The Love Witch is a wet dream I once had about being allowed to be both famous and authentically myself. I wish I could take credit for the film but the unfettered genius of both the film’s visual aspect and the clear cut way women are presented belongs to writer/director, Anna Biller. The Love Witch is feminist filmmaking at it’s finest. There were so many moments where I had to stand up and look at my friends, as if to say, “Can you believe someone is finally talking about this, finally!?” It’s an incredibly interesting feminist commentary on the patriarchy’s fears of women, especially beautiful women, and the power men allow them to have. The Love Witch is, all at once, the perfect post feminist fantasy highlighting female freedom from men.
The moment TLW begins I knew something bad was going to happen. The screen oozes with the look and feel of 60s horror films. Except, I can’t focus on that uneasy feeling because I am immediately enchanted by a delicious brunette with a faraway expression I only reserve for men I cannot have.
Elaine (Samantha Robinson) is so beautiful that I find myself wondering if I have been meaning to do myself up like a young Endora (Samantha’s deluxe-ultra-mega-babe mom on Bewitched) my entire life and somehow forgotten. I’m transfixed on Elaine, watching as she lights a cigarette and escapes her former life as an unhappy, unappreciated wife in San Francisco. She weaves down Pacific Coast Highway as flashes of a man dying appear on screen, she lights a cigarette to push that thought out of her mind and perhaps her life. The intro heavily hints that Elaine was there when this man’s soul left his celestial body, after all he was a stupid sexist and everyone knows stupid sexists must suffer a hellish fate. Anyways, during these flashbacks sirens and lights flash in Elaine’s rear view mirror. She nervously pulls over and beams her magical sexuality at the officer. Even though she’s worried about what happened in San Francisco Elaine is able to control her nerves, harnessing the depths of her pussy power to charm the police into letting her go.
Elaine parks in front of haunting Victorian manor owned by her mentor, Barbara (Jennifer Ingrum) and welcomed by Trish (Laura Waddell), a cheeky British feminist who decorated the fresh-as-fuck apartment Elaine is moving into. She excitedly slinks out of the convertible, exposing an all red ensemble that screams Scarlet Letter chic. I love Elaine and from the looks of it so does Trish who invites her to tea after the two hit it off. Elaine freshens up like my sister does, and changes into an apricot victorian dress that makes her look like a more affable Lizzy Borden. She pairs it with a big pink hat and I consider that my entire life may be one huge failure because I have never left the house like this.
An interesting thing about this film is the depiction of what feminism is. It’s important to distinguish that loving men, being kind to them and even serving them does not make women a tool of the patriarchy. Personally, I’d probably go on a man killing spree if servitude was what it took to get love from a man. However, feminism is an equality ideology. In worshipping and serving her lovers, Elaine is doing what she likes, even though it never affords her what she really desires — true love.
Elaine goes home and conjures a love spell to manifest a man in her life because wtf else do you expect a lonely witch to do? She writhes on the ground in the middle of a pentagram chanting, “Love me,” and I find myself hearing her siren call. Even though I am loathe to support everything she stands for, I am finding my feminist sensibilities dimmed and my attraction to danger magnified. Oh Elaine, I am under your spell.
Later, she goes out into town to feed the ducks old bread and spots Wayne (Jeffrey Vincent Parise), a sexy salt & pepper lothario. He falls for Elaine the second he sets eyes on her. Wayne is basic af like this. He abandons the pretty blonde he was flirting with and agrees to take Elaine home to his cabin in the woods. Too bad for Wayne, in this scenario she’s the Big Bad Wolf and he is Little Red Riding Hood. When they get to Wayne’s place Elaine begins her mating ritual, insisting to cook dinner for Wayne and then serving him a giant chalice of her specially formulated “love potion.” Wayne goes bonkers, which is nothing in comparison to the fact that all of Elaine’s clothes are lined with rainbow material, which makes me feel like I have wasted my entire life settling for less. Elaine. I love you. Show me the way.
