Strong Women in Film

Hi readers,

I will discussing films that I have seen last month with strong and inspiring female characters. In the past, actresses were there just to be rescued or as someone for the actor to talk to or monologue to. Almost like a plot device. There have been many films featuring women and I feel like society’s attitudes towards women has become more accepting and inclusive. We are getting biopics about amazing women such as the female NASA mathematicians in Hidden Figures that helped put a man in space; Wonder Woman, the first superhero film that I have seen starring a woman; films about female musicians, Amy and Whitney; films remade with a female cast, Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8, What Men Want, The Hustle. I will be looking at some film’s I have seen last month with a strong female lead.

On the Basis of Sex

Felicity Jones in On the Basis of Sex (2018)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famous for work toward gender equality and her position as Supreme Court Justice. This origin story shows how she progressed from Harvard Housewife to the woman she is today. Ruth was one of the first women to attend Harvard Law school and when her husband Marty was diagnosed with a serious illness she took his classes for him. She graduates but no law firms in New York will employ a female lawyer in 1959. She becomes a lecturer but when one case opens her eyes to the injustice towards a man then all women, she must take a stand. Felicity Jones was powerful as Ruth and even though small in stature, she had command and the authority that Ruth had and still has. The portrayal of Rut Bader Ginsburg really inspired me that even though she had been pushed aside, Ruth knew her place was to fight for equality. Her daughter also inspired her as she turned to feminist activism. This film is really one to watch, not just for Felicity Jones’ amazing outfits, inspiring performance but Ruth’s amazing life story.

Captain Marvel

Brie Larson in Captain Marvel (2019)

The first female lead Marvel film was always going to be good but Brie Larson as Carol Danvers just took it to a place beyond anything I thought it could go. The main message running through was that even though Carol had gained Kree powers and could blast people, she was powerful and strong when she was human. Her determination and strength was shown in a beautiful montage of Carol being knocked down at various ages but then standing up stronger and braver than before. Brie Larson’s comedic timing was on point and I believed that she really didn’t have an memories before waking up in Hala, the Kree city. Maria, Carol’s best friend and fellow pilot was also a great female character. Despite being a single mother and black, she became an Air Force pilot. When Carol came back with no memory, she helped her remember her life and their adventures together. Her daughter, Monica who admired Carol as her role model was also a great female character. Definitely one to take young girls who need self-belief and the confidence to achieve their dreams.

A Private War

This film was very powerful and more shocking and sad than the previous two but Rosamund Pike as the war journalist, Marie Colvin was striking. Marie goes to war zone after war zone reporting on the most horrific things she can find and does it with a bravery that most people don’t have in them. A male journalist in her situation might retire after the trauma and danger she went through but she kept going even after having a stint in a rehabilitation facility due to her PTSD. In each war zone: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, Marie felt compelled to share the horrors of war and what was happening to the civilians who had nothing to do with the conflict. Marie also struggles with her personal life, her husband leaves her, she drinks and smokes way way too much, she doesn’t leave enough time for friends and after losing an eye, she becomes depressed.

I loved this film for it’s honesty and showing what war is really like not for the soldiers or terrorists but for the people, the citizens. War really took a toll on Marie and her writing was so visual that she is regarded as one of the best journalists of her time. The ending shocked me as I didn’t know much of Marie’s story and I won’t spoil it here but throughout the film there is a countdown in years to Syria. Would be happy to watch this again.

The Princess Diaries

An older film than the others in this post but she a great film for women. Mia, a normal, socially awkward teenager is told that she is the heir to the Genovian throne, a fictional European country. She starts ‘Princess Lessons’ with her Grandmother, Clarisse, the Queen of Genovia. Mia realises that some people just want fame and not everyone will be as nice as her artistic supportive mum or best friend Lily. This film is full of laughs and I have seen it many a time. Mia is a role model to young girls everywhere as she chooses to use her position to change things in the world for the better. Her house is also really cool. I would encourage any woman, young, old or in-between to watch this uplifting female empowering film. The sequel is also worth a look.

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Lee Israel’s motivations are relatable, she can’t sell her work and is living in a cockroach invested apartment in New York. Her actions are not well thought out as she starts forging letters from great literary figures like Dorothy Parker when her work as a celebrity biographer is no longer relevant. She starts selling her letters, claiming her cousin found them in his loft and then ropes in her friend and fellow writer, Jack Hock to help her pass off the letters as originals. It works until it doesn’t. Lee doesn’t have much luck in her personal life, her girlfriend left her and her new love interest at the book shop unravels when the letters are discovered as forged. The film itself is based on Lee’s book she wrote on the ordeal and why she did it. Melissa McCarthy as Lee was one of the best of her career and a real change from her usual comedy such as Bridesmaids, Tammy, Identity Thief and Life of the Party. This film showed Lee’s ingenuity and creativity when she had no other way of making money. Someone else may have accepted a job in a different field but Lee persevered in her chosen profession. A great film that showed the resilience of women.

Isn’t it Romantic

Rebel Wilson in Isn't It Romantic (2019)

An anti-rom-com with Rebel Wilson in her first lead role that made fun of every troupe while simultaneously fulfilling them all. Rebel plays Natalie an architect who loves her job but wishes she did more than design parking garages and watch her friend Josh stare at the beautiful woman on the billboard outside her window. When Natalie bumps her head she ends up in a cliche rom-com with hot doctors, clean streets and handsome men falling in love with her. She doesn’t know how to leave but when Josh starts dating the woman from the billboard; yoga ambassador Isabella, Natalie thinks that breaking them up will get her out of this rosy, annoying world. This film was a feel-good romantic comedy while simultaneously making fun of all the cliches such as women fighting at work, Natalie’s friend/assistant, Whitney suddenly becomes her rival; random bursting into song; perfect flash mob dance sequences. Natalie realises at the end that to escape the ‘perfect’ world she needs to love herself not any man and I think that is a really female empowering message. I love Rebel Wilson in any role she does and this was no exception.

I Feel Pretty

Another film where a woman feels underappreciated then hits her head. This time Amy Schumer is Renee, an under-confident woman not happy with her size, her dating life or her dead end job in a basement in Chinatown working for Lilly Leclair as an IT specialist. After falling off a Soul Cycle bike and hitting her head, Renee wakes up believing that she is the most beautiful woman in the world. This gives her more confidence to pursue her dream job as a receptionist for Lilly Leclair, working in their Fifth Avenue office. Her friends who have always loved her are confused as it everyone else as Renee hasn’t changed at all, she just thinks she has. When Renee becomes close to Lilly Leclair head honcho, Avery Leclair, she starts leaving her friends and new boyfriend, Ethan behind. Being confident makes her self-centred and vain. I thought Amy Schumer was great in this role and the message that you are perfect just the way you are and can achieve your dreams with the right attitude and self-belief was really strong and moving for me.

20th Century Women

This film about 3 strong women raising a teenage boy in 1979 was a true to life look at what struggles women face such as teenage pregnancy, ovarian cancer, single motherhood, rebellious children. The atmosphere of the film and the women interacting with each other intellectually and taking Jamie under their wings while fighting stereotypes and discussing menstruation, sex and womanhood was one I haven’t seen in many films and made me feel seen as a woman. Setting the film in 1979 was important as periods and other female ‘issues’ were regarded as even more taboo at that time. The love that Dorothea felt for her son made you sad that he kept pushing her away but also you understood he just wanted to be free and live his life. A great story and look at life in California in the 1970s.

Happy Watching

Robyn 🙂

About indie-film-fanatic00

Film Student at Oxford Brookes
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