Joining Dell's fantastic blogathon a little late but no less excited. All this week Dell (and guest posts from Joel) has been posting about women in film. You can check out what he's been writing on his blog HERE.
These aren’t a top ten but there are a list of ten films directed or written by women about women or featuring a lead female character.
For a Good Time Call… Scr – Lauren Miller & Katie Anne Naylon
The underappreciated comedy about two women (Ari Graynor & Lauren Miller) who start their own business. The business is a sex chat line. But don’t be fooled by this, the film and the characters are brilliantly played out. It starts like any other film, two people who dislike each other find they need each other and soon realise they are best friends. They take the business seriously, become successful, go through ups and downs emotionally and sometimes actually and one of the best moments is when they say ‘I love you’ to one another and it’s not in a romantic way, they are best friends and that’s really what the films is about, not the sex chat line.
Obvious Child dir & scr. Gillian Robespierre
Aka when Jenny Slate became one to watch and not just a bit part actor. A comedian playing a comedian can feel a bit too much but it’s actually entertaining as well as super uncomfortable, but that might be just me as I’m not a fan of stand-up comedy, no matter who is performing. The film isn’t about a struggling comedian, it’s not even about her one night stand that results in a pregnancy, it’s about the fact that abortion is not a taboo subject, and nor should it be. Donna, knows exactly what she needs to do and doesn’t spend the film second guessing, she spends her time trying to get past her cheating ex, write the right jokes and decide whether to tell the Max (Jake Lacy) the guy she likes she’s having an abortion. The story ends on a hopefully note with some answered questions which actually works for the story and I’m hoping this movie will stop being referred to as ‘the one about abortion’.
Electrick Children dir & scr. Rebecca Thomas
A film that didn’t make too much noise upon its release but those who did see it were left with a feeling of wonder. About a 15 year old girl, Rachel (Julie Garner), living in a fundamentalist Morman community who believes she has become pregnant through a cassette tape when she hears a rock band playing for the first time. After she escapes the community and a shot gun wedding, she searches for the band and meets a group of skaters in Las Vegas. Clyde (Rory Culkin) offers to marry her and help her look for the man on the tape. It seems so innocent but underneath there is the uneasy feeling and question, who did get Rachel pregnant. There is a conclusion of sorts and a sense that things will be alright in the end but it also feels too idyllic.
Belle dir. Amma Asante
Unlike the others in the list, this is a period costume drama based on a true story. The film takes its inspiration from the 1779 painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray which was commissioned by their great uncle, William Murray, the Lord Chief Justice of England at the time. Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was the illegitimate mixed race daughter of Murray’s nephew who was brought to England. Despite being an heiress, she was looked down upon and forced to take her meals separate from her family and guests. The film mainly concentrates on her relationship with a lawyer and a case about the Zong massacre, where a slave ship owner claimed he lost cargo and filled this with his insurance company. The outcome of the case is said to have contributed to the abolition of slavery. Quite a bit of history to look into but the film does bring its focus on Belle and her transition but at times, it has the feel of ‘sweeping costume drama’ to it.
Love Like Poison dir. Katell Quillevere
Anna returns home from her Roman Catholic boarding school to find that her Dad her left their home, leaving her with her mother and beloved Grandpa. She questions her faith in the lead up to her First Holy Communion. Throughout the film she talks with the priest and her Grandpa and shares a mutual attraction with a boy her age, the beginning of her sexual awakening. There are some uncomfortable moments and the films ends in a hopeless way with a death and a return to routine, her faith not what it used to be. I felt a connection to this film as I was brought up Catholic, primary and secondary schools and made to go to church every Sunday. I hated it as I was forced to do all these things and between primary and secondary school I left cheated and resented going. When given the chance I stopped but in fact I did have a choice but unlike Anna who questions her faith, I ended up rejected the rituals. It’s a beautiful film with hard realities and made me look out for more films from Katell Quillevere.
In a World… dir & scr. Lake Bell
Taking on the male dominated world of voiceovers, more specifically movie trailer voiceovers. Carol (Lake Bell) is a vocal coach but hopes to do trailer voiceovers, but her over bearing arrogant father who is the ‘king of voice overs’ doesn’t believe in her and actively doesn’t help her. After a few successes with advertisement she is recommended to audition for an upcoming trilogy featuring women warriors and goes head to head with her father to win this coveted job. The film is full of smaller characters that make this film feel delightful and a quiet approach to punching your fist in the air saying ‘equality’! It’s one for the feminists as it shows women can do what men do but it’s also one for the dreamers. Geena Davis makes an important appearance too, bringing the excited Carol down to Earth pointing out that she may not be the best but its time women were given a chance. It does put a downer the triumph at the end but it’s needed to remind women to keep going, don’t give up yet.
Frida dir. Julie Taymor
I dismissed this film at first, not sure why as it’s a fantastic biopic and celebration of the surrealist artist Frida Kahlo. Following Frida (Selma Hayek) from her terrible accident, damaging her back and her first paintings to her meeting with Diego Rivera and her career as a successful painter. Her art is intertwined within the narrative of the story painting a literal picture her emotions and what she saw. A much better film than I remembered the first time and one that I will return to again.
Caramel dir. Nadine Labaki
How can a movie about a group of women who work in a salon be so brilliant? A salon is a place where women can be free, they come together and talk, laugh without holding back. Labaki’s feature film debut on a group of five women who lead up to one of their weddings. One is having an affair with a married man, another is unable to except her age, another is attracted to women and another wants to follow desire but has a duty to her elder sister. The film is about these women’s everyday life, following their problems and emotions in sometimes beautifully subtle ways.
Adult Life Skills dir & scr. Rachel Tunnard
Not everyone can adjust to adult life, sometimes we all struggle but when you lose your twin brother, everything is just that much worse. Anna (Jodie Whittaker) hasn’t gotten over the death of her brother. She lives in a shed at the bottom of her mum’s garden and still makes silly videos like she used to with her brother. In the week leading up to her 30th birthday, her mum tries to move her to her own flat, a 7 year old won’t leave her alone and an old school fellow tries to make it clear he likes her, but all Anna wants to do is make videos with her thumbs. Genuinely amusing as well as heart-breaking, Anna progresses slowly and is finally in a place she can move on. Being on the wrong end of my twenties myself, I can relate slightly as I’m still at home and financially unable to move on. But like Anna, I will make the push and blow up a shed. If that’s what it takes.
May in the Summer – dir. Cherien Dabis
Shown the London Film Festival a few years back now and barely receiving a UK release date and no DVD release as yet, a story about three sisters who return to Jordan for one of their weddings. May (Cherien Dabis) has it all, but returning to Jordan brings up doubts from all sides. Her mother disagrees with the marriage, her siblings have their own issues that pile on the pressure and their father returns. The scenes that the sisters share are the most intimate as they talk and share secrets, matched with the beyond beautifully scenery, it’s a shame the film wasn’t given a wider release.