By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood January 20, 2011 at 11:01AM
In early October I wrote a post talking about all the great feminist characters that were going to be seen on screen throughout the fall. I was really hopefully that several of them would make it through to awards season so that we could talk not only about the great women playing these characters, but get to talk about the characters themselves.
Slowly but surely, as it happens every year, some films click and others miss. The bad news for feminist film watchers has been that several strong feminist films with feminist characters in some pretty good movies were never able to connect at the box office which in turn did not give them any momentum towards awards season.
Here's the list:
A couple of months ago there was buzz about Diane Lane in Secretariat. That's gone. The lack of box office is blamed. The film made almost $60 million at the box office and the budget was $35 million. I don't see the lack of box office, but still Diane Lane's name hasn't been talked about in months.
Then there was Hilary Swank in Conviction. Great performances. It's like The Fighter but without the boxing and about a woman who fights for her brother's innocence. Moving story but tough to watch. Swank did score an unexpected SAG nomination, but I am still doubtful that she will get an Academy nomination.
Then there was Naomi Watts in Fair Game. She gave a great performance as Valerie Plame. We saw a female CIA agent at work. Early buzz was good when it premiered at Cannes, it got decent reviews when it opened, but then nothing.
Then there is Made in Dagenham the biggest travesty at all. The film is terrific, about something important (fighting for equal pay) with great performances from Sally Hawkins and Miranda Richardson and despite heroic efforts at outreach, no one went to see it.
So what happened? Where did our hopes for a feminist fall at the movies go? I can't answer that but I am concerned that the above films with strong female characters did not go anywhere. And also all the films were directed by men so we can't blame women directors for this.
But before you get too depressed, there is a bit of good news here which is the unexpected feminist story in True Grit and the breakout of Hailee Steinfeld.