This was a lighter movie week with two movies driven by strong, defiant women in very different ways. Here are the movies I watched:
Wonder Woman – dir. Patty Jenkins
I became more hopeful about this DC comics movie when I heard that the director was Patty Jenkins, whose last film was the intense, despairing but empathetic Monster from 2003 (where Charlize Theron won an Oscar). To say that this is the best DC comic book movie since The Dark Knight trilogy seems like faint praise, but it is a relief that it is a good movie anyway. I could still do with less Zack Snyder-influenced slow motion in the action scenes (just let the scene play out in real time to have maximum impact) and elements in the climax, including revelations and reversals, will seem familiar and predictable. However, there are a few places where the film takes chances and the strong and clear characterization of Wonder Woman that is strengthened by Gal Gadot’s performance makes us care anyway. There is also effortless chemistry between Gadot and Chris Pine as a WWI pilot.
A Quiet Passion – dir. Terence Davies
British director Terence Davies (more of whose work I would like to seek out) directs this biopic of the life of American poet, Emily Dickinson. Davies brings a literal formalism to the portrayal of the poet (played elegantly by Cynthia Nixon), who found pockets of comfort in the witty camaraderie with some people around her, but was quietly, defiantly working through her emotional introversion and confusion. The first half has conversations with her sister, Vinny (the always underrated Jennifer Ehle), and especially her friend, Vryling Bufam (Catherine Bailey) and they are some of the funniest scenes I have ever seen in a costume drama. The second half darkens as her reclusive turmoil grows, reflecting the poetry where she vividly ruminates about her place in the world in the span of eternity (the film is sometimes punctuated with excerpts of her poetry narrated by Nixon). Some may see Dickinson as a smug and often impossible person who merely speculated about a world that she refused to fully participate in. However, within her strict Christian upbringing, she was one who stuck to her own values (especially in regards to women’s place in literature in a male-driven society) and was comfortable asking the tougher questions about existential meaning. The movie captures all of that in a poetic way with stately visual compositions of interiors and lush vistas.