I made love to forgot my name! There’s something desperately wrong with my life.

Arguably one of the most underrated romantic comedies of the early 90s, Jersey Girl stars Jami Gertz as Toby, a preschool teacher from New Jersey who dreams of a better life in the Big Apple. She has a great group of friends who are satisfied with their lives as is and an overbearing father, whom she loves, but finds suffocating. Obsessed with meeting a successful man and starting anew, she desperately stakes out a BMW dealership and desperately crashes her car into one owned by Manhattanite (formerly of Queens) Sal (a devastatingly handsome Dylan McDermott). Taking this encounter as fate, Toby aggressively pursues Sal, who is oddly drawn to her even though he knows that she doesn’t belong in his more affluent world.

Over the course of the film, Toby tries to get what she wants, by turning herself into someone she’s not and abandoning her friends. It’s not until she just accepts herself for who she is that good things began to happen for her. Toby’s story makes it clear that persistence and self-awareness make anything is possible.

Reality Bites (1994)
Winona Ryder as Lelaina Pierce

I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.

One of cinema’s most relatable protagonists has got to be Lelaina Pierce of Reality Bites, perhaps Winona Ryder’s most iconic performance. Lelaina, a recent college graduate and valedictorian, is at an impasse in her post-education life as she struggles to become a filmmaker. Fired because of an act of rebellion at the local TV station, Lelaina decides to make a documentary about her group of friends—which includes the handsome musician/poet Troy (Ethan Hawke). Living off her parent’s charity, making exorbitantly expensive phone calls to a psychic 1-900 number, and wallowing in self-pity, Lelaina thinks she has hit the big time when she meets Michael (Ben Stiller), a yuppie TV producer who wants to turn her documentary into a show.

A poster child for Generation X, Lelaina must confront alienation from her friends and the stark reality of adulthood before she grows into herself. Reality Bites provides a hilarious and poignant look at a group of postgraduates struggling to find their way in a hostile world.

Party Girl (1995)
Parker Posey as Mary

I would like a nice, powerful, mind-altering substance. Preferably one that will make my unborn children grow gills.

In Party Girl, Parker Posey stars as the free spirited Mary, a young woman with little direction in life. With a closet full of designer clothes but no money to pay her rent, Mary throws a huge fund-raising party at her loft, only to be arrested for illegal activities. Her godmother, Judy, bails her out of jail and forces Mary to take a job at the library where she works. Aimless and directionless, Mary is surprised and shocked by Judy’s demand that she actually work. Through her relationship with a shy Lebanese street vendor, Mary begins to find new meaning in a life apart from her club friends.

Though she suffers mishaps along the way, Mary never loses her style or her sense of self. Party Girl is an inspirational movie for any girl who feels both lost and found.

Walking and Talking (1996)
Catherine Keener as Amelia

We used to talk about things! You used to need me, for Christ's sake.   

Walking and Talking is celebrated filmmaker Nicole Holofcener’s debut feature and the first collaboration with her muse Catherine Keener. Keener plays Amelia, a young woman whose life begins to fall apart once her best friend Laura (Anne Heche) announces that she is getting married. After her cat is diagnosed with cancer, Amelia tries to find relief by dating the local video store clerk and bending the ear of her friend and former beau, Andrew (Live Schreiber). With her life in shambles, Amelia lashes out at Laura, not realizing that maybe she too is struggling with her own crisis.

At the end, Amelia realizes that only she can make her own happiness and is truly able to be glad for Laura, knowing that their friendship will remain intact.

Lola Versus (2012)
Greta Gerwig as Lola

I’m constantly obsessing about everything.

Before she starred in Frances Ha, Greta Gerwig played the titular Lola in Lola Versus (TFF 2012). When we first meet Lola, she is a well-adjusted graduate student, living in a beautiful loft apartment with her artist fiancé. Perfect life, right? Wrong. Her fiancé dumps her weeks before their long-anticipated wedding, and Lola suffers a massive breakdown. With the help of her friends, Henry (Hamish Linklater) and Alice (co-screenwriter Zoe Lister-Jones), she attempts to rebuild her life but finds that successfully navigating the uncertain waters of dating and relationships is easier said than done.

Lola remains extremely relatable and likeable though she wreaks unintended emotional havoc on her friends and family.Eventually, Lola's missteps cause her life to unravel, and she moves forward only by standing on her own and growing comfortable with her new life.



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