Tag Archives: Meryl Streep

Suffragette

Director: Sarah Gavron; Main Cast: Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham CarterBen WhishawRomola GaraiBrendan GleesonMeryl Streep;

Suffragette

Heartfelt and compelling story about a fight for fundamental rights (one of many in human history) seen through the eyes of Maud (Mulligan), who goes from downtrodden worker bee in a industrial laundry and submissive wife to staunch supporter and activist of the Women’s Social and Political Union at the beginning of the twentieth century. Mulligan’s character evolves slowly, spurred by another worker, Violet (Duff), recently arrived at the laundry, and then charmed by collected, singleminded Edith (Bonham Carter), a local medical doctor. Maud is capable and smart, hard worker and loving mother but she has been told all her life that she will never amount to anything (both with words and violence) and that made her submissive and scared. However, once Maud glimpses another way of approaching life, seeing women like her stand up for themselves and fight, she starts to find her inner strength and becomes an activist. Everything begins with a public hearing of a MP’s committee for women’s enfranchisement: Maud gives a matter-of-fact but convincing testimony of her life as worker. From that moment on, the audience dives, along with Maud, in the activities of the women’s movement that, incited by their charismatic leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Streep), are taken up a notch. What follows is a series of historical documented actions: firebombing of letterboxes, blowing up empty country estates, hunger strikes during imprisonment and Emily Davison’s martyrdom at the Epsom Derby. As we follow the struggle of these women to see recognised their right to vote, we get to know also the minds of the men. Unfortunately they aren’t portrayed in a positive light. Sonny (Whishaw) is Maud’s rather spineless husband, who kicks her out of their house because of peer-pressure from colleagues and acquaintances; inspector Steed (Gleeson) is the armed response of the Government, trained to deal with anarchists, bolsheviks and Irish insurgents, who treats these women as a dangerous threat to society. The supervisor at the laundry is downright vicious and the various Government’s officials are patronising, dismissive or out for blood and all very vague entities. The only redeeming male figure is Edith’s husband, who supports and protects her as much as possible. Unfortunately he’s a very marginal character in the story, which is a pity because it would have added an interesting point of view. Sarah Gavron’s film is engaging and show us historical events that are very seldom shown at the cinema. Carey Mulligan’s performance conveys both strength and vulnerability very effectively and she’s helped by a solid supporting cast.  Illuminating —7.5/10

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August: Osage County

Director:  John Wells, Main Cast: Meryl StreepJulia RobertsChris CooperMargo MartindaleEwan McGregorSam ShepardJulianne NicholsonJuliette LewisBenedict Cumberbatch;

august-osage-county

Tracy Letts adapted his Pulitzer winning play for the screen and it is a very interesting study of characters and family dynamics. With John Wells at the helm, an old and honest hand at the craft, we get, alternatively, dark, stuffy interiors and burning summer light on the plains of Oklahoma, nice juxtaposition that underlines the inner turmoils and difficult relationships of the Weston family. The family members reunites under rather gloomy circumstances: the disappearance and then death of the patriarch, Beverly (Shepard). It appears clear to his eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts) that he committed suicide, having made arrangements such as hiring a help for his cancer-suffering, pill-popping wife, Violet (Streep), two days before vanishing. The audience slowly learns about the past of each character and how they became what they are, in particular we get an deep insight into Violet: the harsh childhood and difficulties of her early life, and her sister Mattie (Martindale), turned them both into strong-willed, unforgiving women and relentless mothers and wives. It is a rather dismal portrait of what people can do to the psychological health of their children. Barbara is the eldest and clearly the favorite but, being an opinionated, strong woman herself, keeps locking horns with her mother, unfortunately, in turns, she is alienating her soon-to-be ex-husband Bill (McGregor) and teenager daughter (Abigail Breslin). Ivy (Nicholson) is the mild-mannered, submissive daughter, who does everything to help her mother (she is the only one who lives nearby) and avoid confrontations (which seems a self-defense technique). Karen (Lewis) is the free-spirit but insecure one, always undervalued and dismissed by Violet, who either runs away from her problems or desperately tries to fix them finding the “right” man. Among this gallery of “terrible” women the men seems both helpless (and hapless) and the only ones who can achieve some redeeming qualities. While longtime alcoholic and poet Beverly finds that the only way through is to walk out of this raw deal, his brother-in-law Charlie (Cooper) attempts to be level-headed, patient and kind, proving to be the most balanced person of the whole family. Little Charlie (Cumberbatch) is the most pitiful of the lot: disliked and verbally abused by his mother Mattie, with zero self-worth and self-esteem, still shows a gentle nature and a kind soul. As always, family reunion will bring up old stories and things that rub the wrong way, including long-kept secrets. It is very far from the Brady bunch and not a edifying picture of familiar relations but, nonetheless, an amazing study of human nature with all its ordinary flaws. The cast as an ensemble is spectacular and makes the film, the lion share is, of course, taken in equal parts by Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, both stretching their acting chops very effectively. Special kudos to Cooper and Cumberbatch for their portrayal of decent men. Intriguing —7.5/10

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