Suffragette reviews

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Re: Suffragette reviews

Postby FilmFan720 » Sun Sep 06, 2015 2:56 pm

Big Magilla wrote:I think that ship has sailed. Women's suffrage is not a hot topic for most of today's women. This film, if it becomes a major hit, will more likely be because of its performances, not its message. Good to know, though, that Sasha has found a strong female character to push for Best Actress other than Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road.


Sorry Magilla, but your way off here. Woman's suffrage may not be a hot topic, but women's rights and succeeding in a male-dominated world most certainly is and that is what will probably propel this here.
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Re: Suffragette reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Sep 06, 2015 1:47 pm

I think that ship has sailed. Women's suffrage is not a hot topic for most of today's women. This film, if it becomes a major hit, will more likely be because of its performances, not its message. Good to know, though, that Sasha has found a strong female character to push for Best Actress other than Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

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Re: Suffragette reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:15 pm

Uri's implicit point is interesting. Will this film become a rallying cry for some women, especially with the prospect of a female US nominee/president in the immediate offing? Sasha Stone's (as usual) over-the-top review made the movie into a political cause, and there might be others who see it in similar terms.

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Re: Suffragette reviews

Postby Big Magilla » Sun Sep 06, 2015 5:49 am

Uri wrote:Does anyone knows the gender of the critic for THR?


Male - Stephen Farber wrote that.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

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Re: Suffragette reviews

Postby Uri » Sun Sep 06, 2015 4:30 am

So - Fionnuala likes it, Justin's (and BJ's) take is somewhat lukewarm. Does anyone knows the gender of the critic for THR?

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Re: Suffragette reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 05, 2015 4:50 pm

And Variety, more in tune with BJ's view (except really liking Mulligan).

Justin Chang
Chief Film Critic @JustinCChang

“Deeds, not words,” goes the refrain of “Suffragette,” a stolidly well-meaning tribute to the handful of brave women who realized that polite, law-abiding protests weren’t going to get them very far in the battle for voting rights in early 20th-century Britain. But while it boasts no shortage of dramatic activity as it lays bare the challenges and consequences of civil disobedience, this collaboration between director Sarah Gavron and screenwriter Abi Morgan doesn’t exactly uphold that mantra, insofar as it never seems to deviate from a neatly pre-packaged script of its own. As a lowly wife and mother slowly grabbing hold of her difficult destiny, Carey Mulligan gives an affecting, skillfully modulated performance that lends a certain coherence to this assemblage of real-life incidents, composite characters, noble sentiments, stirring speeches and impeccable production values — all marshaled in service of a picture whose politics prove rather more commendable than its artistry.

With an awards push for Mulligan likely in the works — plus a sort of Good Prestige-Drama Seal of Approval in the form of Meryl Streep, giving a drive-by cameo as the pioneering women’s activist Emmeline Pankhurst — this Focus Features release (opening Oct. 23 Stateside) could rally a modest commercial following, particularly if it succeeds in catching the mood of the moment. Heading into a season of welcome and widespread protest about the ongoing gender imbalance in moviemaking as well as politics, the timing arguably couldn’t be better for a female-written, female-directed drama about those who risked and lost everything in a not-so-distant era of even greater indifference and hostility to women’s rights.

The woman who loses the most in “Suffragette” is Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press), the real-life militant activist who famously stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913 — an act of fatal self-sacrifice that galvanized the women’s suffrage movement and made headlines around the world. That tragedy is duly dramatized here, although Davison herself remains a mostly peripheral figure: While Morgan is no stranger to biopics of Englishwomen in crisis (“The Iron Lady,” “The Invisible Woman”), she has constructed her screenplay around 24-year-old Maud Watts (Mulligan), a fictional amalgam of many different women, and one who serves the traditional narrative function of wide-eyed newcomer and audience stand-in.

When we first meet Maud in London circa 1912, she’s laboring under grueling sweatshop conditions at the laundry where her late mother worked before her, and where her husband, Sonny (Ben Whishaw), also works. The place is a hell on earth, full of heavy equipment, scalding chemicals and run-of-the-mill repression and abuse; those girls fortunate enough to avoid an early grave aren’t so lucky when it comes to the leering sexual advances of their boss, Mr. Taylor (Geoff Bell). But the laundry has also become a hotbed of subversive activity for the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), who have enacted a brick-hurling campaign of civil disobedience on Pankhurst’s orders. Their members include Maud’s spirited and resilient co-worker, Violet Miller (Anne-Marie Duff), who encourages her to attend one of their meetings.