After sex Wayne is a mess. He’s crying and freaking out. Homegirl cannot abide by this. She goes out into the living room, leaving Wayne to suffer the indignity of true love by himself. The next morning, after the Wayne fiasco, Elaine starts her period, deals with it like women have had to since the beginning of time and then goes to check on Wayne who is cold to the touch. If only Wayne wasn’t so predictably broish, he might have made it out of the film alive. Insert witchy cackle here.
Her next victim is Richard, Trish’s husband. She invites him over while Trish is away and seduces him with another of her witchy concoctions. She does a striptease and we watch Richard as he dissolves into a puddle of sex, hormones and the cursed power of The Love Witch. Richard’s needy sniveling is ultimately too annoying for Elaine. No self respecting Love Witch wants to be with a man with so little backbone. She sends him home to Trish where Richard becomes unglued and eventually kills himself. Oops. I guess suicide is one of the hazards of falling prey to man’s “ultimate fantasy.”
Meanwhile, Detective Griff (Gian Keys) is hot on Elaine’s trail over the death of basic bro Wayne. Although, he cannot figure out what’s in the Witch’s Bottle at first (pointedly one of the most entertaining parts of the film outside of Wayne’s crying). Griff and his partner stare at the tampon confused as two dudes can possibly be by it’s contents. Eventually, he traces the bottle back to an apothecary where the shopkeeper points him in the direction of Elaine.
Griff meets Elaine and it is love at first sight. She tells him he is her soulmate, the man she’s been waiting for and then the two escape to the forest on horseback like you do when you tell a man he’s your soulmate. I cannot express how weird this next scene is, but Elaine ends up at a Renaissance Faire being run by her coven and mentor Barbara. Griff and Elaine exchange vows in an impromptu forest wedding that looks like it was pulled together by the most creative larpers I have ever met.
But even Griff’s love cannot erase the evidence he has against Elaine so like an idiot, he decides to confront her at a bar. Elaine takes shit from no man and stands up to leave. One of the bar patrons overhears the exchange and accuses Elaine of being a witch. The bar turns on her, until Griff comes between the mob and the woman he loves so she can escape.
I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will mention that everyone gets what they deserve, which is to say, men are held accountable for their sex drives and Elaine rises above her critics and finally transcends the ideology of being a witch.
Elaine is an exceptional character. She becomes both the protagonist and antagonist throughout the duration of the film. You can make the argument that the grown men who are incapable of loving her for more than her beauty are the antagonists but I disagree. On some level Elaine is charging towards the dream of having it all. She’s a passionate artist who practices witchcraft and feels mostly fulfilled in her life, with the exception of being in love. Elaine wants a deep and lasting love that men struggle to give her because they fall for her kabuki routine, her big brown eyes and the way she shifts her body as if she were inspiring sex across the globe. However, her inability to become more than a fantasy catering to the needs of men makes the loving relationship she desires an impossibility.
It’s also extremely important to point out that to evolve into The Love Witch, Elaine acts just like a man. The patriarchy defines femininity in such a way that women feel a certain shame for going out and getting what they want. Elaine does just that. This is especially bold, as it is a contradiction from her stance that men just need a woman to love them, because when she does “love” men they are overcome with emotions that ultimately destroy them. By becoming a man’s ultimate fantasy she assumes the totality of a man’s power, consuming men like Saturn devouring his children, until only a shell of men’s former selves are left. Flatly put, she turns them into women and they cannot survive the weight of it all.
Elaine is the ideal post feminism character. i.e. Elaine don’t need no man, yet she’s still wants one, a situation most women can relate to. Elaine is a feminist hero because she attempts to have it all, in the exact way that men do, by claiming it. Regardless of this, she somehow ends up alone because men’s egos cannot survive her voracious appetite. Let us all live in a world where women like Elaine are afforded the ability to conjure the reality they want, until then, there’s The Love Witch, existing as a hilarious fantasy world for modern day women.