So, we’re almost halfway through the year and, looking back on the past six months, I haven’t seen quite as many female-directed as I’d hoped, but I’ve seen many more than I saw last year. I’m looking forward to catching up with a lot of movies this summer, especially those available on streaming services since I’m not big on summer blockbuster fare. If, like me, you’re looking for something to watch, please check out my list of 2018 Films Directed or Written by Women because I’ve been doing my best to keep it up to date.
There were a handful of female-directed/written movies that I saw this spring that I didn’t have a chance to review, so I’m going to do a little round-up here of four films: On Body And Soul, Becks, The Party, and The Post.
Every once in a while I see a love story on screen and I think this is what movies are for. That’s how I felt about On Body and Soul, a Hungarian film directed by Ildikó Enyedi. It’s about the mysterious connection between a man and a woman who dream the same dream every night–a fact they discover accidentally due to an investigation of embezzlement at the slaughterhouse where they both work. This is a beautiful, unexpected, and highly romantic story. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at last year’s Academy Awards, and is now streaming on Netflix.
I was rooting for this movie, but it didn’t quite deliver. It follows a singer-songwriter, Becks (Lena Hall), who returns to her hometown after her girlfriend dumps her. She moves in with her mom (Christine Lahti) to regroup, but then gets bored, and gets up to mischief. Kind of a classic indie movie premise. Becks has a low-key charm that almost carries the thin plotting. She’s a talented musician who quickly gains a following at a local bar, especially as she starts writing new songs about her break-up. When she starts dating the wife of someone she went to high school with, she gets into trouble–especially after her mother finds out. The bones of a distinctive story were there, but none of the characters, including Becks, were fully developed.
This movie opens with Kristin Scott Thomas pointing a gun at the camera. (Insert Chekhov reference.) Then it goes back in time to follow the events leading up to this dramatic moment. I thought I was going to love this dinner-party-gone-wrong movie because the ensemble cast was amazing–and they were–but I didn’t think the writing was very funny or interesting. When the film returned to the final scene my reaction was more of a ‘What? Well, OK. I guess’ when it should have been a “Oooooh of course!” or: “Ha ha ha ha” I think? Honestly, I didn’t know what to make of this movie and seriously questioned my ability to write film reviews after seeing it. All I could think to say was that it was shot in really crisp, stylish black-and-white. Also, it’s quite short, so maybe give it a try?
This is a Spielberg film, so it obviously wasn’t directed by a woman. But it was co-written by a woman (Liz Hannah), a fact that is sadly unusual in a mainstream movie. So I had that in mind while watching it. The plot centers on Washington Post editor Katherine Graham’s decision about whether or not to publish The Pentagon Papers. The script works very hard to show why this was a particularly difficult call for Graham to make, given her gender and class. She’s an upper crust lady who never expected to helm a newspaper; she’s running it because her husband committed suicide, leaving her in charge. The tragic circumstances leave her unmoored and anxious, yet she’s also a very smart and capable person with plenty of experience in the newspaper business. There’s no reason she can’t make difficult decisions. But, because she’s surrounded by men, no one really trusts her and she has to find the strength on her own.
This is a hard thing to dramatize, but when you have Meryl Streep playing your leading lady, you don’t have to get too didactic with your dialogue. Unfortunately, there were a couple of times when when I felt like the characters were giving speeches on how difficult it is to be a woman in power. But I get it, because this movie was made right after Hillary Clinton lost the election, when we were in the midst of a national debate about how difficult it is for women to run for office.