'Women and Girls Lead' in September Cinema

Friday, September 9, 2011

September brings a big gust of PBS programming and community screenings that show how girls and women are confronting war, famine and abuse. A documentary about a dolphin who gives inspiration to amputees is also in the mix.

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Same-Old Story

In "I Don't Know How She Does It," Sarah Jessica Parker plays a soon-to-be-middle-age wife and mother of two who also works and wants it all. The rom-com, with script by Aline Brosh McKenna, directed by Douglas McGrath and based on Allison Pearson's novel, has its clever and humorous moments, but this is a story that has been told time and again, often more satisfyingly. Parker is, as always, a little too pert, but at least her character's focus here is not entirely on her Manolos.

"Restless" brings us back to teen years again, this time with a poignant tale about a terminally ill girl (sensitively played by Mia Wasikowska) who bonds with Enoch, a rather quirky boy (sensitively played by Henry Hooper). No spoilers here, but bring hankies.

On Sept. 23, two animal-centric films are opening, one directed by a woman and the other co-written by a woman. "A Bird of the Air," is actress Margaret Whitton's directorial debut. It's an improbable rom-com about Lyman (Jackson Hurst), a shy fellow, who finds a conversational parrot, and Fiona (Rachel Nichols), who's seeking Mr. Right. Fiona decides she's going to help locate the priceless parrot's rightful owner, and things develop from there. "Dolphin Tale" is based on the true story of Winter, a dolphin rescued off the Florida coast. Winter's flukes, severely injured by wire, were replaced by a prosthetic tail, a first for dolphins. She is now fully recovered. Living happily at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, she has become an inspiration for amputees. In "Dolphin Tale," co-written by Karen Janzsen, Winter plays herself, starring opposite Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and other humans.

Five Late Openings

The month wraps up with five openings on Sept. 30. "Connected" is a documentary written, directed by and starring Tiffany Shlain, the accomplished filmmaker named by Newsweek as one of the "Women Shaping the 21st Century." Prompted by the death of her father (the prominent Leonard Shlain), the film presents a grieving daughter's reminiscences and her philosophical musings about the evolution of human interconnectivity in the digital age. When Shlain isn't on camera, questioning the meaning of it all, Peter Coyote provides voiced narration over archival footage and graphics that support her thoughts, premises and perceptions. Overall, the effort is rambling, self-indulgent and sadly unsatisfying.

Of the narrative films, the most anticipated (after several years in the editing room and legal delays) is Kenneth Lonergan's second feature, "Margaret," starring Anna Paquin as a guilt-ridden teenager who feels responsible for causing a deadly accident. Angst kicks into high gear as Margaret grapples with questions of right and wrong, her burgeoning sexuality, parental strife and an affair with her high school teacher (Matt Damon). Not entirely successful, but the film packs a lot of talent into its woes.

Starring as "Janie Jones," Abigail Breslin embodies the sufferings of parental neglect. Her single mom (Elizabeth Shue) is an irresponsible groupie, her dad (Alessandro Nivola) a musician who never even knew about her. A daughter doesn't fit into either of their lives. The plot isn't standout, but the performances are. And so is the music.

"What's Your Number?" is this month's chick-flick comedy. In a script by Jennifer Crittenden and Gabrielle Allan, Anna Faris stars as a dumb-but-wily blonde who believes that if she sleeps with more than 20 men, she'll never get married. So, having reached that limit, she revisits all her former "dates," looking for Mr. Right. Is this funny? Faris is. And so are some of the setups. But the premise and plot are less than buoyant. "Around June" is an indie drama-fantasy about a shy, unfulfilled, beautiful woman (Samaire Armstrong) who toils to take care of her alcoholic father and sweet-but-slow uncle until an unexpected romance with a sweet-but-struggling immigrant worker sets her free. I haven't seen the film, but I'd say give it a go.


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In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for ( ) and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists ( ), a nonprofit organization of the leading women film journalists in the U.S. and Canada. She is also a member of the Broadcast Journalists Association.

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Definitely going to see the films you listed here. Thanks!