But Maud, a well-behaved wife and model employee, is initially reluctant to join the ranks of the “filthy Panks,” as they’re derisively called in public — until, by a twist of fate, she winds up in a position to testify in Parliament before the chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George (Adrian Schiller), who is considering a voting-rights bill amendment that would favor the women’s cause. When the prime minister rejects the amendment, Maud’s righteous indignation is decisively awakened, though it’s almost just as quickly snuffed out when she’s caught up in a violent street protest and spends a week in prison alongside Violet and Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), a pharmacist and self-described “soldier” who distinguishes herself as the most frighteningly committed of the group. Maud’s association with the suffragettes (a more militant and vastly less socially acceptable faction than the suffragists) is met with shame and horror by Sonny, who, like almost all the husbands we see, do their part to help the police by keeping their wives in line.

In a way that recalls such feminist-crusader dramas as “Norma Rae” and “North Country,” Maud gradually transforms from meek, unassuming novice to determined pillar of the cause. She initially caves in to pressure from Inspector Arthur Steed (Brendan Gleeson, all avuncular menace), who tries to appeal to her reason and her cynicism by suggesting that nothing will ever change: “You’re only fodder for a battle none of you can win.” But Maud’s first incarceration turns out not be her last, and Mulligan does an especially good job of conveying her character’s indecisiveness, her finely etched features softening and hardening at will. But by the time Maud attends a top-secret WSPU rally featuring a rare personal appearance by Pankhurst herself — enter Streep, declaiming in high, fluttery tones from a balcony — it’s more than clear where our heroine’s true allegiance will ultimately lie.

Gavron, directing her first narrative feature since 2007’s “Brick Lane,” has the look of the period down cold: Edu Grau shoots in meticulously muted colors and grottily realist textures, while excellent visual contributions come courtesy of production designer Alice Normington and costume designer Jane Petrie (who nails the movement’s long dresses and broad-brimmed hats, as well as the more humdrum daily wardrobe of the working class). And Morgan’s well-researched script integrates intriguing details from the period, including Steed’s then-revolutionary use of advanced cameras to track and identify suffragettes, in scenes that play like something out of an Edwardian-era spy thriller; the women’s carefully coordinated hunger strikes behind bars, which led to ghastly forced feedings by the prison staff (Davison was subjected to 49 of them); and the bombing of Lloyd George’s house, a terrorist act that tests loyalties even within the movement, and one in which we see Maud actively taking part.

But notwithstanding the righteous fury of its central characters, radical gestures and anarchic impulses are in short supply in “Suffragette,” which has an awful lot of fascinating information to convey and only the most familiar tools with which to convey it (an unmemorable Alexandre Desplat score among them). It’s a movie of stultifying, spell-it-all-out conventionality, where character arcs and history lessons dovetail with the sort of tidiness that refutes the messy complexity of actual history, and where inspiring an audience means never having to provoke or challenge it. For if Gavron’s film is what used to be called a “women’s picture” in the righteous, rabble-rousing sense, it also turns out to be one in the tearjerking, 1940s-Hollywood sense — a three-Panky melodrama in which the issue of female suffrage comes in second to the spectacle of female suffering.

One of the film’s key points is that those suffragettes who went the farthest for their cause were those willing to lose everything, and Maud’s composite status enables the filmmakers to more or less have their way with her — driving a wedge between her and Sonny; denying her access to her young son, George (an adorable Adam Michael Dodd); turning her into a social pariah; and more or less ensuring that she truly has nothing left to lose. Such outrages did of course befall women with tragic frequency, but the one-damned-thing-after-another manner in which they befall Maud Watts feels manufactured to the point of manipulative. It’s no small testament to Mulligan’s performance that she manages to be entirely convincing, even when the same can’t be said about her character’s increasingly desperate fall from grace.

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Re: Suffragette reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sat Sep 05, 2015 1:29 pm

Reactions to almost all the films screened so far confirm my fear that this Oscar season is going to be a whole lot of "eat your spinach/it's good for you".

Screen Daily
by Fionnuala Halligan, Chief Film Critic

Dir. Sarah Gavron. UK, 2015. 106 mins

Carey Mulligan plays a hopelessly downtrodden laundry worker in 1912 London who becomes caught up the increasingly-violent surge of the women’s fight for votes in Sarah Gavron’s (Brick Lane) Suffragette. Rising from some creaky plot contrivances to a distressing finale, Suffragette, which features Meryl Streep all too briefly as Emmeline Pankhurst, is a rather tellingly delayed cinematic take on the misogyny of a century ago. The contemptuous dismissal of the women depicted onscreen cannot be safely consigned to the past, either, and Gavron, working with writer Abi Morgan, underlines this very effectively through a not-always-seamless blend of fictitious characters with real-life events. Their conclusion does not sell this story short.

