I saw Gangster Squad (dir. Ruben Fleischer, USA, 2013) at the weekend and thought it was brilliant. An A-Team-style collection of misfits, led by the believable and excellent Josh Brolin as Sgt John O’Mara, come together to try and save their city from the unforgivable actions of Sean Penn’s unyielding Mickey Cohen. The film is very well cast, showcases fantastic acting with interesting relationships between characters and has just the right amount of cool gun fights, discussion and exciting narrative twists.
The representation of women, however, leaves a lot to be desired. There are only two women in the film who speak, one known as O’Mara’s wife, Connie O’Mara (Mireille Enos), and one the love interest of Sgt. Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), Grace Faraday played by the genius Emma Stone. Any other women play prostitutes or characters in line for that role, as with the girl at the beginning of the film, a gullible character who goes with a group of men to a motel thinking she is going to become a star.
Towards the end of the film, Grace tells Jerry she will testify against Mickey and we see the fight between O’Mara and Mickey that leads to his arrest. The film then ends with some snippets of “what happens next” and text on screen to explain what we see. When Jerry and Grace appear embracing by the sea, the voiceover explains how she decided to “hold on to him and never let go.” Nothing about her testimony, no interest in her as an individual character, only her in relation to him.
The only potentially respectable female character is O’Mara’s wife. She is strong and intelligent and helps her husband select the team which will work with him to bring Mickey’s downfall. After this, however, we hardly see her and, when we do, it is only to show concern for her husband and to run away when things get too dangerous; she is shown as someone’s wife, not as a character in her own right with her own life.
Mark Kermode reviewed the film negatively as appealing only to 13 and 14 year olds. I think what he must have meant is that the plot is quite straightforward and the characters are either good or bad. I found it quite refreshing to not have to be constantly mistrusting characters and being suspicious of their motives. The A-Team are all working for the same side and have each other’s backs throughout.
The only character who fails to stay on one side is Grace. Jerry meets her as Mickey’s girl and quickly falls for her; she says she’s only with Mickey because she’s “his type”, it doesn’t matter that he’s not her’s, and she quickly falls for Jerry. After personally witnessing Mickey’s brutal retaliation for his business getting destroyed, she offers to testify against him.
This is where the story could begin as her as a witness could be a film in itself, but the film ends after Mickey’s arrest. As soon as the female character could take over the narrative, the film loses interest and just has a few lines of explanation about what happened next.
It’s a real shame that a film which is enjoyable and contains such a great cast with strong performances suppresses women’s voices in this way throughout.
I’ve decided to re-purpose this blog for 2013 as the task of posting details about every major release in the UK and Canada every week was interesting but ultimately too time-consuming.
Instead, I’m planning to review the representation of women in films I see at the cinema throughout the year.
French, British and American films are released in the UK this week, all three directed by men. In Lockout, Guy Pearce plays the lead who is wrongly convicted of a crime but will have the charges dropped if he can rescue the president’s daughter. It has one woman in its top six listed cast. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen follows the story of two men – a sheikh and a fisheries expert – as they seek to bring fly-fishing to the desert. The top three cast contains two women. Gone is the only female-led film this week and involves a woman setting out to confront a serial killer who kidnapped her and she believes has abducted her sister. The tagline gives the impression of a strong, determined woman, “No one believes her. Nothing will stop her.” It has two women and two men in its top four cast.
Director: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Cast: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Peter Stormare, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun and Lennie James
Production: Europa Corp., Canal+ and Ciné+
Distribution: Entertainment Film Distributor
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (UK)
Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, and Kristin Scott Thomas
Production: BBC Films, Davis Films, Kudos Film and Television, Lionsgate and UK Film Council
Director: Heitor Dhalia
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Jennifer Carpenter, Daniel Sunjata and Wes Bentley
Production: Lakeshore Entertainment and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment
Distribution: Entertainment Film Distributor
Lockout trailer (20 Apr UK)
Gone trailer (20 Apr UK)
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen trailer (20 Apr UK)
Lockout poster Salmon Fishing in the Yemen poster Gone poster
(20 Apr UK)
There are two mainstream releases this week. The Lucky One focuses on a male marine who searches for a woman on a photo he finds while on duty in Iraq and believes was his “good luck charm” for keeping him alive. Think Like a Man pits its male and female protagonists against one another as 4 women start using advice in a relationships book to change how the men they’re with behave. When the men find out, they seek their revenge. Both are directed by men and The Lucky One has two men and two women in its top four cast while Think Like a Man has eight men in its top thirteen listed cast.
The Lucky One (USA)
Director: Scott Hicks
Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Jay R. Ferguson and Blythe Danner
Production: Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, DiNovi Pictures and Langley Park Productions
Distribution: Warner Bros. Entertainment
Think Like a Man (USA)
Director: Tim Story
Cast: Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrara, Meagan Good, Regina Hall, Kevin Hart, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence J, Jenifer Lewis, Romany Malco, Gary Owen, Gabrielle Union, Keith Merryman and David A. Newman
Production: Screen Gems and Rainforest Films
Distribution: Sony Pictures Releasing Canada
On limited release this week is a Canadian film which follows a man and woman as they meet and travel up to Northern Canada, I’m Yours. It has a male director and just one woman in its top four listed cast.
I’m Yours (Canada)
Director: Leonard Farlinger
Cast: Rossif Sutherland, Karine Vanasse, Don McKellar and Nicholas Campbell
Production: New Real Films
Distribution: Entertainment One
The Lucky One poster Think Like a Man poster I’m Yours poster
(20 Apr Canada)
The Lucky One trailer (20 Apr Canada)