Women Take Center Stage in These 6 Summer Blockbusters
What’s a great way to beat the heat this summer?
A trip to the movies in a nice air conditioned theater is on the top of my list, and luckily there are a bunch of women-centric movies to keep me occupied.
Take for one Tammy, the new comedy starring Melissa McCarthy that’s out this weekend. In addition to being the movie’s leading lady, McCarthy also co-wrote and produced the movie with her husband Ben Falcone. McCarthy was going to co-direct the movie as well, but filming for her popular sitcom Mike and Molly made it impossible for her to do (busy lady!). It did give her the chance to test out her directing chops which makes me hopeful that directing movies isn’t far behind.
Despite some initial negative reviews, Tammy is worth a watch even if it’s just to support the only comedy released this season to star a woman. If that doesn’t convince you, how about this? Will Ferrell, another one of the movie’s producers, says the following about McCarthy’s performance:
There’s a sense of excitement and danger with her performances. She’s beautifully reckless and does things you’ve never seen a woman do.
Another movie I’m dying to see this summer is Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child. In a year when only 4 percent of movies are being directed by women, it’s worth noting that Robespierre not only directed, but also co-wrote the romantic comedy which is the first to center around abortion. The movie tells the story of a stand-up comedian, Jenny Slate, who gets pregnant after a one-night stand and decides to have an abortion. On why she decided to make the film Robespierre says:
We hadn’t seen a feature film talk about it [abortion] in a way that lifted the stigma and let it be complex and let it be difficult and let it be also safe and actually end with the abortion procedure…where the main character is not filled with shame and regret.
A stigma-free movie about abortion? It’s about time we see a mainstream movie that actually recognizes abortion as a safe and legal option for women facing unplanned pregnancies. This is a movie you do not want to miss.
Another woman directed and written film to see this summer, Very Good Girls, also stars two young leading ladies — Dakota Fanning, 20, and Elizabeth Olsen, 25. The movie tells the story of two best friends on a mission to lose their virginity before leaving for college. When they both fall for the same boy, their friendship is tested for the first time.
Rising to fame as a child actor, this coming-of-age movie is Fanning’s most mature role to date. It will be interesting to see Fanning take on this role and further see how director and writer Naomi Foner depicts the intricacies of female friendship.
One of my favorite actresses, Toni Collette, stars in another one of this summer’s film releases Lucky Them. Directed by Megan Griffiths and co-written by Emily Wachtel, this dramatic comedy tells the story of a rock journalist whose latest assignment has her tracking down a long lost love to salvage her career. With a woman director, writer and leading lady I hope Lucky Them has more depth than just another love story.
Thanks to the popularity of movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent, action films starring women are becoming less rare. Lucy, this summer’s woman lead action movie, stars Scarlett Johansson whose involvement in a drug trafficking operation causes a bag of magic drugs to leak inside her stomach.
Unlike Katniss, Lucy has superpowers which give her the ability to access 100 percent of her brain, among other skills like super strength. The action packed movie has our heroine kicking butt from start to finish with the added bonus of being the smartest person on the planet.
Last, but certainly not least, Maleficent, written by Linda Woolverton and starring Angelina Jolie, is another stand-out hit for women this summer. In fact, the fairytale has just crossed over the $600 million mark, becoming the fourth highest-earning film of the year and star Angelina Jolie’s highest-grossing film to date.
Having women write, produce, direct and star in blockbuster movies is great, but is it enough? I’d have to argue no.
What we need is more movies that portray the varied experiences of being a women, rather than those that just highlight their relationships with men which is the central theme to so many films. That’s why the Bechdel test has become key to determining whether women-centric films can really be considered progress for women. The test asks three basic questions:
- Are there more than two named female characters?
- Do the two female characters have a conversation at any point?
- Is that conversation about anything other than a male character?
Doesn’t seem like too hard of a test to pass, right? Wrong. Half of 2014′s movies have actually failed the Bechdel test. How do our summer movies fare? Tammy, Obvious Child, and Maleficent all pass with flying colors.
As for Very Good Girls, Lucky Them and Lucy, the jury is still out but given their premises I wouldn’t be surprised if they got a big fat “F”! If the future of the entertainment industry is going to really embrace women, then we need everyone to try to ace this test.
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Photo Credit: DaveCrosby