Strong Women Dominate Holiday Fare

Image Courtesy of EuropaCorp USA

One of the recurring complaints about movies is the lack of strong female characters. As this week’s Miss Sloane demonstrates, they do exist.  (And one of the most refreshing things about that particular character is that she’s truly a man’s equal who, at times, is just as despicable as a member of the opposite sex.)  However, it seems that this holiday season, we’re gifted with an unusually large and diverse slate of movies that feature strong women, as well as provide unique opportunities for the actors who play them.

Besides Miss Sloane (read our review here), there are at least ten other movies featuring strong women that have been released since the end of September, or will be released between now and January, 2017.  They span many genres, from animation to documentary to drama to science-fiction to thriller.  Please note, though, that none of them are romantic comedies.  So, while this season may offer an increasing number of strong women, it also offers a higher number of serious women who don’t fall to pieces when Matthew McConaughey or Ryan Gosling walks in.

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Here’s the rundown:

Based on the ESPN Magazine article and book by Tim Crothers, Queen of Katwe tells the story of a Ugandan girl (Madina Nalwanga) from the slums who becomes a Woman Candidate Master after learning to play chess and participating in the World Chess Olympiads.

In Certain Women, the lives of three women (Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart and Michelle Williams) intersect in a small town in Montana.  Two of the three actors had terrific roles in other movies this season, too: Stewart in Café Society and Williams in Manchester by the Sea.

The Eagle Huntress is a documentary about Aisholpan Nurgaiv, a 13-year old girl who trains to become the first female in 12 generations of her family to become an eagle hunter.  It’s narrated by Daisy Ridley.

Isabelle Huppert plays a successful business woman who stalks the man who raped her in Elle, based on the novel by Philippe Djan.

In The Edge of Seventeen, Nadine’s (Halle Steinfeld) best friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson) begins dating her older brother, making high school life even more unbearable for her.

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The latest Disney princess animated feature is about Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of a Polynesian chief who becomes the one hope for saving her people.

Taking place primarily during the days following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Jackie follows Jacqueline Kennedy (Natalie Portman) as she attempts to craft the legacy she wants to survive for her husband.

After Daisy Ridley’s star turn as Rey in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, another woman, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) leads an effort to steal the plans for the evil Empire’s Death Star in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Seen through the eyes of a 15-year old boy growing up in 1979, 20th Century Women depicts the three women in his life: his mother, Dorothea (Annette Bening), an older tenant in their house, Abbie (Greta Gerwig), and the girl with whom he thinks he’s in love, Julie (Elle Fanning).

In Hidden Figures, John Glenn becomes the first astronaut to orbit the Earth, thanks in part to the three African-American women (Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae) who helped NASA by working in the segregated computer division at Langley Research Center.  (Monae also delivered an Oscar-worthy performance in Moonlight.)

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These eleven films mark great progress for the motion picture industry; however, I’d be ignoring the work that remains if I didn’t mention that only three of them were directed by women (Mira Nair, Queen of Katwe; Kelly Reichardt, Certain Women; and Kelly Fremon Craig (The Edge of Seventeen).  Even worse, only two were written by women (Reichardt and Craig).  It will be interesting to see if the strong women characters on screen begin to compensate for the lack of strong women off screen.

I’m guessing most audiences care more about the former than the latter. So if it’s a concern to you, show Hollywood where it matters: at the box office.  However, don’t feel like you have to do it simply to make a statement; of the ones I’ve seen from the list, they’re very entertaining anyway.  You’ll enjoy yourself watching them, regardless of gender politics.

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