Girlfriends (1978 film)

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Girlfriends film poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byClaudia Weill
Screenplay byVicki Polon
Story byClaudia Weill
Vicki Polon
Produced byClaudia Weill
StarringMelanie Mayron
Anita Skinner
Eli Wallach
Christopher Guest
Bob Balaban
Gina Rogak
Amy Wright
Viveca Lindfors
Mike Kellin
CinematographyFred Murphy
Edited bySuzanne Pettit
Music byMichael Small
Cyclops Films
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • August 11, 1978 (1978-08-11) (New York)[1]
Running time
88 minutes
CountryUnited States

Girlfriends is a 1978 comedy-drama film produced and directed by Claudia Weill and written by Vicki Polon. The film stars Melanie Mayron as Susan Weinblatt, a Jewish photographer who experiences loneliness once her roommate Anne (Anita Skinner) moves out of their apartment in New York City. It was the first American independent film to be funded with grants, although private investors were also brought on to help complete the film.[3]

Although the film began shooting in November 1975,[3] it took almost three years to finish because the initial budget of $80,000 ran out.[4] After distribution was picked up by Warner Bros., the film was released on August 11, 1978.

In 2019, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[5][6][7]


Photographer Susan Weinblatt supports herself by shooting baby pictures, weddings, and bar mitzvahs while she aims for an exhibit of her work in a gallery. Her best friend and roommate, Anne Munroe, is an aspiring writer.

After she sells three of her pictures to a magazine, Susan thinks she has left the world of portraits and wedding photography behind her, but her life begins to fall apart when Anne moves out and marries her boyfriend, Martin, and she can't manage to sell any more photographs

Susan develops a crush on Rabbi Gold, who works at the bar mitzvahs and weddings she photographs. The two kiss, but before they start an affair, she accidentally meets his wife and son, which puts a damper on their relationship.

After scamming her way into a meeting with a gallery owner, Susan is recommended to another gallerist and is finally able to get her own show. She also gets a boyfriend, Eric. She later fights with Anne, as Anne is jealous of her independence while Susan resents Anne's marriage and child. Later on, she fights with Eric over her insistence on maintaining her own apartment.

At her gallery showing, all of Susan's friends and family show up to support her except for Anne, who Martin tells her has gone to the countryside alone in order to work. Susan goes to the countryside to see Anne. Anne apologizes for not going to see her show and reveals that she had an abortion that morning, not wanting more children.

The two drink tequila shots and play games, but are interrupted by Martin's arrival.



The film started as a 30-minute film funded by a grant from the American Film Institute, but upon completion, Weill realized that she wanted to explore what would happen next in the story. That short film eventually became the first seven minutes of the feature film.[8] Original funding for the feature film came from National Endowment for the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts, totaling $80,000. Principal photography was effectively six and a half weeks, but those days were stretched over the span of a year because the production kept running out of money. When the grant money ran out, Weill had to seek out private investors to help complete the film. Once the film was finished, she took the film to Hollywood studios, and sold it to Warner Brothers for world distribution. They also signed a contract with Weill to direct two more features.[3]


The film premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, as well as screening at Cannes and other festivals.[3] It opened in New York on August 11, 1978. Girlfriends was set to be reissued across selected UK cinemas from 23 July 2021 via Park Circus (company).


Girlfriends received positive notices from critics. A review in Variety wrote, "This is a warm, emotional and at times wise picture about friendship, a film deserving of a wide audience. It's documentary filmmaker Claudia Weill's first feature, although there's no reason to apologetically pigeonhole this movie as a 'promising first feature.' It's the work of a technically skilled and assured director."[9] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and called it "a nice little picture" that "plays out its drama in an episodic, European style — small vignettes leading forward in time."[10] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times described it as "a candid, intelligent, informed, affectionate, deeply affecting and wryly funny examination of the lives of young career women in Manhattan now."[11] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post wrote that the film "suffers from such a threadbare screenplay and tentative personality that one can't help marveling at its shlumpy appeal."[12] Geoff Brown of The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "The clarity of Weill's focus, along with the witty script and keen performances, keeps Girlfriends for the most part likeably spry and intelligent."[13]

In 1978, Girlfriends won the Bronze Leopard award for Best Actress at the Locarno International Film Festival and the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. In 1979 it won the Special David award at the David di Donatello Awards. That year, it was nominated for a Golden Globe award and a BAFTA Award.

