Did your parents warn you about musicians? The LAFF premieres of “Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” and “Microhabitat” compared the predicament of two female musicians an ocean apart. In the documentary, “Kate Nash” has a happy ending, but so does the South Korean “Microhabitat.”
For those who haven’t heard, Kate Nash is a singer-songwriter from England, who after breaking her foot in 2005, decided to devote some time to music. She had a 2007 hit “Foundations” and her debut album “Made of Bricks” hit number one in the UK, but 36 in the US. She was voted the Best British Female Artist at the Brit Awards in 2008. Touring exhausted her and she doesn’t always agree with her record label.
Amy Goldstein’s (“The Hooping Life”) documentary “Kate Nash: Underestimate the Girl” reveals Kate Nash as a woman still dependent upon her parents, who learns hard lessons about cash, but whose determination brings her the kind of Hollywood good luck story that keeps dreamers dreaming. After being cheated out of money and going to court in Los Angeles, Nash finds herself picked to be a cast member in a Netflix Original Series: “GLOW” (as Rhonda “Britannica” Richardson).
The protagonist, Mi-so (Som E.) of “Microhabitat” doesn’t live with her parents; she doesn’t seem to have any family at all. Her life is a numbing walk between her jobs of cleaning up the homes of better off Koreans in a city where she lives on the fringes. Once upon a time, she was a princess of sorts. Writer/director Jeon Go-Woon’s original title was “So-gong-neyo” (Hangul: 소공녀; Hanja: 小公女) literalyl means little princess. She led a band, but her friends have gone on to other things, like responsible adulthood.
Her main human connection is her boyfriend whose office job provides him with a dormitory, but he aspired to be a comic book artist. But sometimes, her apartment is too cold to even enjoy sex. She can’t afford heating her dingy apartment. Her other pleasure in life are cigarettes and good whiskey. Inflation crushes the flimsy economic structure of her life. Her rent goes up. The cost of cigarettes goes up. After searching for less expensive digs, she decides she can give up one: Her rent.
Remembering friendships from her past, she begins couch-surfing with a variety of former bandmates. You might know someone like this, a likable dreamer, but Mi-so is in her thirties. What might be charming in one’s early twenties may seem self-indulgent a decade later.
Jeon Go-Woon’s first feature film sensitively encapsulates the fear of many women–becoming homeless while working dead-end jobs. Kate Nash could have easily ended up on the streets, but she had family. Seen during the same festival weekend, “Microhabitat” and “Kate Nash” gives us two different sides of a female musicians life.
“Microhabitat” premiered last year at the Busan International Film Festival and at LAFF, it was making its North American premiere.
Both “Microhabitat” and “Kate Nash” illustrate the different paths dreams can take musicians and how ultimately people need other people to survive.