For all that it is set up as a classic prestige film with impeccable production credits, Suffragette is markedly unusual looking – Spanish cinematographer Eduard ‘Edu’ Grau (Tom Ford’s A Single Man) shot in Super 16, according to the production notes, using a tricky colour palette which accents the green and purple colours of the Suffragette movement. The overall result can feel jarring during individual sequences amidst the tea-stained tones of the time, but has a cumulative effect which is curiously disturbing, perhaps even subversive. It’s a film with movement and energy.

Set for an awards season run after its Telluride premiere (it opens in the UK and Ireland in mid-Ocrober), Suffragette should benefit from an warm media response, certainly the support of womens’ groups, and perhaps a revival of interest in the early-20th century pioneers and proto-terrorists who were willing to sacrifice their lives and families for a change in circumstances which, despite so many advances, hasn’t fully transpired the way they might have wished. Methods used by police to break their movement – including separation from their families, repeated incarceration and force-feeding – are accurately represented here, and Suffragette is a bracing reminder of that casual brutality. Clunky first-act plotting which moves Mulligan’s Maud out of the laundry and her East End tenement slum and into the Houses of Parliament to testify in front of Lloyd George within mere minutes will need to be forgiven in the knowledge that Suffragette will ultimately pay off. More films could easily be made about this movement.

Mullligan’s Maud is a wife to Sonny (played with a nice degree of nuance by Ben Whishaw) a devoted mother, and a tireless worker in a life- and soul-destroying laundry in Bethnal Green which is run by an abusive boss (played by Geoff Bell). Delivering a package into the West End in 1912, she becomes caught up in a protest during which Suffragettes throw rocks through the windows of department stores in Central London (production during this ‘Oxford Street’ sequence is period impeccable).

She recognises one of the protesters as Violet (Anne-Marie Duff), a new colleague at the laundry, and soon Maud finds herself being seduced by the prospect of gaining a say in her own destiny, even though she knows it could destroy her life. Brendan Gleeson, as the Irish copper with experience infiltrating the Fenian movement who is drafted in to bring down the suffragettes, soon tells her: “You’re nothing in this world.” She knows he’s right. Armed with some clunky dialogue, he tries to blackmail her into betraying her fellow sympathisers, but she refuses, although one wonders why she’s free to make such deals after brandishing her boss with an iron.

A detailed sense of the history of the Pankhursts and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) never fully emerges. Suffragette’s strength lies in the fact that, even though some of the characters and events depicted seem archetypal, and they’re certainly composites, they turn out to be more than that. The men are not all villains; the women don’t all follow predictable paths. Gleeson’s Inspector Steed is shaded, almost regretful at times, while Whishaw’s Sonny is not by nature a bully. Mulligan’s Maud may drop everything perhaps a little too rapidly in the chase for her freedom and the chance to make a difference, but this is also a film in which everything has meaning for someone with so little. The film is also helped by the universal truth of the drama it illustrates. Prison sequences have the ring of authenticity.

Mulligan gives Maud equal measures of dignity and desperation and avoids over-playing her hand throughout. It’s a stripped-down, naked performance, as is that of Anne-Marie Duff. Those expecting (or led to expect, from the posters) Meryl Streep to turn out for her Iron Lady writer Abi Morgan with a barnstorming pivotal performance will be disappointed, as the actress is restricted to one Eva Peron-like balcony sequence. Instead Helena Bonham Carter steps out of some of her more recent exaggerated roles to play the chemist Edith, a more typically middle-class activist of the Suffragette movement than Maud or Violet. Interestingly Bonham Carter is the great-grandaughter of Lord Asquith, prime minister at the time of the events depicted onscreen.

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Re: Suffragette reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Sep 05, 2015 1:16 pm

Since reviews are starting to pop up, I'll expand a little bit more my thoughts on Suffragette. As I suggested in my comments a few days ago, this is the kind of film that I don't think anyone would argue was a BAD movie. It's well-mounted, with impressive period detail that doesn't look too glossy -- the working-class locales have a real gritty feel that fits the characters who inhabit them. The cast is full of a lot of good actors doing solid work across the board. And I think the movie has an anger to it that makes its best scenes resonate -- a fierce encounter between Mulligan's suffragist and Gleeson's law enforcement agent, a moment of painful separation between Mulligan and her son, a fairly brutally realized suicide. This definitely isn't a movie that is sugar-coating the struggle for women's rights in Britain, but portraying it as the violent, very challenging struggle it was.

