The Winner of Best Narrative Feature at the 20th Anniversary for the St. Louis Filmmaker’s Showcase
DIRECTED BY ZOË KENNISON/2020
In Easy-Bake, an outstanding and highly recommended new feature film, Ivan (Zoë Kennison, who also directed) is a woman trying to find her place in the world, like many twenty-two-year-olds. She is at a crossroads in life, as she feels the pressure that young people feel, to follow a passion (in her case, a liberal arts degree that focuses on bigger issues she is concerned about), or to follow a life of more practicality, which includes a business degree, like her mother suggests, and to be a mother herself and raise a family.
The immediacy of that decision is intensified when she is told by her doctor, due to an unforeseen medical condition, that she has a year to make a huge decision – have a child or miss the window to ever have one again.
Ivan feels more pressure than anyone her age should feel, and the overbearing stress of the societal and familial ideals of who she should be, even if completely antithetical to who she wants to be, is exacerbated by the cruelty of this condition. This creates an almost intersectionality of societal and medical burdens that are all on her shoulders.
Through it all though, she never loses her humor, even if a lot of it is rooted in cynicism. That humorous disposition to life is all brought out by the strong support system of friends around her. In the individual moments, she is not letting life get her down. She seems to almost approach her own decisions like she would a thesis college paper, maintaining a detached intellectual prowess to where life is taking her.
She may be in the midst of such life-altering decisions, but to a viewer, it seems more obvious which path she should take. Her stabs at domesticity, from trying to find a partner she is truly happy with to babysitting, seem to be forced and not completely suited to where she is now in life. As a viewer, it’s less the conflict of the decision that drives the story as much as the study of the character coming to age and being who she going to be the whole time.
Early in the movie, she finds an easy-bake oven at a garage sale, hence the title of the film. It plays as a perfect analogy for the movie, both in a directly analogous sense of the creation of something inside of someone, but also for it representing the antiquated ideals of women’s roles in a household and society. This device that feels foreign to younger women represents a change that is macrocosmic to society, but also a microcosmic view of the decisions Ivan must make.
Easy-Bake has moments of brilliance buried in the subtle. Perfectly-written lines that are delivered with a casualty that are rewarding to the most astute viewers. It’s also a movie that you can tell will grow through multiple watches, which is even more beneficial to it, since it’s already pretty great on initial viewing.