Stanley Kubrick brought up the film in 1980 when being interviewed by Vicente Molina Foix at Kubrick's house:[14]

Foix: Are you interested in the new paths or trends within current Hollywood production being tried by people like Coppola, Schrader, Spielberg, Scorsese or DePalma?

Kubrick: "I think one of the most interesting Hollywood films, well not Hollywood -- American films -- that I've seen in a long time is Claudia Weill's Girlfriends. That film, I thought, was one of the very rare American films that I would compare with the serious, intelligent, sensitive writing and filmmaking that you find in the best directors in Europe. It wasn't a success, I don't know why; it should have been. Certainly I thought it was a wonderful film. It seemed to make no compromise to the inner truth of the story, you know, the theme and everything else...

The great problem is that the films cost so much now; in America it's almost impossible to make a good film -- which means you have to spend a certain amount of time on it, and have good technicians and good actors -- that aren't very, very expensive. This film that Claudia Weill did, I think she did on an amateur basis; she shot it for about a year, two or three days a week. Of course she had a great advantage, because she had all the time she needed to think about it, to see what she had done. I thought she made the film extremely well."

The film holds a 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 25 reviews.[15]

Home media[edit]

Girlfriends was released on DVD in the United States (Region 1) on May 28, 2010 as part of the Warner Archive Collection.[16]

In August 2020, it was announced that the film would be made available for the first time on Blu-ray via The Criterion Collection, which was released November 10, 2020. The set contains a new 4K restoration, as well as new special features, including cast and crew interviews, two short films: "Joyce at 34" and "Commuters", theatrical trailer, and essays by critic Molly Haskell and scholar Carol Gilligan.[17]


  1. ^ "Girlfriends - Details". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  2. ^ Klemesrud, Judy (August 4, 1978). "'Girlfriends' Director on Female Friendship". The New York Times. A12.
  3. ^ a b c d Starr, Cecile (6 Aug 1978). "Claudia Weill: From Shoestring to Studio". New York Times. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  4. ^ Sweeney, R. Emmet (7 March 2017). "Best Friends Forever: Girlfriends (1978)". Streamline. TCM Interactive Group Inc. Archived from the original on 12 March 2017. Retrieved 14 September 2018.
  5. ^ Tartaglione, Nancy (December 11, 2019). "National Film Registry Adds 'Purple Rain', 'Clerks', 'Gaslight' & More; 'Boys Don't Cry' One Of Record 7 Pics From Female Helmers". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  6. ^ "Women Rule 2019 National Film Registry". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  7. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  8. ^ Myers, Victoria (30 May 2018). "Claudia Weill on Directing Theatre, Film, and Television". The Interval. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Film Reviews: Girlfriends". Variety: 23. May 10, 1978. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  10. ^ Siskel, Gene (September 29, 1978). "'Girl Friends' story told with affection". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 3.
  11. ^ Champlin, Charles (August 20, 1978). "'Girl Friends': On 'Rocky's' Road". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 1.
  12. ^ Arnold, Gary (September 27, 1978). "Shlumpy Appeal of 'Girl Friends'". The Washington Post. B10.
  13. ^ Brown, Geoff (September 1978). "Girlfriends". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 45 (536): 175.
  14. ^ Quoted in The Stanley Kubrick Archives, p. 460, Taschen, 2008.
  15. ^ "Girlfriends". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 17, 2022.
  16. ^ "Girlfriends DVD". Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  17. ^ "Criterion Announces November Titles". August 18, 2020. Retrieved August 18, 2020.

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