100 Films Made By Women – Part 12 of 20

So much talent hidden in the shadows. And I wonder how many of these movies in this series you knew very well but were still surprised to find they were directed by a woman. Here are 5 more:

Enough Said (2013) – Nicole Holofcener — Asif Khan @KHAN2705

For the fans of Sundance dramedies, Holofcener requires no introduction. She has made her name making very competent character studies by focusing purely on how the people who populate her films live their life at every turn and not solely juggling conflicts to define them by. Enough Said is the 2013 romantic comedy that has such natural flow of dialogues and conversations between characters that it seems you are watching real people talk instead of characters or actors in a movie. Eva (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a genuine, charming performance) is a masseuse and divorced mother of a teenage girl. She meets a man, also divorced and with a daughter named Albert (James Gandolfini – so vulnerable) at a party and they both begin to take liking in each other during days following their meeting. Eva’s clients have lots of problems but she does her work to the best of her ability and patience. She is friends with a married couple, makes friends with one of her clients, a poet named Marianne (director’s regular – Catherine Keener). Her daughter’s graduation and the subsequent moving away for college is something of an impending doom for Eva, who wonders what her life would be like after that. This dear but grounded romantic comedy beautifully carries both those parts or rather aspects of the story. There is a serious discovery involved later in the film that threatens the balance of Eva and Albert’s life. Packed with tenderness and wisdom, Enough Said is romantic comedy to end the so-called romantic comedies of the past many years. Other films by Holofcener includes Please Give, Lovely & Amazing, Walking and Talking and Friends with Money.

Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) – Susan Seidelman — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Whether is it everyone’s cup of tea or not, Desperately Seeking Susan is a significant motion picture as it paralleled the rapid rise to super-fame for the music career of Madonna. She has had her dodgy moments as an actress that is for sure, but here she holds her own and is appropriately cast (I confess I thought she oozed sex appeal and charm in Who’s That Girl too). A film about two women essentially, Desperately Seeking Susan is also directed by a woman, Susan Seidelman – marking her most successful film venture. It’s a film full of attention-grabbing energy, and Seidelman keeps the plot churning over. Hapless Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) gets involved too deeply in the life of another woman (Madonna) who writes messages to men in the personals of a New York newspaper (the game-changing insert gives the film its title). The results form that becomes a funny, sometimes farcical adventure. Arquette won a Best Supporting Actress BAFTA for her lead performance, and would go on to make only a handful of movies as memorable as this. Madonna, on the other hand, well we know where her stardom went. The rest of the cast includes some faces you may have forgotten about, including Aidan Quinn, Will Patton, Laurie Metcalf, and John Turturro. The film also features Madonna’s first UK no.1 hit “Into the Groove” and a score by a certain Thomas Newman.

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Unbroken (2014) – Angelina Jolie — Al Robinson @Al_Rob_1982

Unbroken is a film that most people were highly anticipating last year, but when they finally saw it, were not that impressed. One of the main criticisms was that it left out a big part of Louis Zamperini’s life. Louis Zamperini was an American soldier and former Olympic runner who was shot down over the Pacific Ocean by the Japanese during World War II in 1943. He survived 47 days stranded at sea on a raft, only to be taken prisoner of war by the Japanese soldiers. He was put in a prison camp where he survived until the end of the war, when he was set free. What was left out of the film was what Louis went through after he came home. My thoughts on why the film worked was that Angelina Jolie directed a film that told a story of survival, and if what happened afterwards was added, it would have changed the whole message of the film. Angelina had met with Louis before he passed away last year, and he gave her his approval. Ultimately if Louis liked it, that’s good enough for me.

Peepli Live (2010) – Anusha Rizvi — Asif Khan @KHAN2705

Debut Indian filmmaker, Anusha Rizvi’s 2010 film is a satire that depicts the topic of farmer suicide in darkly humorous way. This is a film that finds means of storytelling as well as subtext off a grimly serious topic. It’s a wonder how this ‘indie’ film free of glamour and convenience became a huge hit in India. It was shown at many festivals, including Sundance and was the country’s official entry for the Oscars. Peepli in the title is a village this film depicts while Live is referring to the live reporting of an event. The event? Farmer Natha (Omkar Das Manikpuri) decides to commit suicide when he finds out how the families of poor farmers who take their lives are heavily compensated by the government. He is from a very poor family (consisting of his brother, sister-in-law and an ailing mother), whose financial and farming condition for that matter is awful. The banks are demanding payment of their loans or else the family would be stripped off the land and house. Peepli Live‘s story is layered and expansive, not only does it portray a poor farmer family’s adverse conditions but the film also pokes real stingers at the media and politics. How this little village becomes a nationwide phenomenon thanks to the selfish nature of people (news channels fight for the best suicide coverage/political parties have their own damaging agendas), is absurdly humorous and at the same time, piercing. Using mostly character actors and crafting a compelling screenplay, Rizvi made an inspired film both a wake up call for our apathetic collective consciousness and an irresistibly entertaining dark comedy.

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Big (1988) – Penny Marshall — Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Is this the most popular mainstream movie directed by a woman ever made? I include it in a list of mostly unknown female directors for that very reason. There are several varying arguments (thankfully not directly explored too deeply in the movie) as to which is the greater wish: as a kid wishing to be an adult, or an adult wishing he was a kid. It usually falls that if you are one you want to be the other. Penny Marshall’s direction (from a Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg screenplay) perfectly taps into this notion, from both sides of the generation gap. What Marshall does best of all is create a canvas were the behaviors of adults and children merge, making it a little bit touching, a little bit enlightening, but very accessibly funny. Having his wish to be “big” granted, our protagonist Josh not only lands himself a job, and quick promotion, playing with and talking about toys (living the dream), but also manages to get Elizabeth Perkins into bed (albeit after claiming the top bunk). Josh has little idea of the realities of living within adulthood, and Big makes sure this has charm and humor, rather than branding the kid-man an alien from outer space. His lifestyle is way different, sure, but without much thought Josh can adapt to this by unknowingly incorporating his child-like outlook and experience. The skills it seems can be transferable. Marshall has made a movie so good, so enjoyable, so timeless, I am certain it would still have stood out for her as much had there not been such a ridiculous lack of women making films in this industry. A classic regardless.

First published August 2015.

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