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What the Hell is Abbie Cornish Doing in Sucker Punch?

by Melissa Silverstein
March 25, 2011 1:29 AM
24 Comments
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I must say that I found the film Sucker Punch to be very confusing. I had no idea what it was about except that it was clear that young women were in peril, stuck in a mental institution or brothel. (I couldn't tell the dream sequences from the real sequences -- if anything was real -- since there were many levels and not a good kind of levels like there were in Inception.)

I sat staring at the screen for the first 30 minutes in a state of perplexed anxiety at the bizarro action sequences that these women took part in. The plot is not worthy of discussion because there was none. I feel like it was basically a pitch that was never written because the writing was dreadful, like so bad that it would be laughable, if it were funny. I imagine the pitch went something like -- we're going to do an action adventure fantasy where girls are held captive and have to fight their way out of captivity in little dresses, high heels and leotards. It will attract both young women because the girls kick ass, and young men because the girls kicks ass in hardly any clothes.

Once the movie was thirty minutes along and I was a prisoner in my middle seat with entranced dudes around me I allowed my mind to wander in order to stave off the loss of IQ points. The one thought that kept coming into my mind was, what the hell is Abbie Cornish doing in this film?

This is not the type of film she usually makes or better yet, what she should be making. She is beyond talented and while she was the most interesting piece in the horrible experience of Sucker Punch she was not able to elevate it, it brought her down. Now I know that she has got to be under pressure from her "people" to make commercial movies. I can only imagine the conversations. "Abbie, you have a small window here to make some movies as an "ingenue." You need to take advantage of it. So them you can be sexy. Show them you are not so serious. Show them you can be commercial. Once people get to know your name, know that you can do more than artsy films, you'll be able to make some money and then come back to the artsy films." I can only imagine that this is the reason why she made this film and Limitless. It couldn't have been for the script. Could this script have been anywhere near the script of say Bright Star? I don't think I am going out on a limb by saying, no way.

But I have to say that this film was a serious miscalculation on all their parts because it just sucks. What good does being in a sucky movie that will get horrible reviews do for a young actress like Cornish. I just don't see the upside. It can't be the pay day because I am sure that none of the young women in the film were paid anything decent. This is an effects movie made for guys who just want to see scantily clad young women kick mysterious monsters asses.

This film is a perfect example of Susan Douglas' theory called "Enlightened Sexism." A movie that shows young women kicking butt which is supposedly empowering to women when in reality the whole film is not about empowering women at all, it's about making women sex objects. Let's remember that just because women carry guns in a movie and fly helicopters and can fight with a sword does not mean that the movie is feminist. This is very important. There is nothing feminist about this movie. This is not what we are fighting for.

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24 Comments

  • Phillip | February 15, 2014 12:35 PMReply

    Your inability yo comprehend the story and links between the fantasy and reality sequences says more about your extreme limut of intelligence than it does the films.

  • Eye In The Sky | January 19, 2014 5:23 PMReply

    I'm always amused when someone tries to make the argument of how feminists should act/be. Hilarity is found in the irony of how they completely miss the point.

  • lotus | September 29, 2011 1:53 AMReply

    The movie was pretty bland and boring and I expected more from the action sequences; more h2h and less reliance on guns and s***

    but.........

  • lotus | September 29, 2011 1:50 AMReply

    The argument about the clothes could be considered anti-feminist itself. It always reminds me of the one employed by rapists. I mean, her skirt was so short she was asking for it right?

    When really, women should be allowed to dress sexy, wear skimpy clothes etc without being accused of pandering to men/being a slut/acting seductive etc

    Sometimes, I just want to wear an effing skirt. Ytf should men have anything to do with it?

  • Jennifer | July 9, 2011 12:30 PMReply

    Gimme a break. I am a girl and I enjoyed the movie. Get over yourselves and your faux feminism.

