×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Female-Centric Stories ‘Widows,’ ‘The Favourite’ Blaze Trails This Oscar Season

The old adage goes, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” But a quick look at many of this year’s awards season films suggests that saying needs an update — perhaps to: “Behind every great woman is a man getting in her way.”

It’s not a stretch to look at such films as “Colette,” “Widows,” “The Favourite,” “A Private War,” “Leave No Trace” and “The Wife” that way. Each features a female protagonist struggling to make her mark in the world, in spite of the obstacles men throw in their way. And in the current societal zeitgeist of #MeToo, it lends added resonance and a higher profile to each one of them.

“There’s a huge historical culture of women being silent, and in this moment, it feels like women are roaring — and consequently, work is being made that celebrates fantastic women in the past,” says Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who co-wrote “Colette” with director Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. “There’s a real hunger for these stories right now.”

For Steve McQueen, “Widows” director and co-screenwriter (with Gillian Flynn), the tale of the women left to clean up a debt after their husbands die in a heist is timely today — as timely as it was in the 1980s, when the story was originally told as a TV movie.

“It’s bittersweet for me,” he says. “I’m remaking a TV show that came out 30 years ago, and it’s still very prevalent. Women continue to be overlooked and deemed not capable.”

In some ways, it was ever so: “The Favourite” goes 300 years back to the reign of Queen Anne of England to tell its story of Anne, her intimate adviser Lady Marlborough and the young woman who comes between them. And it’s the male politicians jockeying for power behind the scenes who bear the brunt of the satire.

“There’s a comicness to their desperation,” says screenwriter Tony McNamara of the male antagonists. “They’re trying a bit too hard and struggling because it’s so hard for them to accept that they are not in power. In part, it’s about how they deal with that.”

Writing the men as antagonists in these stories could be tricky, because to make them monstrous would have made the women’s stories less emotionally effective.

“It was a real change to make you understand what their marriage was about,” says Westmoreland about his titular character, Colette, and her husband, Willy, who put his name on her works. “It’s important to understand the hold men have over women isn’t just cultural; it’s personal, emotional and sexual.”

“I have great empathy for the character of Joe Castleman,” says “Wife” screenwriter Jane Anderson. She also scripted an antagonist that assumed the talent of his significant other, but ensured that the audience understood how his wife, Joan, was complicit in that deception. “I can empathize with what it feels like to have a passion for writing; to be brilliant but have no talent. It’s tragic.”

Yet for the father-daughter relationship in “Leave No Trace,” the obstacles dad Will imposes on daughter Tom are not meant to hinder her existence in the world. As director and co-screenwriter (with Anne Rosellini) Debra Granik says, it’s about Tom’s coming of age and deciding to live within the world, rather than hiding out in the wild.

“Cleaving yourself from someone who has been the core person that you’ve interacted with and learned from, that’s a very intense and charged thing,” she says. “We need positive examples of when men are invested in women’s success; we have so many examples of when that’s not happening.”

Though no one could have expected the ongoing cultural importance of #MeToo when any of these films were first being made, there’s a good chance they’ll have a more far-reaching impact in theaters because of the discussions being had today.

“It’s a bit overdue,” says Arash Amel, screenwriter of “A Private War,” about war correspondent Marie Colvin. “Cultural shifts don’t necessarily happen when they need to happen — so writers need to be there to write these stories. The dam has started to crack and crumble, so hopefully we’ll see more like this.”

Anderson certainly feels hopeful. She can still remember working on “Wife” as far back as 2004, when agents insisted their male clients would never take the role — though producers believed she could get it made if it was called “The Husband.”

“I was even called a man-hater,” she recalls. “It makes me weep to think of the assumptions that were made of me as a writer, when I was just writing a really interesting drama.”
But, she adds, there is always hope, as evidenced by the fact that “Wife” is now a critically acclaimed awards season contender.

“If I get to send out any message to a fellow writer, man or woman, it’s that your voice will be heard eventually,” she says. “It may take many years, but it will happen. Your story will be told.”

More Film

  • Alfonso Cuarón, Emmanuel Lubezki Discuss the

    Alfonso Cuarón Details 'Roma' Cinematography With 'Gravity' DP Emmanuel Lubezki

    As part of an overall push to bring Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” to awards season voters, Netflix’s “‘Roma’ Experience'” played host to guild and Academy members Sunday in Hollywood. The all-day event featured panels focused on the film’s crafts and an audio-visual installation akin to the streamer’s FYSee initiative for Emmy contenders, featuring costumes and art [...]

  • IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for

    IFFAM: Erik Matti Hatches Plans for ‘On The Job’ Franchise

    Filipino director Erik Matti is known for his eclectic body of work that includes “Honor Thy Father” and “Seklusyon.” His 2013 effort, “On The Job” travelled widely and won several awards including two at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, and was nominated for an SACD Prize at the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Matti is at [...]

  • Joan Chen attends the season premiere

    Joan Chen Talks Diversity in Hollywood, Welcomes #MeToo

    Chinese-American actress, writer and director Joan Chen says that she was flattered when Time magazine described her as the “Elizabeth Taylor of China.” When asked at an in-conversation event in Singapore on Saturday whether she paved the way for Chinese actresses to follow in Hollywood, Chen said, “We never go to work because we want [...]

  • Kyzza Terrazas Joins Garcia Bernal, Diego

    Kyzza Terrazas Joins Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna’s La Corriente del Golfo (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — Launching their new production house, La Corriente de Golfo, last April, Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna have tapped Mexican writer-director Kyzza Terrazas as the company’s head of development. The appointment will certainly help build the company appointing an old-rounder capable of overseeing and implementing development, writing and directing, and a longtime [...]

  • IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen

    IFFAM Actress in Focus: Yao Chen Talks Performing, Producing and Public Pressure

    Macao’s Actress in Focus is a woman who has trained as a boxer, likes British actors, especially Benedict Cumberbatch and Jeremy Irons, and is now setting out her stall as a producer. Yao Chen has built a career over 20 years thanks to TV shows including “My Own Swordsman,” and films including “If You Are [...]

  • Bradley Liew's 'Motel Acacia' Shoots After

    Cautionary Tale, 'Motel Acacia' Under Way After Four Years of Development

    Production has begun on Malaysian director Bradley Liew’s upscale horror film “Motel Acacia.” With a clearly topical message, the film features a hotel bed that eats immigrants. Actor, JC Santos called it: “A cautionary tale of what’s going to happen in the future.” Indonesian star, Nicholas Saputra said the he agreed to the role “because [...]

  • Jon M. ChuUnforgettable Gala, Inside, Los

    'Crazy Rich Asians' Honored at Unforgettable Awards: 'One Movie Every 25 Years is Just Not F—ing Enough'

    Fresh on the heels of its Golden Globe nomination, “Crazy Rich Asians” was the talk of the evening at Kore Asian Media’s 17th annual Unforgettable Awards. Saturday’s event, which celebrates Asian-American trailblazers and their achievements in the entertainment industry, honored a host of Asian actors, directors and influencers, including “Crazy Rich Asians” director Jon M. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content