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100 Kick-Ass Female Film Characters – Part IX

“I like the freedom inherent in being on my own, and I like the growth and learning processes that develop from taking chances … I am well aware of the hardship I will be facing. And the first to admit, I’m remarkably unqualified for such a hazardous undertaking. But this is precisely the point of my journey.”

Robyn Davidson (from her book Tracks) 


Robyn Davidson – – – Tracks (2014)

In 1977, Robyn Davidson set off on a nine-month trek across the Australian desert wilderness, amounting to something close to 2,700 kilometers covered in distance. Tagged The Camel Lady, Robyn took with her Diggity, her dog, and four camels: Dookie, Bub, Zeleika, Goliath. She did not initially want anyone to talk to, nor did she want photos taken, or any verbal account for that matter.

Robyn just wanted to be by herself – “I can deal with pigs really easily, but nice people confound me.”. Adapted by the book by Davidson of the same name, John Curran directed a very fine film, with Mia Wasikowska providing a wonderful portrayal (as Davidson herself declared) of the woman on the walkabout.

With minimal assistance, and a seemingly dynamic strength, Robyn achieves her goal, reaching the finish line of a race not many of us would ever challenge in our own lives. There is plenty of pain and anguish in the journey for Robyn, but also an unfathomable determination, and a heart-strong will to literally stand on her own two feet. – – – Robin Write

Constance Miller – – – McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

The savviest person in the town of Presbyterian Church is cockney brothel madam, Constance Miller, and it is she who unlocks for John McCabe the inevitable fate of the town’s businesses at the hands of big business capitalism. “Zinc,” she says succinctly, hairpin between her teeth. Mrs. Miller neither minces her words nor suffers fools in her attempt to care for her girls or run her business. She’s the brains and backbone behind lover John McCabe first in his business venture and, ultimately, his very survival.

The corporate machine proves too much for them, of course, and the last shot in the film focuses on her opiated eye, but up to that point, Constance Miller is a force of business acumen and compassion. Julie Christie is one of the many delights in Robert Altman’s perfect answer to both the Hollywood western and the American Dream. Her Mrs. Miller stands as one of her finest roles. – – – Steve Schweighofer

Leeloo – – – The Fifth Element (1997)

Leeloo, the unpredictable, the unaware, took Milla Jovovich’s stardom to a new dimension. Be it the orange hair, the crash through a taxi cab roof, her nude creation, or her survival instincts and kick-ass mentality. You pick one. Luc Besson’s pulsating, very strange, science fiction film demonstrates the film-maker’s energetic portrayal of female characters with real fight and bite (two more to come in the final part don’t you know).

Leeloo in The Fifth Element is unknowingly integral to the survival of planet Earth, teaming up with Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis), a former member of the special forces, who now rides taxis through the sky (this is 2263 after all). Not only can Leeloo knock a bunch of Mangalores into orbit, she also becomes the focal point of Dallas’ affections – which, like many a classic tale of good over evil, proves extremely useful for the world’s survival.  – – – Robin Write

Murph – – – Interstellar (2014)

Murphy (Interstellar): In a film riddled with uncertainty about the complex stability of the universe, Murph is both the reliable constant of fresh insight and the ultimate saviour of the human race. Murph doesn’t just pursue science because her father supported and inspired her so much (great work by the way, Coop) she reshapes science as we know it – or at least, science in the world of the film.

Let’s remember that her main responsibility was to solve the formula for gravity, not to execute everything else in the plan to save the remaining inhabitants of earth too. So really Interstellar should focus on Murph’s achievements rather than her dad’s, because she was smart enough to realise the secret to solving all our problems was right there in the dust heaps of her childhood bedroom all along. – – – Rhiannon Topham


Lale – – – Mustang (2015)

Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s remarkable Mustang may be about five girls, but it is Lale at the heart of this gem, played by Güneş Nezihe Şensoy, who we witness from start to finish, a little terrier and a wild horse all in one. Set in a remote Turkish village, the five sisters face all manner of challenges, as their strict grandmother and uncle take away their simple means of a young life, be it phones, what they wear, boys etc.

Not allowed to leave the house, Lale, the youngest, has the childlike innocence to pursue an escape to a better life, but also the vigor and strength to follow it through, while sisters are married off or deprived of a free adolescence. Lale’s love for football provides the film with it’s funniest sequence, as the older generation of the family go to great lengths to pave the way so the girls can see their team play. Her mischief and rebellious streak continues later when Lale continues to sneak out, or attempts to spit into guests tea.

