Summer blockbuster season is just around the corner, but there's no need to wait until then to see a great movie. April brings us a wide variety of women-centric projects, as well as quite a few films helmed and/or written by women.
The month starts off with "Woman in Gold," starring Helen Mirren as a Jewish woman on a journey to recover her family's heirlooms, which was stolen by the Nazis. It's based on a true story, and Mirren roots the film with her powerful presence. "Closer to the Moon" is another WWII-era drama set for an April release, this one based on the crime capers of a group of Jewish resistance fighters a few years after the end of the war. "Marie's Story" is another period piece, centering around the efforts of a 19th-century nun to help a girl born blind and deaf.
There are a few more women-focused dramas being released in April, including the much-buzzed "Clouds of Sils Maria," which garnered Kristen Stewart the prestigious Cesar Award for supporting actress. Stewart has made waves for being the first American actress to win the French award, and the film looks to capitalize on that with its American release. “Félix & Meira" is another award-winner coming out this month. The Best Canadian Feature from the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival aims to make its mark with the story of an unconventional and radical love affair, one that reaches across racial and religious lines. "About Elly" also confronts cultural biases with its depiction of Iran's upper middle class.
"Effie Gray" tackles the sexual politics of the Victorian era, and with a screenplay from Emma Thompson, it's sure to be intriguing as well as quick-witted. Speaking of intriguing, "The Age of Adaline" follows a woman who mysteriously stopped aging eight decades ago. Blake Lively centers the film as Adaline, struggling with love and trust and all the other things that might follow when one lives seemingly forever.
Courteney Cox makes her big-screen directorial debut (the actress has previously directed episodes of "Cougar Town," which she stars in) with "Just Before I Go," and screenwiter Gren Wells makes hers as well with "The Road Within." Director Mia Hansen-Løve ("Goodbye First Love") directs Greta Gerwig in "Eden," a look at the rise of French electronic music in the 90s.
The month will also see the release of a few very different documentaries. "The Hand That Feeds" focuses on undocumented immigrants struggling to form an independent union, while "Iris" follows 93-year-old Iris Apfel, a flamboyant New York City fashion icon. "Antarctic Edge: 70° South" is focused on the changing climate of the Antarctic's Peninsula and was made with the collaboration of Rutgers University students and scientists.
We'll also see comedic projects featuring Mary Elizabeth Winstead ("Alex of Venice") and Rose Byrne ("Adult Beginners"). Nia Vardalos returns to the screen with a role in "Helicopter Mom," which promises an outrageous performance from the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" star. "Sweet Lorraine" and "Farah Goes Bang" round out the women-centric comedy offerings of the month.
Here are all the women-centric films opening in the month of April. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.
Woman in Gold
"Woman in Gold" is the remarkable true story of one woman’s journey to reclaim her heritage and seek justice for what happened to her family. Sixty years after she fled Vienna during World War II, an elderly Jewish woman, Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), starts her journey to retrieve family possessions seized by the Nazis, among them Klimt’s famous painting "Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I." Together with her inexperienced but plucky young lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), she embarks upon a major battle, which takes them all the way to the heart of the Austrian establishment and the U.S. Supreme Court, and forces her to confront difficult truths about the past along the way.
The Hand That Feeds (doc) - Co-Written and Co-Directed by Rachel Lears
At a popular bakery café, residents of New York’s Upper East Side get bagels and coffee served with a smile 24 hours a day. But behind the scenes, undocumented immigrant workers face sub-legal wages, dangerous machinery, and abusive managers who will fire them for calling in sick. Mild-mannered sandwich maker Mahoma López has never been interested in politics, but in January 2012 he convinces a small group of his co-workers to fight back.
Risking deportation and the loss of their livelihood, the workers team up with a diverse crew of innovative young organizers and take the unusual step of forming their own independent union, launching themselves on a journey that will test the limits of their resolve. In one roller-coaster year, they must overcome a shocking betrayal and a two-month lockout. Lawyers will battle in back rooms, Occupy Wall Street protesters will take over the restaurant, and a picket line will divide the neighborhood. If they can win a contract, it will set a historic precedent for low-wage workers across the country. But whatever happens, Mahoma and his coworkers will never be exploited again.
Effie Gray - Written by Emma Thompson
In her original screenplay “Effie Gray,” Emma Thompson takes a bold look at the real-life story of the Effie Gray-John Ruskin marriage, while courageously exposing what was truly hiding behind the veil of their public life. Set in a time when neither divorce nor gay marriage were an option, “Effie Gray” is the story of a young woman (Dakota Fanning) coming of age and finding her own voice in a world where women were expected to be seen but not heard. “Effie Gray” explores the roots of sexual intolerance, which continue to have a stronghold today, while shedding light on the marital politics of the Victorian era.
