Cate Blanchett is transfixing as Carol, a strong-minded woman who defies the conventional roles expected from a wife and mother in the 1950s. You feel like a fly on the wall in someone else's life when you watch Carol seduce Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a young woman working in a department store over the holidays, with aspirations of being a great photographer. It's hard to look at Mara and not be reminded of Audrey Hepburn, but her depiction of Belivet is wildly different from most of the female characters coming out of Hollywood. With her deadpan, monotone voice, Belivet cuts through social niceties, clumsily arriving at the truth of most situations. Carol, by contrast, cultivates a number of glamorous disguises and secrets. Watch the two drastically different women embark on a trip together that will radically change the course of both of their lives and reveal the quiet pain endured by many women who didn't fit the mold in the '50s.
Based on the tragic but inspiring true story of artist Einar Wegener (played by British actor Eddie Redmayne), The Danish Girl brings the experiences of the first-known transgender woman to undergo a sex reassignment surgery to the big screen. Remember Redmayne as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything and how freaky his ability to transform himself into Hawking was, as he precisely mirrored his movements and expressions? Once again, Redmayne has proved he's quite a chameleon, as his transformation into Wegener is incredibly powerful to watch. Redmayne will take you on a roller coaster of emotions as you watch Wegener try to adapt to life as transgender in a society that views the artist's orientation as a sign of mental illness. And Alicia Vikander gives a compelling performance as well in her role as Gerda, Wegener's wife and creative partner, a woman pulled between her desire to have her husband back and to do the right thing.
While it may be getting panned by critics, no one can argue that Joy, the latest film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, doesn't have heart. Lawrence plays Joy, a woman trying to rise above her circumstances to prove she's capable of being more than "just an unemployed housewife." Joy has dreams of patenting her household inventions and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty in the process. And say what you will about Joy, but I'll never pass up an opportunity to see actress Isabella Rossellini, who plays the wealthy girlfriend of Joy's father (Robert De Niro) do anything.
Rossellini recently told The Sunday Times' Style section that Joy is "a very feminist film." She explained: "Every time we see a film about a woman who wants a career, invariably there must also be love. Or it's the man, her Prince Charming, who helps her make it. I thought that it was very modern to show a woman solely focused on her career."
When I went to see The Force Awakens recently at the theatre and strapped on my 3-D glasses, I was expecting to see expensive explosions, weird alien bar brawls and to hear the familiar growls of my old friend Chewbacca. But having gone in cold without reading the reviews, I was not expecting to see a feminist sci-fi film — which is exactly what it is. Daisy Ridley is a force to be reckoned with as Rey, a street-smart heroine who knows her way around a fuse box and has a knack for ensuring the survival of herself and those around her. And Carrie Fisher isn't waiting around to be rescued in a gold bikini as Leia this time — instead you'll find her calmly relaying orders and working to save lives.
And if you're looking for a movie with a strong female lead that you can take your whole family to, be sure to catch Mockingjay Part 2. Part of what makes The Hunger Games a feminist series is that Jennifer Lawrence's Katniss Everdeen isn't boxed into any conventional gender roles. She's free to lead rebel troops into bloody revolution, act as a caregiver, argue with authority, rock a fashionable dress and find true love. Because why shouldn't she have it all?
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