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Monday, October 19, 2015

SUFFRAGETTE Explores Whether a (White) Woman Could be a Feminist and a Wife in the Early 20th Century



Let this be known about SUFFRAGETTE, before I begin this review: director Sarah Gavron made it a point to open the film with a disclaimer indicating that this is just one story about a group of women who fought for women's rights in the early 1900s in London. Which may or may not assuage those who have for weeks been vocal about the fact that this is yet again another women's rights story that essentially deletes women of color from the movement.

It's not a new Hollywood approach, but it doesn't make it right. It just perpetuates the idea that white women represent all women. Period.

But again, this is just one group of women's stories. And that aside, SUFFRAGETTE is a really solid movie with great performances. Not necessarily a new story, but I can honestly say that Carey Mulligan delivers the best performance by a woman in a film that I've seen so far this season. And her co-star Anne-Marie Duff gives her a run for her money here (so much so that I became quickly obsessed with finding out who she was and learned that she is actually James McAvoy's wife). Though I'm sure once award season truly revs up, it will be Mulligan who gets all the shine and Duff will be a distant memory.

Because that's how Hollywood works.



But anyway, back to the movie. Duff plays Violet, the fearless feminist who recruits Maud (Mulligan) as a Suffragette. Armed with a feisty tongue and a passion for equality, Violet is no stranger to staging public rallies, violent retaliation from law officials, and the inside of a police station. Duff plays her as not only a badass but Maud's compassionate friend when she needed her the most. What's most interesting about Abi Morgan's (Shame, The Iron Lady) screenplay is that she doesn't only show them as "strong, empowered" women. but also as wives and mothers in a society that only recognized those sides of their humanity. This movie explores the question: Could a woman be a feminist and a wife at the same time in the early twentieth century?

If you take a look at Maud's story, the answer is a sad and resounding no. Without giving away any spoilers, Maud discovers the sacrifice of being a woman while belonging to a husband at the height of the woman's rights movement. It's a harrowing realization, and Mulligan's performance is so honest and moving--better than any performance I've ever seen from her.

While Mulligan and Duff are definitely the two best performances in the film, there are other noteworthy actors such as Natalie Press, who plays the iconic activist Emily Davison, and Helena Bonham Carter, who plays a woman who was jailed numerous times for her commitment to the movement. For those looking to see another great Meryl Streep performance will have to look elsewhere as she is only on screen for a few generic moments until she too is whisk away. (Though, I think it's pretty funny how the marketing for the film is really pushing Streep's attachment).

A solid film with a great cast, SUFFRAGETTE will definitely be talked about for the next several months.

SUFFRAGETTE opens in theaters October 23.

Rating: B

Watch the trailer:

1 comments:

Brittani Burnham said...

I'm probably going to see this in theaters. I'm glad you were impressed with Anne Marie Duff, she really does do great work. I loved her in Nowhere Boy.

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