As with director Asghar Farhadi's better-known films, “About Elly” concerns the affluent, well-educated, cultured, and only marginally religious members of Iran's upper-middle class. Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti), a pretty young woman invited as a possible romantic interest for one of the newly single men among this group, disappears suddenly without a trace. The festive atmosphere quickly turns frantic as friends accuse one another of responsibility. Plot-wise, Farhadi's drama has been compared to “L’Avventura”; but the film is less concerned with Elly's disappearance per se than with exploring the intricate mechanisms of deceit, brutality, and betrayal which come into play when ordinary circumstances take a tragic turn.
Clouds of Sils Maria
At the peak of her international career, Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is asked to perform in a revival of the play that made her famous twenty years ago. But back then, she played the role of Sigrid, an alluring young girl who disarms and eventually drives her boss Helena to suicide. Now she is being asked to step into the other role, that of the older Helena. She departs with her assistant (Kristen Stewart) to rehearse in Sils Maria; a remote region of the Alps. A young Hollywood starlet with a penchant for scandal (Chloë Grace Moretz) is to take on the role of Sigrid, and Maria finds herself on the other side of the mirror, face to face with an ambiguously charming woman who is, in essence, an unsettling reflection of herself.
The Sisterhood of Night - Directed by Caryn Waechter and Written by Marilyn Fu
Based on the short story by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steven Millhauser, "The Sisterhood of Night" is a story of friendship and loyalty set against the backdrop of a modern-day Salem witch trial. Shot on location in Kingston, NY, the film chronicles a group of girls who have slipped out of the world of social media into a mysterious world deep in the woods. The tale begins when Emily Parris (Kara Hayward) exposes a secret society of teenage girls. Accusing them of committing sexually deviant acts, Emily’s allegations throw their small American town into the national media spotlight. The mystery deepens when each of the accused takes a vow of silence. What follows is a chronicle of three girls’ unique and provocative alternative to the loneliness of adolescence, revealing the tragedy and humor of teenage years changed forever by the Internet age.
Farah Goes Bang - Directed by Meera Menon, Written by Laura Goode and Meera Menon
A road-trip comedy that centers on Farah (Nikohl Boosheri), a twenty-something woman who tries to lose her virginity while campaigning for John Kerry in 2004. Farah and her friends K.J. and Roopa follow the campaign trail to Ohio, seizing this charged moment in their lives and the life of their country.
Closer to the Moon
Set in 1959 Bucharest, “Closer to the Moon” opens as the crime is hatched and executed by old friends from the WWII Jewish Resistance, who seek to recapture the excitement of their glory days. Led by a chief police inspector (Mark Strong) and a political academic (Vera Farmiga), the quintet also includes a respected history professor (Christian McKay), a hotshot reporter (Joe Armstrong), and a space scientist (Tim Plester). Their postwar influence fading amid an ongoing Stalinist purge of Jews and intellectuals, the disillusioned gang retaliates by hijacking a van delivering cash to the Romanian National Bank, staging the robbery to make it look like a movie shoot. Caught and convicted in a kangaroo court, the culprits, with help from an eyewitness (Harry Lloyd) to the robbery, are forced to reenact their crime in a devious anti-Semitic propaganda film.
Felix & Meira
Winner of Best Canadian Feature at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, “Félix & Meira” is the story of an unconventional romance between two people living vastly different realities mere blocks away from one another. Each lost in their everyday lives, Meira (Hadas Yaron), a Hasidic Jewish wife and mother, and Félix (Martin Dubreuil), a Secular loner mourning the recent death of his estranged father, unexpectedly meet in a local bakery in Montreal's Mile End district. What starts as an innocent friendship becomes more serious as the two wayward strangers find comfort in one another. As Felix opens Meira's eyes to the world outside of her tight-knit Orthodox community, her desire for change becomes harder for her to ignore, ultimately forcing her to choose: remain in the life that she knows or give it all up to be with Félix.
Alex of Venice - Co-Written by Jessica Goldberg and Katie Nehra
In “Alex of Venice,” workaholic environmental attorney Alex Vedder (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is forced to reinvent herself after her husband (Chris Messina) suddenly leaves the family. Dealing with an aging father (Don Johnson) who still aspires to succeed as an actor, an eccentric sister (Katie Nehra), and an extremely shy son (Skylar Gaertner), Alex is bombarded with everything from the mundane to hilariously catastrophic events without a shoulder to lean on. Realizing she will thrive with or without her husband, Alex discovers her hidden vulnerability as well as her inner strength as she fights to keep her family intact in the midst of the most demanding and important case of her career.
Cas & Dylan - Written by Jessie Gabe
When 61-year-old self-proclaimed loner and terminally ill Dr. Cas Pepper (Richard Dreyfuss) reluctantly agrees to give 22-year-old social misfit Dyland Morgan (Tatiana Maslany) a very short lift home, the last thing he anticipates is that he will strike her angry boyfriend with his car, find himself on the lam, and ultimately drive across the country with an aspiring young writer determined to help him overcome his own bizarre case of suicide-note writer's block. But as fate would have it, that is exactly what happens. Suddenly Cas's solo one-way trip out West isn't so solo. With Dylan at his side, the two take off on an adventure that will open their eyes to some of life's lessons -- both big and small.
