By Jennifer Merin
WeNews film critic
Thursday, July 23, 2009
"Julie and Julia" is high on the femme film radar of must-see movies in August. Jennifer Merin also recommends many more movies, including "Cold Souls," an Argentinean festival favorite and a documentary about the fashionista Anna Wintour.
(WOMENSENEWS)--Movie marketers who foist femme-helmed films on the "women's niche market" are not to be trusted as guides. But right now they're all fired up about the August 7 opening of "Julie and Julia"--and so, as it happens, am I.
"Julie and Julia" is writer-director Nora Ephron's feature about two strong women--Julia Child and Julie Powell--as played by two exceptional actresses, Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, respectively.
Ephron, well-embedded in Hollywood filmmaking circles, bases her screenplay on the charming, best-selling memoir of the same title. In the book, prima blogger Julie Powell recounts how she devised her life-altering plan to cook 524 of super chef Julia Child's recipes in 365 days, while serving up impressions of her culinary triumphs and frustrations on the Internet and developing a coterie of fans.
As special ingredients for the adaptation, Ephron blends in flashback sequences based on excerpts from Julia Child's memoir, "My Life in France." The seasoned rom-com writer's script spices up the scenario by cooking up parallels between the two women's lives, including male love interests who support, inspire and offer good counsel to their respective wives.
Julie Powell's new book, "Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession," is scheduled to come out in tandem with the movie, revealing the potentially heavy hand of marketers. But don't let that stop you from seeing this movie--it's a multi-course feast.
Also opening on August 7--but this one is in limited release--is writer-director Sophie Barthes' quirky, offbeat first feature "Cold Souls." It captures the angst of an actor in the act of assuming a character.
In this case, the actor is Paul Giamatti playing an actor named Paul Giamatti who's been cast to play Vanya in Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya." Giamatti, grappling with the challenge of playing the soulful Vanya, takes advantage of a secret new technology that enables him to expel his soul and import the soul of a Russian, so he can more successfully portray Vanya.
Surrounding Giamatti in the film are several strong female characters, including the intriguing soul bearer. This woman, like a drug "mule," transports souls from one nation to another while trying to prevent the disintegration of her own soul.
"Paper Heart" is another first feature opening in select theaters on August 7. This romantic comedy, which generated buzz at the Sundance Film Festival, is co-written by and stars newcomer Charlyne Yi. It is about a young woman (Yi) who sets off to make a documentary about not believing in love. While traveling across the nation to interview a collection of subjects who've found love, lost love or never considered love, she encounters a young man (Michael Cera) who captures her own heart and becomes an integral part of the film's ongoing story.
This road trip romance has genuine charm and freshness and provides intriguing insights into the expectations of love among the digital generation.
Famed "Mumblecore" director Andrew Bujalski's "Beeswax" opens at New York City's Film Forum on August 7 as well, with a national rollout to follow. The film revolves around the personal and professional interactions of identical twin sisters, one of whom has been a wheelchair-bound paraplegic since childhood. The sisters are played by extraordinary newcomers Tilly and Maggie Hatcher.
Arriving August 14, "The Time Traveler's Wife" is the cinematic adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's best-selling novel of the same name. It's a fantasy about a Chicago librarian whose marriage is in trouble because he has an unusual gene that causes him to time travel involuntarily. Yes, that would be hard to explain to one's mate.
On August 19, Argentinean writer-director Lucrecia Martel's 2008 film "The Headless Woman" ("La Mujer sin Cabeza") opens in select venues. This festival favorite is a psychological drama about a traumatized woman who's had a road accident in which she may have killed someone. The film's nonlinear plot is at times a bit confusing, but the filmmaker's willingness to use her medium to explore and tackle a difficult subject is unfailingly impressive.
Releasing August 21, "Post Grad" is a femme-centric romantic comedy about a college grad (Alexis Bledel) who can't find a job and has to move back home to her quirky parents' house while she tries to figure out what to do with her life. The film is directed by Vicky Jenson (best known for her work on animated features such as "Shrek" and "Shark Tale") and written by Kelly Fremon (whose script for "Streak" was directed by Demi Moore).
In "My One and Only," a 1950s-style comedy set for a limited release on August 21, Rene Zellwegger stars as Anne Deveraux, a glamorous gold digger who drives down the East Coast on a mission to find a wealthy man to support her and her sons.
Also due for limited release on August 21, Mexican director Issa Lopez's "Casi Divas" ("Road to Fame") is a showbiz-themed comedy in which four ambitious actresses try to outdo each other to get cast in a hotshot producer's new movie.
"Inglorious Basterds," opening nationwide on August 21, might not speak to women, but its director, Quentin Tarantino, has a gloriously interesting track record of creating strong female characters. One example is the middle-aged airline flight attendant in Tarantino's movie about her, "Jackie Brown." In "Basterds," the title of which is intentionally misspelled, a girl is pivotal to the story of a battalion of Jewish American World War II soldiers who brutalize Nazis, but then come under the influence of a French-Jewish female teen who runs a Paris movie theater.
The always-intriguing Anna Wintour, Vogue's editor in chief and one of the world's most famous and influential fashionistas--who is thought to have inspired Meryl Streep's character in "The Devil Wears Prada"--is the subject of R.J. Cutler's documentary, "The September Issue," which opens August 28.
In "H2: Halloween 2," Rob Zombie directs the latest movie in the John Carpenter horror franchise, which is in theaters on August 28. The film again revolves around the character Laurie Strode, played by Scout Taylor-Compton, who is still struggling to free herself from her dark past.
Jennifer Merin is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (AWFJ). She edits AWFJ Women On Film (http:www.awfj.org, email@example.com) and writes about film for About.com (http://documentaries.about.com).
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