Thursday, November 26, 2015

Movie Review - Suffragette

Suffragette (2015)
Starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, and Meryl Streep
Directed by Sarah Gavron

There are certain movies that seem made purely to garner awards attention.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes the "importance" of a piece can too highly overshadow a film's cinematic values and that's unfortunately the case with Suffragette, a film that never succeeded in bringing me into its story.  While it certainly tells an important tale as it deals with the British suffrage movement in the late 1910s, Suffragette suffers from relying too heavily on contrived predicaments in order to emphasize the struggles facing women a century ago.  While the heavy-handed plot lines our characters face may very well be based in reality and truth, when placed into a film setting, they can't help but feel piled on in order to achieve a desired emotional impact.

Carey Mulligan is, as always, doing excellent work as Maud Watts, a married laundry worker and mom of one who stumbles onto the suffragette movement one afternoon when she spots co-worker Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) tossing rocks into a store window in an attempt to have civil disobedience bring awareness to their cause.  However, as great as Mulligan is at taking us on her character's journey that begins with nonchalance towards the movement and ends with staunch advocacy on behalf of equality for voting rights, it is Maud who is inherently the film's problem.  A fictionalized character, screenwriter Abi Morgan piles heartbreak after heartbreak onto this women which, while once again may have truly happened to some in the 1910s, feels in a cinematic setting as an easy way to emotionally tug at audiences' heartstrings rather than resonate as realistic.

Morgan's script isn't helped by Sarah Gavron's pedestrian direction which, given the subject matter, fails to rouse the audience to join the cause in any way.  Weighed down in grays and browns with production design that always seems as if we're on a set rather than in a natural setting, Suffragette keeps the viewer at a distance rather than involving them in the plot despite its obvious intentions to do just the opposite.  While Gavron consistently gets good performances from key cast members -- including a nice turn from a subdued Helena Bonham Carter as a leader in the suffragette movement -- they're not enough to save this one from being a disappointment.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

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