By Jennifer Merin
WeNews film critic
Friday, January 10, 2014
A bumper crop of great movies open Jan. 10, including this teen-angst drama in the context of forced marriage and vigilante justice in the former Soviet Union. Another winner, "Divorce Corp," brings a critical look at the problems plaguing family court.
Credit: Courtesy of Palace Films
(WOMENSENEWS)--Two fine female-directed movies are opening Jan. 10, along with several others specifically focused on feminist issues and women's concerns about the ways in which our gender is represented in film.
"In Bloom," opening in New York with a subsequent roll out in Los Angeles and other cities, presents a thoroughly engaging view of the spirit-saving friendship between two female teens who are coming of age during troubled times in Tbilisi, Georgia, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Basing the story on her own experiences, screenwriter and co-director Nana Ekvtimishvili spotlights these two helping each other overcome teen angst in the context of forced marriage and vigilante justice. Superb performances by Lika Babluani and Mariam Bokeria clearly identify them as young actresses in bloom. The film is Georgia's official submission for the Oscars, but it didn't make the foreign film shortlist. It should have. See this one. If it doesn't appear at your local art cinema, lobby for it.
"The Truth About Emanuelle," directed by Franesca Gregorini, is a psychological drama and thriller about a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) haunted by her mother's death during her own birth who becomes obsessed with a new neighbor (Jessica Biel) and her newborn baby girl. Plot twists mixed with surreal imaging and stunningly nuanced performances make the film a gripper.
"Divorce Corp," which is opening in select cities, is a documentary that exposes the sordid stories and statistics of divorce and family court proceedings in the United States. As witnesses, divorced people present evidence of corruption, extortion and settlements delayed for years so that lawyers, judges and professional evaluators can collect huge fees. Lawyers, including Gloria Allred, say the system is shockingly unjust. Filmmaker Joe Sorge shows how, by comparison, the Scandinavians deal with the divorce process in a fair and more compassionate way. A must-see.
"If You Build It" documents a year in an innovative educational program in which North Carolina high school teachers Emily Pilloton and Matt Miller offer students special credit for participating in Studio H, a shop class that takes on community improvement projects. Their idea is a great one and the program has all around win-win results. Unfortunately, the film is ramped up with a reality TV editing style and rah-rah music that gives it the feel of an episode of "Home Makeover."
"Loves Her Gun" is one of several femme-centric thriller/horror/action flicks opening this month. Trieste Kelly Dunn plays a victimized ingénue who moves to Austin, Texas, in order to escape Brooklyn's aggressive streets; but she can't shake her recent brush with violence. So she buys a gun. Does that do the trick? No spoilers here. Co-written by Lauren Modery, this intriguing urban fantasy reveals nuanced views of what it takes for a woman to feel safe and in control of her life.
"Banshee Chapter" is a straight up horror film, with a little paranoia on the side. Katia Winter plays Anne Roland, a journalist who uncovers weird and nefarious governmental scientific experiments while investigating the disappearance of her friend. Roland is terrified throughout, and you will be, too. This movie is high-adrenaline scary.
"Cold Comes the Night" is filmmaker Tze Chun's femme-noir flick about a victimized woman who fights back. Chloe (Alice Eve), the manager of a rundown rural motel, and her young daughter are taken hostage by a Russian mobster (Bryan Cranston) who forces Chloe to front for him in his dealings with corrupt police. The plot is stretching it, but the performances are good and, like I said, Chloe does fight back.
"Raze" is also about kidnapped women; this time held captive and forced to fight each other gladiator-style, until one bludgeons the other to death. Zoe Bell and Rachel Nichols, the two main combatants, are formidable performers and they kick ass, as usual. But, really, they deserve roles with greater intellectual and emotional muscle. This scenario is about as feminist as mudwrestling. Miss it!
In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, a nonprofit organization of the leading female film journalists in the U.S. and Canada. She is also a member of the prestigious Broadcast Film Critics Association.
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