  • Hey Scott Mendelson | May 18, 2011 9:26 AMReply

    You said: "he TRIED to make a genuine social statement about feminism"

    By emphasizing "TRIED", you're obscuring the important word: "genuine". I'm pretty sure the question isn't whether he tried, but whether it was a genuine social statement about feminism, considering how many times this exact point was raised by the people you're mansplaining to:

    From the original post:
    “It will attract both young women because the girls kick ass, and young men because the girls kicks ass in hardly any clothes.”
    “S[h]o[w] them you can be sexy. Show them you are not so serious. Show them you can be commercial.”
    “This is an effects movie made for guys who just want to see scantily clad young women kick mysterious monsters asses.”
    “A movie that shows young women kicking butt which is supposedly empowering to women when in reality the whole film is not about empowering women at all, it’s about making women sex objects.”
    “[J]ust because women carry guns[,] fly helicopters and [f]ight with sword[s] does not mean that the movie is feminist.”

    From comments before yours:

    “I finally feel vindicated, as your last paragraph mirrors what I have been saying all along (which has not been well received in the past.)” Note: You are now one of the people who has not received this interpretation well.

    “Just because he gets off on women without agency fighting meaningless battles doesn’t make it feminism. [..] It’s like saying an all-blackface version of GLORY would help us understand American race relations. This ain’t Buffy, this ain’t even Dollhouse. Hell. No.” Note: Dollhouse was also supposedly a feminist show but relied so heavily on sensationalized images of man-woman violence that some wondered if it wasn’t trying to titillate abusers. http://www.politicalremixvideo.com/2011/04/11/dollhouses-secret-war-on-women/ So the comparison seems to suggest that Sucker Punch wasn’t even trying and failing to be genuinely feminist.

    “if the damn story was WELL-TOLD then all the subtext and meaning and myth and message would have been crystal clear yet with true irony.

    This is not the case here. Period.”

    “Sucker Punch has put her name in the spotlight and the pay is bound to be better than what she makes for all those independent films that no one sees. [..] Critical praise is good but Hollywood is still a business.” Note: Those of us with reality-based worldviews call this ‘exploitation’ and it’s typically not something feminists support.

    When a point is raised this many times by this many different people, you can’t just dismiss it with a hand wave. That is not a good faith response and does not give any new information. Picture a debate that goes like this:

    A: “We must bomb Iran for our national security.”
    B: “But that would actually jeopardize our national security by thinning our legitimate defense force and generating ill will toward Americans.”
    A: “Fair enough, but bombing Iran would actually help our national security.”
    C: “Don’t we need those troops at home to protect us from actual threats?”
    A: “Yes, but bombing Iran is the only way to protect our natural security.”
    D: “Seems to me like that kind of campaign would only engender ill will toward Americans, putting more of us at risk.”
    A: “Well, no, bombing Iran would actually improve our national security.”

    Also, I hope you can see the contradiction in your post here:

    “How exactly does that filmography make Zach Snyder king of the sexists? He’s not Michael Bay, heck he’s not even Michael Mann. [..] Knocking a female-driven action picture because it’s not as good as Buffy the Vampire Slayer is like trashing any comedy because it’s not as funny as Blazing Saddles or Airplaine!!. Few are…”

    You can’t simultaneously hold those two positions in good faith; that we should judge Snyder by comparison to his colleagues when it’s convenient for your argument, and that it’s unfair to judge Snyder by comparison to his colleagues when it’s inconvenient for you. Which one do you actually believe? Is it fair to judge Snyder by comparison to his colleagues, or not?

  • keira | May 8, 2011 11:23 AMReply

    Yuck. Just saw this yesterday.

    I can't believe anyone managed to keep a straight face when the writer suggested that the main theme of the "rich fantasy world" of the main character would be prostitution.

    Uhuh, I'm sure that was her fantasy, not that of some sick wanker.

    And everytime one of the women goes to jump into action mode, what do we get? Up skirt shot.