When her sister Nur is due to marry against her will, Lale helps them both escape. Mustang bookends with Lale sadly saying goodbye to school teacher, and them being reunited. It feels like a long, long journey, and we are delighted she made it no matter the circumstances that carried her along the way. – – – Robin Write

Sydney Prescott – – – Scream (1996)

Ghostface: “Do you like scary movies?”  Sidney: “What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big-breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.” This begins to sum up why Sidney Prescott is kick-ass and just awesome. She’s smart, and sets herself up to be the kind of character you like and want to root for.

Throughout Scream, Sidney has to deal with stupid, angry, and eventually crazy people, and she does it with class and ease.  The fact that her own boyfriend turns out to be a serial killer would for most people stop them in their place, but with Sidney, she just turns it around and handles the situation like a boss. When she point the gun you know she knows what she’s doing, and she to be able to shoot without hesitation is an honorable quality in a horror movie heroine. – – – Al Robinson

Karen Sisco – – – Out of  Sight (1998)

Jennifer Lopez’s Karen Sisco would never have been cancelled after seven episodes (sorry Carla Gugino). No, in Steven Soderbergh’s super-slick crime flick Out of Sight, the Elmore Leonard character is brought to the screen with a sexy, ice-cool, and unflinching aura by Lopez. Sisco, a U.S. Marshal, is not so arrogant that she can’t pick the brains of her retired police officer father (Dennis Farina), and not so unbreakable that she can’t hold off the attraction to a certain Jack Foley (George Clooney).

On the surface, though, Karen is a smart cat, with her head screwed on right, and her law-abiding brain at the forefront of her intentions, she brings Foley down against her affectionate judgement. Bold and brilliant, Karen Sisco more than holds her own amidst the male cops, crooks, and creepos of the movie. – – – Robin Write

Mako Mori – – – Pacific Rim (2014)

After seeing the young Japanese actress’s turn as a deaf-mute high school student struggling with the suicide of her mother in Babel, I’ve been closely anticipating what Rinko Kikuichi would do next. It would come seven year later in the form of a rookie pilot siding with washed-up veteran Raleigh Becket (Charlie Hunnam) as the pair battle giant underwater monsters in Guillermo del Toro’s homage to mecha anime and monster films.

Mako’s title might be director of refurbishing the remaining Jager robots, but inside she’s a fierce warrior looking for a chance to exact revenge on the Kaiju that took her family away from her when she was little, which she does as she and Becket slice through two Kaiju in the film’s middle act, and venture inside the belly of the beast of the enemy home world in the climax. – – – Jonathan Holmes

Aurora Greenway – – – Terms of Endearment (1983)

I saw Terms of Endearment at a young age, turned out to be one of the most emotional film experiences of my young life – adultery, raising a family, cancer, a turbulent relationship between a mother and a daughter. Sounds bleak, sure, but the smart execution by James L. Brooks adds a depth of comedy to the melodrama.

Firing on all cylinders is Shirley MacLaine as Aurora, who watches her daughter Emma (a devastatingly good Debra Winger) grow up, build an adult life, only for it to somewhat capitulate when her husband cheats, and then she suffers from a fatal illness. Aurora appears to stand in the shoes of a haphazard mother, trailing her parental mistakes behind her, but we know that is not the case. A powerhouse of a woman, her bond with Emma never frays, no matter how far, how sick, how angry.

She meddles, she stamps her feet, she is never shy about her dislike of Emma’s husband Flap. Eccentric retired astronaut Garrett (Jack Nicholson) soon forms a loving relationship with Aurora, he too has his work cut out, but succumbs to the woman’s ultimate charm and determination. In Emma’s final weeks in hospital, her super-supportive mother is an explosive rock, staying bedside, taming the troubled kids, and of course screaming for that shot for the pain. – – – Robin Write


 Joan Crawford – – – Mommie Dearest (1981)

There is no question that it’s high camp. Yes, it won the Razzie. Some claim that it stalled Faye Dunaway’s career high, but say what you will, there’s no denying the effort, passion and raw skill that la Dunaway summoned to bring life to the dark side of Hollywood legend and self-made commodity, Joan Crawford.

In the film’s most intense moments, Faye digs deep and exposes emotions few actors would dare go near, sending bathroom cleaning powder and, yes, hangers in all directions. Dunaway vividly conveys Crawford’s need for control over every detail of her manufactured life. Given her preceding reputation for being “difficult” on set, one can assume that much of the crew likely qualified for Purple Hearts, but to watch the resulting performance is a fascinating and truly cathartic experience. – – – Steve Schwieghofer


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