But (you obviously knew there was a "but" coming) I thought the movie really suffered from the fact that its script didn't really seem to have a point of view about any of this. I wasn't really sure what I was supposed to take away from the movie other than that it was bad women didn't have the right to vote, and that it was good that they fought for it. For me, Selma (as well as Lincoln) had a lot more ideas about the political struggles those films depicted, thoughts about how those without power have to coerce those with it, attitudes toward which kinds of compromises were acceptable to justify the results and which ones weren't. Suffragette struck me as mostly detached history, the kind that essentially flatters the point of view of a now much more enlightened audience rather than providing any interesting ideas that might complicate that point of view. And as a result, I really thought the movie got repetitive in its second half -- there were only so many scenes of women protesting and then getting arrested that I could take before I felt like the filmmakers just weren't shaping any of these events into a compelling story, with actual themes these events were building toward.

As someone who has been an enthusiastic champion of Carey Mulligan in the past -- I think she's glorious in both An Education and Shame -- I confess to being a bit underwhelmed by her here. It's not that I'm leaning negative -- she has some obviously solid scenes, especially her "We're fifty percent of the population" standoff with Gleeson, and she carries the movie well enough. But like the film as a whole, I found few moments where I thought she was really SPECIAL, where she surprised me in any way, or even where I felt like I learned that much about Maud as a character. I think she will probably be in the Best Actress conversation in some way -- given the paucity of such efforts, it's hard to count out the lead of a female-driven prestige movie -- but I'm not ready to bet on her as the Oscar frontrunner just yet (the way many have already) simply because I don't think the work is all that exciting. But we'll see what the rest of the year has in store.

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Suffragette reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Sat Sep 05, 2015 4:38 am

From The Hollgwood Reporter

The Bottom Line
A rousing, relevant slice of feminist history.

Carey Mulligan stars as a working-class woman who becomes a political firebrand in early 20th century England.

A lushly appointed period piece about the women’s suffrage movement in England in the early 20th century sounds like Masterpiece Theatre fodder, polite and tasteful and a bit pallid. The surprise of Suffragette is how much anger and urgency it contains, and how much new material it unearths. Many people may have forgotten that the fight for women’s rights once involved the same danger as other battles for equality, like the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. This eye-opening and fierce drama should attract awards attention and even healthy box office returns from older audiences who may get a bit more than they bargained for.

The film marks an impressive achievement for three of the women involved in the production—director Sarah Gavron, screenwriter Abi Morgan, and lead actress Carey Mulligan, who follows her fine performance in Far from the Madding Crowd with an even stronger turn.

The story mixes fictional characters with real historical personages, including British feminist leader Emmeline Pankhurst (played by Meryl Streep in a small but vivid role). Mulligan’s Maud Watts is a composite character. She starts as a harried woman working in a laundry factory, who has a husband and young son and no time for any political activities. But when she sees a fellow worker at a rock-throwing demonstration, her curiosity is piqued, and she gradually becomes more deeply involved in the suffrage movement, even though her family is devastated by her growing militancy.

Morgan (the writer of The Iron Lady, Shame, and The Invisible Woman) probably took a look at Norma Rae, which also dealt with an uneducated factory worker’s growing political activism. But there are definite novelties here. For one thing, there is no male union organizer to awaken the heroine’s conscience. Other women are the ones who galvanize her, and they are all well delineated in Morgan’s sharp screenplay.

Gavron has directed a couple of small British films, but this picture should take her career to a new level. She supplies a consistently gritty, lived-in atmosphere, meticulously detailed and deglamorized. Cinematography, production and costume design are all first-rate.

It must be admitted that the film takes a little while to get going, and the Cockney accents are not always easy to decipher. But Suffragette builds power as it demonstrates that these women were not gentle protestors. They were angry and sometimes violent, and they were arrested and often treated brutally while incarcerated. The shocking climactic scene, which is taken from history, reminds us that all struggles for equality involve searing sacrifices.
Mulligan’s remarkably expressive face conveys the character’s profound but always credible journey from battered victim to articulate crusader. But the actress also captures the terrible human costs of any unyielding political battle. Several of the other performers also deserve high marks. Helena Bonham Carter gives her most restrained and affecting performance in years as a pharmacist who is also on the front lines. And there is a heartbreaking turn by Anne-Marie Duff as the fellow factory worker who first incites Maud to activism but then finds the battles too dangerous to continue.

The male characters are not all so sharply drawn. Ben Whishaw is a fine actor, but he’s saddled with a rather one-dimensional role as Maud’s uncomprehending husband. Brendan Gleeson brings more dimension to his role as a police inspector who is not entirely unsympathetic to the women’s crusade.

The film ends with a series of startling statistics on how long it took many countries to grant women the right to vote. But the achievement of the film is that it goes way beyond facts and figures to summon the blazing fire in the fight for equality that has not quite reached its final victory.
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