Antarctic Edge: 70° South (doc) - Directed by Dena Seidel
Dena Seidel’s documentary not only offers rare, beautifully shot footage of West Antarctic Pennisula's rapidly changing environment, studying the connections that reveal the concrete impact of climate change; it is also a one-of-a-kind collaboration between the Rutgers University Film Bureau and the Rutgers Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences and contains interviews and insights from some of the world’s leading ocean researchers. It is a fascinating look at their life’s work trying to understand how to maintain our planet.The Road Within - Written and Directed by Gren Wells
Vincent (Robert Sheehan), a young man with Tourette's syndrome, faces drastic changes after his mother dies. Because his politician father is too ashamed of the disorder to have Vincent accompany him on the campaign, Vincent is shuttled off to an unconventional clinic. There he finds unexpected community with an obsessive-compulsive roommate and an anorexic young woman, and romance eventually -- and uneasily -- follows.
One of Variety's "10 Directors to Watch," screenwriter Gren Wells makes her directorial debut with this ambitious yet light-hearted coming-of-age tale about the potent medicine we all carry within ourselves. The film is packed with a talented ensemble, from emerging talents Zoë Kravitz, Dev Patel, and Sheehan to beloved veterans Kyra Sedgwick and Robert Patrick.
The double life of a Methodist minister's wife (played by Tatum O'Neal) catches up to her, as her husband campaigns for mayor in a small New Jersey town.April 24
Just Before I Go - Directed by Courtney Cox
Ted Morgan (Seann William Scott) has been treading water for most of his life. After his wife leaves him, Ted realizes he has nothing left to live for. Summoning the courage for one last act, Ted decides to go home and face the people he feels are responsible for creating the shell of a person he has become. But life is tricky. The more determined Ted is to confront his demons, to get closure, and to withdraw from his family, the more Ted is yanked into the chaos of their lives. So, when Ted Morgan decides to kill himself, he finds a reason to live.
The Age of Adaline
After miraculously remaining 29-years-old for almost eight decades, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever.
Adult Beginners - Co-Written by Liz Flahive (Simultaneously releasing to VOD)
A young, hipster entrepreneur (Nick Kroll) crashes and burns on the eve of his company’s big launch. With his entire life in disarray, he leaves Manhattan to move in with his estranged pregnant sister (Rose Byrne), brother-in-law (Bobby Cannavale), and three-year-old nephew in the suburbs – only to become their manny. Faced with real responsibility, he may finally have to grow up – but not without some bad behavior first.
Eden - Directed and Co-Written by Mia Hansen-Løve
The film follows the life of a French DJ who's credited with inventing "French house" or the "French touch," a type of French electronic music that became popular in the 1990s. Greta Gerwig costars. (IMDB)
24 Days - Co-Written by Emilie Frèche
January 20, 2006: After dinner with his family, Ilan Halimi (Syrus Shahidi) gets a call from a beautiful girl who had approached him at work and makes plans to meet her for coffee. Ilan didn't suspect a thing. He was 23 and had his whole life ahead of him. The next time Ilan's family heard from him was through a cryptic online message from kidnappers demanding a ransom in exchange for their son's life. (IMDB)
Helicopter Mom - Directed by Salomé Breziner
An overbearing mom (Nia Vardalos) decides that college would be more affordable if her son were to win an LGBT scholarship, so she outs him to his entire high school. However, he might not be gay. (Rotten Tomatoes)April 29
Iris (doc) (Opening in New York City)
"Iris" pairs legendary 87-year-old documentarian Albert Maysles with Iris Apfel, the quick-witted, flamboyantly dressed 93-year-old style maven who has had an outsized presence on the New York fashion scene for decades. More than a fashion film, the documentary is a story about creativity and how, even in Iris' dotage, a soaring free spirit continues to inspire. "Iris" portrays a singular woman whose enthusiasm for fashion, art, and people are life's sustenance and reminds us that dressing, and indeed life, is nothing but an experiment. Despite the abundance of glamour in her current life, she continues to embrace the values and work ethic established during a middle-class Queens upbringing during the Great Depression.
Marie’s StoryAt the turn of the 19th century, a humble artisan and his wife have a daughter, Marie (Ariana Rivoire), who is born deaf and blind and unable to communicate with the world around her. Desperate to find a connection to their daughter and avoid sending her to an asylum, the Heurtins send fourteen-year-old Marie to the Larnay Institute in central France, where an order of Catholic nuns manage a school for deaf girls. There, the idealistic Sister Marguerite (Isabelle Carré) sees in Marie a unique potential, and despite her Mother Superior's (Brigitte Catillon) skepticism, vows to bring the wild young thing out of the darkness into which she was born. Based on true events, “Marie's Story” recounts the courageous journey of a young nun and the lives she would change forever, confronting failures and discouragement with joyous faith and love. (Film Movement)