Monthly Archive for: ‘October, 2015’
If you’re looking for a film on Susan B. Anthony, fuhgeddaboudit.
If you want one depicting the police violence America has recently become infamous for, fuhugeddaboudit.
But if you crave a historical fiction movie that details how the Brits, whom we usually perceive as an enlightened band of accented brothers, could be as brutal toward their female population as we ever were, then “Suffragette” may be your cup o’ Tetley tea.
It’s neither the typical prim-and-proper Jane Austin opus nor your grandma’s chick flick.
Instead, it’s almost a bleak Dickensian portrait of what a working class woman endured in 1912 London after joining a movement that militantly demanded that women be given the vote.
And equal rights.
Director Sarah Gavron, in fact, shot the vast majority of her fast-paced, 106-minute movie in shadows.
And clearly displayed the risks to women protesters — the possibilities of losing their husbands, children, jobs and lives.
She also skillfully managed to turn a pert and perky Carey Mulligan into an increasingly haggard cinematic foil.
Before the final Mill Valley Film Festival screening at the Sequoia recently, Gavron asserted that she’d thought of Mulligan in the lead role during the entire six-year gestation of the film and its $14 million “estrogen-filled set.”
Mulligan herself appeared Oct. 17 at the Rafael Film Center, but — apparently tired out because she’d given birth to her first child, Evelyn, only weeks before — skipped the next evening’s final showing at the Sequoia in Mill Valley.
She also fanned the closing MVFF party at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, a high-energy affair that featured rock music, hundreds of elbowing revelers in a feeding frenzy, and boundless champagne and barbecued chicken legs.
“Suffragette” stars Mulligan as a composite rebel, Maud Watts, who’s been a laundry worker since age 7.
Co-starring is Helena Bonham Carter as pharmacist Edith Ellyn, a character based on the real-life Edith New, a teacher jailed for her vandalism (including the hurling of a rock through a window at 10 Downing Street).
I’ve heard Oscar buzz for both.
Bonham Carter, ironically, is the great-granddaughter of H.H. Asquith, prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916 who was totally opposed to the suffrage movement.
The film also spotlights Meryl Streep, who phones in a cameo as Emmeline Pankhurst, the firebrand who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and spurred the agitators.
“Never surrender. Never give up,” she cautions in her one scene.
Because “the only language men understand is war.”
I predict more than a few female audience members will cheer that line — and utilize the cover of a darkened theater to hiss supporting male characters.
Particularly Geoff Bell as a constantly lecherous sweatshop boss, Norman Taylor.
But also Brendan Gleeson as Inspector Arthur Steed, an easy-to-dislike, by-the-book police officer who just skirts being sensitive.
Mulligan’s been using “Suffragette” screenings lately as a bully pulpit to push equal rights for women.
She’s even said she was sad she’d missed the “awesome” protest against cuts in domestic violence services that greeted the film’s October opening at the London Film Festival.
Because screenwriter Abi Morgan (who also penned “The Iron Lady” and “Shame”) relies heavily on bumper sticker commands, the mostly humorless film could be perceived, and dismissed, as a polemic.
Still, a handful of scenes are especially moving and wince-worthy.
Force-feeding the imprisoned hunger-striking Mulligan character, for one.
And bobbies billy-clubbing women protestors — a ghastly visual that reminded me of when Bull Connor, poster boy for racism, unleashed fire hoses and police attack dogs in the 1960s against civil rights activists and their kids.
Gavron employed a hand-held camera for those shots, explaining before the Sequoia screening that “we wanted to break away from conventional films, we wanted the audience to feel they were walking the streets with our characters.”
I was incensed. Uncomfortable.
The director also helped develop a sense of authenticity by using Cockney accents and real locations. “Suffragette,” in fact, marks the first film to be shot in the two Houses of Parliament with permission of those legislative bodies.
The film already has not only become a rallying cry for equal feminine rights but sparked controversy when its leading actresses posed with T-shirts sporting a Pankhurst quote, “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.”
Objectors claimed they shouldn’t have used words that echoed the American Civil War.
I first saw Mulligan, who’s married to rocker Marcus Mumford, in 2009’s “An Education,” which earned her an Academy Award nomination, but I also caught her in “The Great Gatsby,” “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
She’s really top-drawer, but even she couldn’t insert vitality in Pankhurst clichés like “If it’s right for men to fight for their freedoms, then it’s right for women to fight for theirs.”
The last I checked, however, I was still a male. So I couldn’t relate to “Suffragette” as easily as my wife.
I surely didn’t share her “Wow!” reaction when it ended, yet thought it a decent enough message-movie to make me glad it was made.
Especially considering that we still have a major problem today giving women equal pay for equal work.