Friday, August 20, 2010

Female Movie Leads

One might think that the only type of female-lead movies that you can catch nowadays are the unrealistic, privileged white women types that no one can really identify with. Or as my friend Laura put it on her Twitter page (dittydot_76):

The women coming to The Davis to see 'Whiny, wealthy, white' are everything I expected.

You would have to tie me down Clockwork Orange style to get me to watch #eatpraylove

Her takes on feminist issues are well-informed and, more importantly, wickedly funny. Follow her or read her blog (The Sarchasm).

Thankfully, Eat, Pray, Love is not the only thing out there. I'm recommending 3(one new, one recent, and one old) action movies with strong and interesting female leads that I, oddly and by no specific design, watched in a period of only 3 days this past week or so: Salt, Nikita, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I was originally going to be a lot more ambitious with this and have full reviews of all three. But then I read Wunelle's reviews of Salt and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I went into a depression. He writes disgustingly well and my reviews would come off like Perez Hilton as compared to Shakespeare. So, instead I'll just give some general impressions.

Salt is by no means high art, but the movie moves, is not effects-laden and has enough twists to keep you interested. Jolie, as she did in Wanted, can believably kick some ass but also has enough acting chops to keep you questioning her allegiances. A couple of my favorite actors, Chiwetal Ojeafor and Liev Schreiber also have large roles. It may be oversimplifying, but for a fortune cookie length description, you wouldn't be far off to call it a female led Bourne-type spy movie.

Nikita(or La Femme Nikita) is very good. Nikita is a miscreant and convicted felon, and the government gives her a chance to become a spy . But first, extensive training and deprogramming to break the troubled child. I had watched the movie many years ago when I was on a bit of a Luc Besson kick. I've always liked the Fifth Element, and especially The Professional (with Jean Reno and a young Natalie Portman). Nikita is one of his earliest films and is in French with subtitles. Jean Reno is also in this movie, in a role similar to his in The Professional. This movie is much better than the American remake (Point of No Return) with Bridget Fonda. Yeah, Bridget Fonda. Often when I think of a female kicking ass, I think of Bridget Fonda ... or not. There was also a television series, which may be fine, but I've never watched it.

I liked The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo quite a bit. I might be wrong but it sure seems like European directors have a better sense of cinematography, spacing, and character development and don't feel compelled to jam pack movies with unnecessary special effects. That being said, I'm still looking forward to the American remakes of this film (and the others in the series) that are coming, mostly because of the involvement of director David Fincher and actor Daniel Craig.

Lisbeth Salander, in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, is very similar to Clarice in Silence of the Lambs in how she investigates a series of murders and in how she is viewed by those around her because of her sex and her appearance.

All three films have women that had harsh and abusive childhoods. Salt, in order to make her a more useful spy. Nikita and Lisbeth, for no better reasons than people can be shits and they compound it by taking it out on their children.

I'm not going to go too far into a field where I'm clearly out of my field of expertise, but all three of these female characters are pushing back against a male-dominated world that has oppressed them in some way. Whether it be what society views as gender-appropriate roles (all three movies). Or the sexual element and how women have to cope with abuse that men inflict upon them both physically and mentally (Tattoo and Nikita). All three are smart, and talented. They have a tendency to sabotage their relationships with others through necessity or trust issues brought upon by the previously mentioned abuse.

Now, both Nikita and Tattoo are subtitled. If you don't like movies with subtitles, get over it. There is literally a whole world of quality cinema that most people never get the chance (or take the chance) to see. Choosing to not watch movies with subtitles is like playing a piano and choosing not to use the black keys.

I'm sure there is an audience for movies like Eat, Pray, Love, but for those women that don't necessarily want whine with their cheese, take a look at these three movies.


CyberKitten said...

Loved 'Nikita'. As you said much better than The Assassin (as it was called over here) much as I quite like Bridget Fonda.....

Seeing 'Salt' next week with the guys....

wunelle said...

Thanks for the plug, my friend.

I'm always eager to see your take on the films we've both seen to see if we are on the same page. It seems we virtually always are.

And so it is here. I haven't seen Nikita for years, but I remember liking it. And like you, I love the Fifth Element and Leon the Professional (French title). That latter is also notable for being Natalie Portman's debut. A very Jodie-Foster-in-Taxi-Driver moment.

I think Lisbeth Salander is one of fiction's great characters, in part because of how her personal issues (which are, unsurprisingly, not of her own making) threaten to subsume and overrun her genius. Her refusal to be a victim in the face of almost insurmountable odds is thrilling to watch. She goes all in with every wager, it seems. Noomi Rapace has set the bar incredibly high for any remake, though as you say the US project seems to be off to a promising start.

dbackdad said...

CK -- I like Bridget Fonda too, but more in stuff like Singles.

Wunelle -- No prob. You consistently impress me with your writing and your viewpoint.

The books of this series are on my purchase list. Hopefully, I'll get them this weekend. I have a Border's gift card burning a hole in my pocket.

movie community said...

Hey it is great to know about the movie leads by female..I love watching movies in my free time especially old one's. Great collection of you also love watching movies ??

Lauryn Purtee said...

Hmm, Jolie's character, Evelyn Salt, is really tricky! I mean, I really did not get what she really was in the movie. Is she a Russian spy? Yes, 'coz she's runnin' away from the authorities. But she doesn't like that fact!