    Keep it classy, hollywood.

  • LondonHellraker | April 5, 2011 9:29 AMReply

    This is basically "Twilight" for the boys. Looking good and leaving brain at the door.

  • Gabbo | March 30, 2011 1:28 AMReply

    The G4 special is better than the movie itself. I suspect the BluRay will actually be pretty good when we get to see what's been cut from the movie.

    The writer of the article got it all wrong. Abbie Cornish is in this movie because she also did work with Zach Snyder on her previous movie, Guardians of Gahoolie, the owl movie. He wrote the role of Sweet Pea for Abbie. She was his first choice.

    Of course, she was going to be in the movie. Action packed drama with a very well thought of director on the cutting edge, especially since you're working with him on back to back movies. You get to dress sexy and kick ass. It's your first real mainstream movie, plus your biggest paycheck to date. You don't even have to carry the movie, yet you get a lot of real scenes to act in: Defacto leader overthrown by younger upstart, mentally and physically abused, 2 scenes where something happens that I won't spoil, and overidding guilt. People win best supporting oscars for this stuff heh. You'd be insane not to do this role. Unfortunately, Abbie did poorly here.

    I wouldn't completely blame Zach Snyder either. Hollywood railroaded this movie. They were basically forced to make this into a PG13 movie. They catered to the Twilight crowd and are paying for it.

  • Allison | March 29, 2011 1:01 AMReply

    Wouldn't the said sex scene involve an adult man having sex with an underage gir? That seems pretty disturbing to me! Maybe it's better that it got deleted from the theatrical version.

  • Scott Mendelson | March 28, 2011 12:19 PMReply

    That little sex scene and its deletion from the film is indeed where the real outcry should be.

    http://scottalanmendelson.blogspot.com/2011/03/mpaa-thinks-child-rape-is-more.html

  • V.M.L. | March 28, 2011 11:09 AMReply

    I loved the movie, but I saw it at a test screening last year. I haven't seen it since it got released last weekend, but I was sad to learn that my favorite scene got deleted.

    The REAL sexism of the movie was the fact that a little sex scene got deleted. http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/archives/emily_browning_says_sex_scene_with_jon_hamm_cut_from_sucker_punch_to/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed

  • kittykat | March 28, 2011 5:00 AMReply

    Well... I thought the movie rocked and I'm a girl. I do understand though why a lot of ppl couldn't follow, even I was confused a little at first when they went to the brothel thing, but it made since once I thought about it. Maybe thats the problem... ppl don't like to think lol. Anyways, I thought it was a great way to tell the story of how these girls try to escape, instead of actually showing what really happened which would probably be a snore. And Abbie was great!! I really don't understand why ppl are so against this movie. Sure the outfits are revealing but I can name many movies where outfits showed even less... and I really did like seeing them kick ass. Makes me want to take up some sort of martial arts lol.

  • Allison | March 27, 2011 4:07 AMReply

    I saw the movie today. It is a faux-feminist action fanatasy that pretends to be about female empowerment when it's really a movie that appeals to teenage boys who like to see young women dressed in stripper outfits kicking butt.

    Why is a young girl imagining herself in a brothel doing sex dances? Why, in her fanasties, does she imagine herself and other girls dressed in tight, revealing clothes and high heels beating up Nazi zombies and robots? Seems more like the imagination of a fourteen year old boy to me!

  • Scott Mendelson | March 26, 2011 2:54 AMReply

    First of all, the fact that I 'got' the symbolism, meaning, and myth means that the story was at least well-told enough for those who were looking for depth to find it. Again, not saying it's not a severely sloppy film, but it's also not a subtle movie either. Whether or not the thematic elements excuse the film's shortcomings... that's a personal judgment call. I gave it extra points for effort, but you don't have to.

    "and with Snyder’s record, I’d assume he’d be the one to start building new wings of the patriarchal mansion."

