(WOMENSENEWS)–With year-end holidays and Academy Awards on the horizon, November promises plenty for moviegoers.
But if forced to choose, I’d pick "Made in Dagenham," opening Nov. 19, as the most must-see film of all.
This stirring history-based drama is about the 1968 strike at Ford’s Dagenham car factory in England, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination, shut down the plant and won equal pay and recognition for their skills as workers.
The wonderful Sally Hawkins–who played Poppy in 2008’s "Happy-Go-Lucky"–stars as the unflappable and unstoppable Rita O’Grady, a skilled machinist, loving homemaker and regular gal. O’Grady stands up for what she knows to be just and finds herself leading her co-workers forward. By persuading the male-dominated union to support their cause, O’Grady and the other strikers win a victory for unionized women everywhere.
"Made In Dagenham" is destined to join the ranks of "Norma Rae" and "Silkwood" as a classic tale of a salt-of-the-earth woman driven by trying circumstances into the forefront of the battle for economic justice.
Now for the chronological order of movie releases.
Nov. 5 Triple Header No. 1
On Nov. 5, three notable movies, including two political scandals, hit the screens.
"Fair Game" is Doug Liman’s truth-based spy thriller about Valerie Plame (played by Naomi Watts), the CIA agent whose identity was revealed by White House officials allegedly trying to discredit her husband, Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn). Wilson had written a column for The New York Times indicating that the Bush administration manipulated intelligence concerning weapons of mass destruction as a way to justify invading Iraq.
The film’s behind-the-headlines view of Washington politics is fascinating. Plame is a compelling character, portrayed as a woman who stands strong against political pressure and refuses to succumb to threats. The onscreen chemistry between Watts and Penn, who appeared together in 2003’s "21 Grams," also stokes the film.
In "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer," documentary maker Alex Gibney looks beyond the tabloid tale of the former New York governor’s politically disastrous involvement with call girl Ashley Dupre to probe the underlying politics also in play. The film also explores how torrid current events and incidents shape social mores and our way of life.
"For Colored Girls" is Tyler Perry’s cinematic version of Ntozake Shange’s " For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf," a collection of poetic monologues about abuse, abortion and other issues facing black women that was brilliantly staged in 1974. Perry–famous for cross-dressing into the leading role of his huge-grossing "Madea" films–recruits a powerhouse cast that includes Thandie Newton, Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson and Macy Gray. There is stunning cinematography but Perry-esque melodrama stunts the gut-level lyricism of Shange. Disappointing.
Nov. 12 Triple-Header No. 2
Nov. 12 brings another trio of cinematic treats.
"You Won’t Miss Me," stars Stella Schnabel (yes, she’s artist and filmmaker Julian’s daughter) as Shelly Brown, a young woman recently released from a mental hospital who seeks to define her identity against the pulsing background of New York City. The indie drama was directed by Ry Russo-Young and co-written by Russo-Young and Schnabel.
"Morning Glory" stars Rachel McAdams as a TV producer hired to boost ratings on a failing morning show that’s anchored by two feuding past-prime personalities (Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford). If you’re looking for laughs, here they are, thanks to the screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna ("The Devil Wears Prada," 2006) and a deftly comedic cast.
In "Cool It," documentary maker Ondi Timoner airs out Danish author and academic Bjorn Lomborg’s controversial and contrarian premise–set forth in his 2001 book "The Skeptical Environmentalist"–that global warming is less threatening to our immediate survival than the decreasing supply of fresh water and the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria. Timoner follows Lomborg around the world, as he examines facts and seeks reasonable solutions to major global problems.
Nov. 19 Triple Header No. 3
Nov. 19 brings three more recommendations.
Claire Denis’s stunning "White Material" opens in limited release. It is set in a rural French-speaking place somewhere in Africa–a country is never specified–filled with racial tension and erupting with civic violence. A white French family struggles to prevent the takeover of its coffee plantation. Isabelle Huppert gives a powerful and poignant performance as Maria Vial, the matriarch who desperately tries to keep her family safe and together.
"Nothing Personal," written and directed by Urszula Antoniak, also opens in limited release with a wider roll out set for Nov. 26. It tells the strange tale of Anne, an alienated woman who leaves Holland for Ireland, where she continues her lonely existence until she meets a hermit. No spoilers. You’ll have to see the film to find out how they connect.
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" is the much-awaited, latest installment of the J.K. Rowling franchise, on conventional screens and IMAX. This episode, in which the dark forces conspire to kill Harry, is quite frightening. But it’s a must-see for kids of all ages. It’s directed by David Yates, who helmed the last two "Potters."
Nov. 24 Triple Header No. 4
On Nov. 24, two family features will compete for the holiday box office.
"Nutcracker in 3-D" gives the classic Christmas tale a new spin, with new story elements and a high-tech presentation. The live action-animation hybrid headlines Elle Fanning, Nathan Lane and John Turturro in its stellar cast.
Similarly, the animated "Tangled" is Disney’s fresh twist on the favored Rapunzel story. Mandy Moore voices the long-haired princess who must muster enough courage to leave her tower to find the man–a bandit whom she saw from afar–that she thinks she loves. Both "Nutcracker in 3-D" and "Tangled" are sure kid pleasers for the holidays.
Also opening Nov. 24, "Burlesque," starring Cher, Christina Aguilera, Kristen Bell
and Stanley Tucci, offers more adult fare. In this predictable musical drama, a 20-something gal seeking adventure and self-improvement flees the boredom of her rural hometown, gets herself a big-city job as a waitress in a burlesque house and eventually manages to become one of the dancers. The movie is quick paced and stylish, with solid performances and some very good music–especially from the big voiced Aguilera–that makes it a fun escape. The skimpy little costumes, however, could make you think twice about having that second piece of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving dinner.
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In addition to covering film for Women’s eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com (http://documentaries.About.com) and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists (www.AWFJ.org), a nonprofit organization of the leading women film journalists in the U.S. and Canada.
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