You used to be my favorite toy.
– Liz Phair, Rocket Boy, 1996
I was a summer camp kid. You know the type. There’s a very specific breed of 12-year-old who can’t wait to leave home and sleep on a bunk bed for a month and try all the different scents of Herbal Essences shampoo that everyone brought. Summer was always something I looked forward to. I’d slog through two full semesters of actual school on the promise of four weeks of sweet, sweet summer camp afterward. As a grown up, particularly a single one, I look forward to summer with the same anticipation, but for different reasons. Summer is when we go out. It’s when people are at places. Big, open places with lots of space and opportunities to meet new humans in a setting that’s not awkward. Only this summer… probably not.
Sure, lockdown parameters are being lifted, the first signs of reopening are showing, and many of us are breaking our isolation to march in protest of police violence and systemic racism against Black people. But there’s still a goddamned global pandemic happening. It’s likely that much more of our summer will be happening indoors than we’d like, and for single women, summer will also be happening pretty much alone.
So whether you need a quick escape to rest and recharge, or you need to mentally distance from social distancing, allow me to suggest a few of my personal favorite films in service of a Single Girl Summer.
The theme is escapism, in small cinematic doses. Bonus points for anyone with a backyard who can project these films onto the side of a house or a large sheet hanging from a clothes line of some kind, but me and my Brooklyn one bedroom will crack a window and make the very best of it.
Is this a complete list of the best summer movies of all time? No. Is this a curated list of movies beloved by a single woman who writes a Refinery29 series for single women and thinks that single women might enjoy watching this summer because we can’t fucking go to Lavender Lake and all anyone ever wants to feed us is rom-coms? Yes.
If there is any better antidote to stress than watching Liv Tyler — wearing the best ‘90s wardrobe ever styled — flirt with people who have accents, I don’t want to hear about it. I will instead be mentally projecting myself to the Italian countryside two decades ago in time where people nap in the afternoon and go swimming naked before dinner. I like to imagine that somewhere out there is a guest house on an artist’s property where I can sit in window sills and write poetry and sexually fascinate everyone around me. Also… the soundtrack.
Reader, when I tell you this is still my dream. I’m pretty convinced that a movie where a group of kids invent a fake summer camp with no rules or counselors is quite literally the inspiration behind the actual Camp No Counselors. It’s also just kind of fun to transport yourself back to a time when a totally different set of things mattered to you. And completely pulling one over on your parents was one of them.
I don’t know guys, maybe we just need to laugh our mascara off for a while? When I saw Girls Trip, it was the first time in a long time that I could remember laughing out loud so hard I had to hit pause. I was actually annoyed at myself for missing my chance to see this in a theater, until I realized how much I’d have missed because I was cackling or running to the bathroom so that I didn’t pee my pants.
Addams Family Values
Kind of a sleeper film, and sort of like when they squeeze movies into holiday roundups because you can see a Christmas tree in the background. But I stand by it. This is a low-key story about how there’s someone out there who is perfect for each of us. Tell me I’m wrong. I also find Wednesday’s weird kid experience at summer camp and her desire to destroy bullshit highly relatable. If you know a better villain than Joan Cusack’s Debbie, do tell.
I like stories of young love for single women. I think it gives our brains a break from the shithole of modern dating and reminds us of simpler, more butterfly-inducing times. I mean I could get into the genius of Wes Anderson and the overall look and feel of this film that allows you to mentally remove yourself from reality. But really, I just want to go camping and I’m jealous. Also Suzy’s impractical packing list speaks to me.
Now & Then
When this became available to stream last summer I cleared a weekend. This was always one of my favorites and I spent many a summer devastated by fruitless streaming search results. I’m a Samantha, obviously. I connect so strongly with summer movies that are also period pieces. Maybe it’s because my modern brain believes that the kids these days spend their summers charging their devices and wearing the mosquito repellent wristbands I’d have killed for as a child. Whatever the reason, I take comfort in the story of four friends who have the kind of curiosity and outright freedom to bike one town over to research death. Plus, Brendan Fraser cameo.
Troop Zero, or as I like to call it, the Girl Sandlot I never had, came out last year and is an Amazon original movie that will make you cry at the end if you’ve had too much rosé. I’ve heard. It’s basically the story of a group of girls and one boy who come together to earn weird merit badges because Allison Janney’s super mean character kept all the good merit badges for herself. Tell me you wouldn’t have given anything for Viola Davis as a troop parent.
The list is not exhaustive, or profound, but it is mine, and it’s made with love for single women who can’t sit on patios with all their friends this summer. Let your mind escape, and let your worries get lost momentarily in fiction. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to channel my inner Diane Keaton by putting ice in my wine, and then I’m going to watch a movie. Our time together in the sun will come, eventually. Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and press play.
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