The themes at play in Asking for It are epitomized by the cleverness of its title. The double entendre speaks to both the misogynistic context when men use how a woman dresses as faux justification for sexual assault and the more classic karmic sense in which wrongdoers get what they deserve. Together it serves as an apt description for this story about a gang of fed-up females who take it upon themselves to fight misogyny in and around their corrupt southern town. However, this revenge flick has a bit more to offer than just vicarious catharsis from our unjust world. Rather than just revel in its own vigilantism, it asks us to slow down and think about it too.
The story is told from the perspective of Joey (Kiersey Clemons), a small-town waitress who is drugged and raped. Without any clear recourse in this small southern town, she’s left trying to go about her life as normal, despite the gravity of the violation weighing on her mind. A friendly patron of her diner Regina (Alexandra Shipp) picks up on her discomfort and invites Joey to her community; a network of women, all victims of misogyny, who’ve banded together to fight injustice on their own. Joey decides to accompany a group that plans to sabotage a men’s rights rally held by a popular far-right personality and unapologetic misogynist Mark Vanderhill (Ezra Miller). Together they travel to the nearby host city, which is run by a corrupt sheriff (David Patrick Kelly) who has alleged ties to sex trafficking.
The ensemble cast works fluidly to embody these strong yet scarred female characters. Perhaps most notable is Vanessa Hudgens who portrays Beatrice, the most hardened and distant of the group. The conflict that evolves between her and Joey adds a layer of depth that’s essential to the heart of this film. Another undeniable stand-out is Ezra Miller, an actor known well for being gender non-conforming, who transforms himself into the epitome of a deplorable white nationalist/male supremacist personality. While this role is somewhat of a caricature, it is sadly reminiscent of many real people and Miller’s portrayal does justice to that injustice.
Writer/director Eamon O’Rourke’s feature-length directorial debut displays a great deal of filmmaking finesse. Most well done is the emotional depth and thought put into the storytelling. This isn’t just a gleeful revenge flick in which bad-ass women beat up a bunch of bigots. It is not about stylistic action sequences. Asking for It digs deeper than that. As these women take justice into their own hands, they grapple with the ramifications and question how much is too far. It is this self-awareness that elevates Asking for It above more shallow socially conscientious films. Asking for It isn’t just trying to lecture, it is seeking to help us better understand.
This is perhaps best illustrated in the character Vernon (Luke Hemsworth). He is a well-meaning cop with an emotional connection to gang member Sal (Radha Mitchell), who sets out in hopes of protecting her from trouble. While sympathetic to the women’s cause, his perspective is still blurred by his own privilege. Instead of demonizing him for this, the film treats him with sympathy and uses his character arc as an example of how men can open themselves up to be better allies.
Ultimately, what makes Asking for It exceptional is its maturity. It doesn’t make the mistake of sidelining the emotional depth of its heavy subject matter with crowd-pleasing vigilantism, rather it throws the viewer into the crushing world in which such desperate acts feel necessary. It understands that an effective socially conscious film cannot simply play to its audience, but has to make itself relatable to the average viewer. Asking for It’s self-awareness and willingness to self-critique elevate it above self-serving, and instead invites the privileged among us to see the world how others experience it.
About Asking For It
Synopsis: Rape victim Joey is invited into an underground gang of female vigilantes and joins them on a mission to sabotage a Men’s Rights rally held by a popular male supremacist.
Director: Eamon O’Rourke
Writer: Eamon O’Rourke
Stars: Kiersey Clemons, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexandra Shipp, Ezra Miller, Gabourey Sidibe, Radha Mitchell, Leslie Stratton, Luke Hemsworth, Casey Cott, Casey Camp-Horinek, David Patrick Kelly
Runtime: 1 Hour, 37 Minutes
Releases: March 4th, 2022 (USA)
I am an ASU honors graduate with bachelors in Political Science and Philosophy. I work as a Paralegal by day and enjoy casual, volunteer, and sometimes freelance writing on the side. I'm a long time movie buff and avid gamer. Collectible card and board games are my specialty. I also remain actively engaged in the world of politics and like to stay up to date on all things science. If there is one goal I have in life it is to never stop learning.