(WOMENSENEWS)–"Miss You Already" is this week’s femme-helmed, femme-centric must-see movie, offering an impressively authentic feminist representation of the ways in which women can bond, support and respect each other. The script has tremendous warmth and humor, and not one iota of cloying sentimentality. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke and scripted by Morwenna Banks, it’s about two lifelong best friends whose emotional and physical circumstances suddenly collide when Jess (Drew Barrymore) joyfully discovers she is pregnant for the first time at a point when Milly (Toni Collette) becomes threatened by an aggressive form of cancer and needs chemotherapy that will disrupt her happy family life. Despite this sudden divergence in their emotional states, the strong friendship survives. No spoilers, but do bring tissues. You’re likely to tear up.
"The Outskirts," another femme-centric drama, sends an opposite message.
Dominique Ferrari and Suzanne Wrubel‘s script captures teen-girl popularity angst, but the unpleasant competitiveness they create among their characters produces an unappealing spectacle of female bullying. In the movie, geeky teen girls team up to take down the ultimate mean Queen Bee of their high school class. The film features a swarm of young female stars – Victoria Justice, Eden Sher and Peyton List, among them – who are popular with teen audiences, and might serve as role models. But their characters in this film are shallow and rather unappealing. Steer your teens to another onscreen story if you can.
Mainstream media – as in the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Estates – is under scrutiny in "Trumbo" and "Spotlight," two excellent and important truth-based narrative features opening this week.
"Trumbo" is a biopic about Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), one of Hollywood’s top screenwriters who was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the late 1940s and subsequently blacklisted. The film shows how Trumbo cleverly continued to sell his brilliant scripts and win awards for "The Brave One" and "Roman Holiday" by using pseudonyms or without taking any credit. The film, directed by Jay Roach, sheds light on a dark chapter in Hollywood’s (and the nation’s) history. Look for splendid performances by Diane Lane as Dalton’s wife, Cleo, and Helen Mirren as influential gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
"Spotlight" focuses on the Boston Globe’s investigative reporters and editors who broke the chilling story of rampant child molestation within the local Catholic archdiocese and the church’s ongoing efforts to cover up the scandal. Director Tom McCarthy’s compelling drama plays like a thriller, with inherent advocacy for serious long-term investigative journalism as a medium that furthers social justice. With commitment and daring, the Pulitzer Prize-winning team of journalists uncover incidents of sexual abuse to children that involved some 90 priests, none of whom were punished by the church or prosecuted by secular authorities. Performances by Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Keaton do justice to the dedicated journalists they portray.
"SPECTRE" draws on past Bond plots, introduces new spy gadgets and continues agent antics in a way that’s almost spoofy and should appeal to the franchise’s fans. It is the latest with Daniel Craig playing James Bond. It’s deftly directed by Sam Mendes and smartly penned by a team of previous Bond script alums. The significant others — all foils for Bond’s whims and fancies — are played by Lea Seydoux, Naomie Harris and Monica Bellucci (whose character is married to a man who gets killed by Bond and is then seduced by Bond at her husband’s funeral). Daniel Craig earns feminist kudos for calling out Bond as a sexist and laughing off ideas that Bond’s attraction to the character played by Bellucci, who is four years older than Craig, can be described as succumbing to the charms of an older woman. "I’d call her a woman his own age," Craig has commented.
"Brooklyn," which opened Nov. 4, is a romantic drama about Eilis (Saoirse Ronan), an Irish girl who emigrates to the U.S. in the 1950s to find a better life for herself. Things go well. She moves into a young women’s boarding house in Brooklyn, gets a respectable job in retail and falls in love with an Italian boy. However, her new world contentment is shattered when she returns home to deal with family matters and inadvertently rekindles feelings for a local lad she’d know before leaving Ireland. Ronan’s performance is compelling and seductive, but the story is just a wee bit too slick and sentimental to be entirely believable. But, if you’re looking to escape into a pleasing and heartfelt fantasy, or a story that boosts confidence that women can determine their own destinies, this film is your ticket to ride.
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