Two of the finest romantic comedies coming up to feast on. Speaking of appetite, there’s also a cannibalistic tale in the mix. So fulfill your hunger for female directed films by reading on.
The Holiday (2006) – Nancy Meyers — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Writer-producer of such prominent female-centric movies like Private Benjamin, Baby Boom, and Father of the Bride, Nancy Meyers strolled into feature film directing with ease. The Parent Trap and What Women Want were pretty good starts, before seemingly making comedies utilizing similar generational female performers from earlier works in Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated. What Meyers achieves with The Holiday is take a well known crop, and accentuate particular qualities they have on the big screen with eye-catching results. Sporadically irritating Cameron Diaz is extremely funny here, Kate Winslet too proves she is charmingly good in light comedy. Jude Law is sensitive enough to warm to, while Jack Black appears very competent at playing it a lot more straight. This film now appears more bittersweet with the loss of Eli Wallach, who plays a sympathetic veteran Hollywood writer. The Holiday has good spirit, and is down-to-earth and engaging enough to be many a film fan’s guilty pleasure.
Ravenous (1999) – Antonia Bird — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Other than the cannibalism bedlam on show in the late Antonia Bird’s Ravenous, for me the stand out haunting is the psychedelic, brilliant score. An unorthodox, but effective, collaboration between Damon Albarn (of Brit-pop Blur / dance-funk Gorillaz) and Michael Nyman (The Piano), using banjos, electronic beats, and who knows what else. Ravenous is a wild animal of a motion picture, a cocktail of comedy, horror, gore-fest, satire etc. Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, and company are soldiers at war in California sometime around the mid-1800s, and with mysterious encounters and starvation looming it is not long before cannibalism shows up on the menu. A gripping kind of entertaining madness this, director Bird forgets the rules of morality and goes for the throat instead, really enjoying herself it would appear, following more composed British efforts like Face and Priest. By the final bloody conflict you find you are laughing, your stomach is churning, you’re all tensed up, or even all three – but enjoying it shamelessly all same.
Bright Star (2009) – Jane Campion — Jade Evans @enchantedbyfilm
Feminist filmmaker Jane Campion follows the success of her previously directed costume films The Piano (1993) and The Portrait of a Lady (1996) with Bright Star (2009). This glorious biographical focus on Romantic poet John Keats is a dream-like, sunlit poem in itself. As Campion draws the viewer into the story, in true Romantic tradition, the tale of John Keats and his muse Fanny Brawne is reflected in the idealistic backdrop. From the neutral shades of brown and blue present throughout the house at the start, John and Fanny become closer as his spool of poetic prose achieves its purpose in winning her heart. Campion projects their developing romance in the saturated shades of purple and green in the beds of bright flowers and the woodland paths. Much like nature, which provides us with bright blossoms that wither and die, so does Bright Star’s imagery transition into shades of white, grey and black as winter falls. Campion’s stark contrast in color conveys Fanny leaving her idealized fantasy of her childhood and experiencing the bleak realism and melancholy of her adulthood. Every image in the film is a work of art and is a testament to Campion’s strong eye for detail and love of artistic imagery.
Firaaq (2008) – Nandita Das — Asif Khan @KHAN2705
Firaaq is the directorial debut of the prominent Indian actress, Nandita Das. She has worked in many acclaimed, multilingual films and won awards from around the world. Das has continuously advocated for human rights, gender equality and taken public stances against many social injustices. Hardly a surprise that she would make a film around one of the biggest problems that India has faced. Violence against minorities. Firaaq is a Hindi political thriller rooted in much more realism and a sense of narrative importance that is not often seen in movies there. A fictional film set a month after the horrific 2002 violence in Gujarat against Muslims. Aptly titled Firaaq, which means quest as well as difference. Difference of religion, values and perspective. Quest for tolerance, acceptance and belonging. This is a film that stands for the many true stories, unspoken, forgotten or never really given acute focus. A great ensemble (featuring some of the most talented actors), the characters in the film are either victims of violence or assault, the perpetrators and those who watched all of this silently without doing anything. It’s a well-written and focused film with dramatic tension that rarely goes into the melodramatic or problematic territory. Das’ competent and well-edited feature is the story of ordinary people affected by violence.
You’ve Got Mail (1998) – Nora Ephron — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA
Now, I love a good laughfest, and am a bit of a sucker for romance, yet romantic comedies are generally not my bag. So let me tell you why I like You’ve Got Mail. Firstly, I have little issue with ever-so-slight regurgitation of the love from a distance notion Nora Ephron explored in her writing so brilliantly in Sleepless in Seattle and most notably When Harry Met Sally. You’ve Got Mail, the movie, is echoed deep, deep in my subconscious whenever I find it charming or amusing to repeat the phrase of the title in the style of AOL, perhaps. The soundtrack is very much up my street with the likes of The Cranberries, Harry Nilsson, and Carole King. Seeing Tom Hanks playing a character with a bit of ruthless business gusto, and still finding I like him. Meg Ryan’s ‘Shopgirl’, fighting the cause for the tiny, family-run, traditional bookshops against the more corporate mega bookstores. That Ryan and Hanks continue to prove their irresistible chemistry (Joe Versus the Volcano, Sleepless in Seattle). That love over the internet is possible, no matter how far away they feel or which neighborhood they live in. The line “I wanted it to be you.”. The main reason though, well, that would Nora Ephron, who owned the romantic comedy genre, and gave it some real depth, a kind of comfort we happily embrace, and genuine wit we simply adore. God rest her soul.
Originally posted August 2015.