Firecrackers is a Blazing Indictment of Toxic Masculinity
by Sam Kolesnik
Jasmin Mozaffari’s feature directorial debut, Firecrackers, is a searing feminist addition to indie coming-of-age canon.
Firecrackers features an intense and unforgettable performance by Michaela Kurimsky who shines as Lou, a righteously angry misfit with a fierce loyalty to her best friend, Chantal (Karena Evans).
Lou and Chantal live in a run-down town which has seen better days. Having saved money from their jobs cleaning motel rooms, the two friends plot to run away to New York. Never mind what they’ll do in New York or how they’ll survive -- their focus solely centers on getting out of dodge.
Their departure plan’s urgency colors the town as more of a prison than a home. When unexpected consequences derail their plans of escape, it proves the best friends are confined -- by patriarchy, misogyny, and poverty.
Mozaffari wastes no time in subverting common representations of teenage women in cinema. Firecrackers opens with an in-your-face fistfight and rarely lets the adrenaline ebb. Most of the intensity is owed to Michaela Kurimsky’s captivating energy as she embodies the fiery and soulful personality of Lou. With unstyled red hair, brawl-blistered knuckles and shapeless hoodies, Lou’s physical presence rings of protest against the male gaze.
In addition to exploring a tender and rich friendship between two women, Firecrackers can be seen as a story about people who either embrace or defy a patriarchal, misogynist culture. Mozaffari explores with her characters, both male and female, what transgressions against cultural norms look like, and how they are unjustly punished by the normative majority.
Firecrackers is relentless in showing just how rigid, oppressive, and homophobic these cultural norms can be. Lou doesn’t conform to her town’s feminine ideals and in turn is labeled a “dyke” and publicly harassed about her sexuality. Chantal wears revealing clothing and is viewed by men as an object to be taken, possessed and violated. When a male friend, Josh (Scott Cleland) praises Chantal in front of other men, he is punished by being belittled and emasculated. Lou’s younger brother, Jesse (Callum Thompson) is emotionally abused by his mother for wearing make-up. All of the film’s central characters are impacted by toxic masculinity.
While society seems hellbent on maintaining its established power hierarchies, Firecrackers boldly asks, “At what cost?”
It’s not only its social relevance that sets Jasmin Mozaffari’s debut apart. Firecrackers brims with powerful performances. Karena Evans is a restrained balance of vulnerability and resilience as Chantal. Dylan Mask reeks of insecure machismo as town hotshot, Kyle. Tamara LeClair (“Leanne”) offers an earnest and raw portrayal of Lou’s neglectful mother. And David Kingston provides a nuanced look at male vulnerability as “Johnny,” a recovering addict who regrets his harmful past while at the same time dipping his toes back into it.
Firecrackers doesn’t pull punches or take the easy road. It is a film full of complex and challenging characters who will linger with you after the closing credits. Thought-provoking and layered, Firecrackers is a timely, must-see debut.
Firecrackers will be available in theaters and on VOD platforms July 12th. Images in this review were provided courtesy of Good Deed Entertainment.