Velveteen Muff (2009) is an independent film written and directed by Amanda Tremblay. I found this movie when I went to Amazon to purchase a DVD copy of The Punk Singer (2014), a new documentary about iconic feminist and riot grrrl revolutionary Kathleen Hannah (of Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin).
Velveteen Muff, the movie, is the story of Velveteen Muff, an unknown American all-girl punk band, who win the “First Annual Unknown American All Girl Punk Band Contest Drawing” (aka UAAGPBCD) sponsored by Musik Access!, a local public-access cable music show. The band wins a free recording session with a small studio and the opportunity for their demo to be heard by an independent label. However, Velveteen Muff doesn’t have any songs to record!
I wanted to fall in love with Velveteen Muff. I didn’t, but, I did like this movie a lot, so I’m sure we’ll be good friends. The things I like about this movie outweigh the things I don’t like, but, even still, I can only recommend it to fans of riot grrrl punk rock, feminism and adorable lesbians. I, of course, am a fan of all of those things.
I like Velveteen Muff‘s basic premise, the band, and, especially, it’s four main characters. I do, in fact, love these characters. Damn Mandy (Amanda Tremblay) is Velveteen Muff’s vocalist and bass player. She’s a barely functional alcoholic with a Joan Jett obsession and an aversion to guitar players whom she fears will diminish her status as the band’s front woman. She has been practicing her bass guitar’s “E” string for months! Tremblay looks like she could be Carrie Brownstein‘s little sister. Lizzy (Elizabeth Ortiz) plays maracas. Yes, maracas. She is, basically, Damn Mandy‘s “bitch”. Actually, she’s Mandy‘s enabler who always replenishes her alcohol supply when it runs low. She does this because she’s in love with Damn Mandy, even though she writes songs that Mandy refuses to take seriously. E! (Erin Larsen) plays the electric triangle. Yes, the electric triangle! Her instrument’s set-up is Spinal Tap-ishly hysterical. However, E! is the most determined to make Velveteen Muff succeed, and, has been pushing Damn Mandy to hire her friend Paula (Paula Campbell) as the band’s guitar player. Finally, Cizzle (Cicely Mendoza) is, as the band’s drummer, the only real musician. She is also Damn Mandy‘s best friend. Cizzle is also absolutely adorable and cute as a damn button all at once! She looks kind of like ex-Vixen drummer Roxy Petrucci. These four ladies [who are all adorable] are why this film works.
Velveteen Muff is a mockumentary in which Musik Access! follows the dysfunctional band as Lizzy, E! and Cizzle struggle to keep Damn Mandy sober enough to write a song to record. The reality TV style, with testimonials, suits this film’s low budget and is easily rationalized by the fact that Music Access! is a local public-access show. The acting is ameteurish, but, for me, that’s part of the charm of films like this. However, I think some of the humor is trite, such as E!‘s extended demonstration of her ability to whistle Ravel‘s “Boléro“ or Damn Mandy quickly turning her AA sponsor into an alcoholic. But, Damn Mandy making love to her Joan Jett poster is quite funny! And, Velveteen Muff is the best name for a fictional all-girl punk band since Prey For Rock & Roll‘s Clam Dandy!
Eventually, Damn Mandy realizes how much her friends mean to her and how much Velveteen Muff means to her friends, so she gives up drinking, allows Paula to join the band (even though the label denies her), hooks up with Lizzy, and agrees to record the song Lizzy wrote. The song Lzzy wrote is called “Red Trailz”, which is a feministic ode to menstruation. Velveteen Muff even produced a video for the song. Watch it here …
You know what? I do, in fact, love this movie! Amanda Tremblay, by the way, previously directed and co-wrote The Book Club (2006), and is an author of various independently-published children’s books.