Celebrities, risk-taking storytellers, indie film vets and unknown actors trying to make their stars rise in the Hollywood sky have descended upon Park City, Utah for the annual Sundance Film Festival (January 19 – 29, 2012). In addition to a great showcase of all the new films making their debut over the course of the 10 day event, there is a lot of news coming out of this year’s Festival that we finding particularly interesting because it’s all about… you guessed it, women!
Yesterday in the articles section of the Festival website, writer Holly Willis posted a story entitled Women Who Roar: Sundance 2012 is Rife with Feisty, Flinty Female Characters. She opened her piece by writing, “One of the bitter laments emanating from contemporary female audience members – and actresses, for that matter – concerns the scarcity of great, meaty female characters who are complex, morally ambiguous, even controversial.” We agree and were also intrigued. Holly went on to describe three films from the 2012 Festival, which she says, “counter that complaint, defying the typical stereotypes and delivering instead feisty, bitchy, raunchy, complicated, conflicted, and even heroic women in stories whose struggles and achievements take center stage.” With that, our curiosity was piqued further, so we read on.
Here is a run-down of the three films the article highlighted.
Smashed, the screenplay co-written by James Ponsoldt and Susan Burke, tells the story of married couple Kate (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Charlie (Aaron Paul), who like to have a good time. Their marriage thrives on a shared fondness for music, laughter… and getting smashed. When Kate’s partying spirals into hard-core asocial behavior, compromising her job as an elementary schoolteacher, something’s got to give. Sobriety means she will have to confront the lies she’s been spinning at work, her troubling relationship with her mother, and the nature of her bond with Charlie.
Holly’s post explains that the co-writers decided to tell the story – substance abuse – from a woman’s perspective because it’s one that they say we haven’t seen onscreen yet. Ponsoldt and Burke also wanted to create a fully-formed female character. “We were determined that we wanted her to be very funny and very honest,” says Ponsoldt, “and we wanted a lead who could be angry, who could be sympathetic, someone with a full range of emotions. Men can have this range and they’re never called ‘shrill’ or ‘bitchy.'”
Another powerful female character graces Filly Brown. This film tells the story of “Majo” Tonorio, a.k.a. Filly Brown (Gina Rodriguez), a raw, young Los Angeles hip-hop artist trying to launch a career and chart her own path while also dealing with hardships at home. When a sleazy record producer offers her a crack at rap stardom, Majo faces some daunting choices. With an incarcerated mother, a record contract could be the ticket out for her struggling family. But taking the deal means selling out her talent and the true friends who helped her to the cusp of success. Written by Youssef Delara, who co-directed with Michael D. Olmos, the project originally featured a male character in the lead role, but the gender switch proved transformative. “I read it, and it was raw, it was fresh, and we hadn’t seen this character before,” says Olmos, describing a draft of the script developed by Delara.
Last but not least, Holly notes Leslye Headland’s Bachelorette, describing it as “outrageous” and a film that, “presents three very different, but equally indelible, characters – Regan (Kirsten Dunst); Katie (Isla Fisher); and Gena (Lizzy Caplan) – whose foul language, cruelty, drug use, and general misbehavior are nothing short of shocking.”
Here is the synopsis: Regan is used to being first at everything. Imagine her horror and chagrin when she finds out the girl everyone called Pig Face in high school is going to tie the knot before she does! But Regan sucks it up and takes on bridesmaid duties along with her childhood pals: substance-abusing, promiscuous Gena and ditzy Katie. The single ladies are determined to put their bitterness aside and have an awesomely hedonistic bachelorette party. Armed with acerbic wit and seemingly endless supplies of coke and booze, the foul-mouthed femmes embark on one very long and emotional night filled with major wedding-dress panic, various bodily fluids, and cute ex-boyfriends. “I wanted to write about that time in your late 20s or early 30s,” says Headland of the story’s genesis. “It’s an interesting time period because people haven’t quite become adults yet. They haven’t found the tools yet to behave properly and they’re still lost – morally and ethically.”
As soon as these films make it to a theater near us, we’re going to the movies!
To see a rundown of all the films making their debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, click here.