Posted in: Review

Donna: Stronger Than Pretty

When Donna and Nick got married, they pledged to be together forever, for richer or poorer, for better or worse. Except it gets worse pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, so does their movie. And unlike Donna, audiences are unlikely to stick around, hoping it’s going to get better again.

Donna: Stronger Than Pretty is a portrait of one battered spouse, and a salute to struggling wives and single mothers everywhere. But it’s more earnest than effective, and its ambitions are always miles ahead of its art. It gets points for heart, but not much else.

Set on Long Island, and spread over several decades, it stars Kate Amundsen as its title character, a quiet, twenty-something single mother who seems to lack self-confidence. She certainly lacks a good b.s. detector.

Anybody else would see Anthony Ficco’s Nick as the sleazy operator he is, a wannabe who struts into sad ‘70s bars like he’s starring in Saturday Night Fever. But the desperate Donna just sees someone who tells her she’s beautiful. And soon they’re speeding along, from a dance to a date to an elopement.

It’s all a blur. So much of a blur that Donna doesn’t notice that Nick’s stealing sips from a flask during an afternoon at the playground, or realize he’s selling drugs with his buddies at night. And by the time she starts asking questions, and he starts answering with his fists, she’s got three kids and sees no way out.

The movie, it goes out of its way to tell us, is based on real life (we get to meet its inspiration after the final fadeout). And with its various stops in jail, in courtrooms, and in food pantries, it’s not an uncommon story.

It’s a filmmaker’s responsibility to make it an exceptional one, though, and that’s where writer and director Jaret Martino fails. Although Amundsen is an appealing performer, there’s nothing very memorable about Donna as a character. The loutish Nick is even more, hey-how-YOU-doin’ generic.

The photography is pretty, especially when we move outside for some sunny seascapes. But there’s no sense of period, or place. If it weren’t for the occasional title cards, we’d never even know what year we were in.

Of course it doesn’t help, either, that the dialogue is a long string of clichés, like “The ends justify the means” and “Well, it’s easy to see where your daughter gets her looks!” Or the one-two punch of “What are you running from, Nick?” and his anguished response, “I’m running from me!”

Add in a poor sound mix, a supporting cast that seems to be cosplaying Working Girl, and two leads who barely age a day over more than 20 years, and it’s clear soon that the movie is pretty much past saving. And yet it still has half of its nearly two hours to go.

But as Donna herself could tell you, sometimes it takes a long time to undo one quick bad decision.

2.5 stars (out of 5)

Comments (8) on "Donna: Stronger Than Pretty"

  1. It’s not surprising that this review was written by a man. Undoing thousands of years of damage takes the truth of a Film like this to expose the low vibration of critics that have always stood on the sidelines. Instead of a promoting Films that feed into stereotypes and stigmas, try digging a little deeper and honor and respect the fact that this is based on truth and that the Film is proud partners of The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

  2. Victim Shaming.

    Feeding into the stereotypes and stigmas through your poor writing.

    Stephen you were depicted through the time travel the Film covered…Welcome to future, 2021.

    Now behave like it…

  3. An apparently necessary note: This is a film review. It’s about, and only about, how “Donna” works AS A FILM. It’s about, and only about, how well this film was directed, acted, written, edited and mixed. I’m the child of a single mother, who faced many of the same issues Donna did. I don’t minimize the pain of abuse, or the bravery of survivors. What I do emphasize is that serious stories require serious artistry. That’s something, sadly, I found lacking here. Thanks for reading, and writing.

    1. Sadly Stephen you are part of the problem.

      For a man that comes from a single Mother you sure did embarrass her.

      We know you aren’t feeling any of that though your ego and entitlement you so clearly flaunt for the world to see.

      You think every paragraph that blames Donna is okay because that’s how society shaped you to think? Well you are wrong.

      Instead of blaming a Film that truthfully captures a story that is all too common, you perpetuate the same stereotypes and stigmas that are the root issue. You became the same type of man that from what you just shared…was your Father.

      So before Film Racket sends another man to cover stories about Women, they should really consider how this reflects. Stephen will never understand what it’s like to be a woman in this world.

  4. An older white male giving his “critique” on a Women’s Empowerment story. “Film Racket”, did you not have any young woman to cover this one?! What a racket…

  5. Stephen Whitty, what a shock, that this “man” knows nothing about interpreting or understanding a woman and her experience. His review of a movie on DONNA Stronger Than Pretty (Feature Drama) is a story about a woman, who finds her strength.

    This “critic” focuses on how Donna’s character doesn’t age in the film, and falls for the lines of a man, which are “so obvious.” It is obvious to me that this “critic” has little insight in what it means to be a woman. While standing in his position and seeing a movie play out, he casts judgement about the experience of woman he knows nothing about. Let me help clear this up for you, first of all while remarking on her looks, I know it is hard for you to understand the idea of graceful aging and those blessed with beauty despite a “quarter century passing.” It is evident, that time has been less kind to you sir.

    She was a young mother, and while your misogynistic beliefs make you quite obtuse, it is not unreasonable that she does not age in the film, her kids are still in school at the movies end.

    Now, as for you victim shaming, how original, that an old white man, would blame the woman. Your comments are a tale as old as time, and they are outdated, as is your review, maybe, you should just retire. This is simply a review on your Artistry and lack of insight into modern times. It is okay, we all have to retire one day, it may just be your time. Your opinion lacks value and support, and without that, are you even relevant any more?

    This Film changed the course of my life when I saw it as a short years ago. As a woman I felt seen and heart and FEEL EMPOWERED to use my voice.

    You sir, you know nothing about women that is clear, if you are a heterosexual male, and married, I am concerned for your wife, she might want to watch this film, because talk about cliche lines. My guess though is that you are single and miserable, because I doubt you have the charisma to help any woman be fooled into being with you, for more than a few moments of time.

    Time to put down the computer, maybe take a sensitivity class, maybe read a book about women and supporting them, ending senseless abuse, and take a lesson on artistic expression.

    Good bye sir, may our paths never need to cross, ever again in the future, once was enough for me to understand the caliber of person you are.

  6. DONNA Stronger Than Pretty is one of the finest homages to a mother that not only teaches a lesson, but offers guidance into personal freedom and loving choices. So many women and men can relate to this story. #FindYourVoice

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