    What record is that exactly? His films have basically been an asexual zombie horror drama highlighted by a terrific performance from Sarah Polley, an admittedly goofy historical action picture that played to the basest instincts of male and female audiences, a sober character study about former superheroes (a major subplot of which involved a married woman coming to terms with her unhappy marriage and seeking pleasure with an old friend), and an asexual anti-war cartoon featuring CGI-animated owls.

    How exactly does that filmography make Zach Snyder king of the sexists? He's not Michael Bay, heck he's not even Michael Mann (who basically crafts manly dramas with useless female roles). He may not be as female-friendly as Joss Whedon, James Cameron, or Quentin Tarantino, but the fact that he TRIED to make a genuine social statement about feminism rather that just go the safe route of making a live-action Powerpuff Girls movie means he seems to be trying to be in that level of company. Not that Powerpuff Girls isn't all kinds of awesome, but I digress.

    Of course Sucker Punch is 'no Buffy'. I'd argue Buffy the Vampire Slayer is probably the finest female-driven mythology in modern times (and one of the finest ever regardless of gender). Knocking a female-driven action picture because it's not as good as Buffy the Vampire Slayer is like trashing any comedy because it's not as funny as Blazing Saddles or Airplaine!!. Few are...

  • justmyop | March 25, 2011 7:02 AMReply

    Abbie Cornish is a great actress but her profile is low. Sucker Punch has put her name in the spotlight and the pay is bound to be better than what she makes for all those independent films that no one sees. Jenna Malone is in the same boat. Critical praise is good but Hollywood is still a business.

    We also learned this week that Juno Temple, another indie darling, is moving into the Batman world. There aren't many good parts for men or women in Hollywood, ie. the upcoming summer of soulless superhero reboots. Kidman and Portman wouldn't have a Rabbit Hole or Black Swan without a Moulin Rouge and a Star Wars prequel.

    Every day we get new casting rumors and the same people are repeatedly on the list. Knowing a top director, and yes sad to say but Zack Snyder is a top director, and having a big movie on the docket won't hurt. Sucker Punch is probably a bad movie but I won't blame the actresses for taking it. I can however blame moviegoers for continuing to support trash.

  • ska-triumph | March 25, 2011 6:56 AMReply

    Man - and woman - I couldn't agree more. I felt ashamed for the whole cast, especially the ones with indie cred. And Jon Hamm was WASTED, yet again, in another movie role.

    As for Scott M: I'm gonna add to what I commented on your HuffPost link - and to what cgeye said on-point. So poignant as I'm doing McKee's STORY again: if the damn story was WELL-TOLD then all the subtext and meaning and myth and message would have been crystal clear yet with true irony.

    This is not the case here. Period.

  • cgeye | March 25, 2011 5:13 AMReply

    Mr. Mendelson:
    You cannot use the master's tools to dismantle the master's house, and with Snyder's record, I'd assume he'd be the one to start building new wings of the patriarchal mansion. Just because he gets off on women without agency fighting meaningless battles doesn't make it feminism.

    The way audiences have been trained to drool at little freakish violent girlz is no different than Japanese salarymen, unable to imagine women co-workers as equals, devouring the latest manga with preteen warriors with short skirts. It's like saying an all-blackface version of GLORY would help us understand American race relations. This ain't Buffy, this ain't even Dollhouse. Hell. No.

  • S. | March 25, 2011 5:10 AMReply

    I think that a lot of Sucker Punch got cut out, and maybe it was too much. Haven't seen it yet, but all the key scenes I was looking forward to (the dances where the women supposedly really showed their personalities, perhaps actually giving them character) and a scene with Jon Hamm (though maybe that being cut out is for better, not sure yet). There was also something else I heard was cut, and to be honest, I'm waiting until a full director's cut to judge. I feel like they honestly all put their heart and soul into this and I'm expecting to be blown away, but if I'm not I'm going to try to understand what the hell happened. Abbie and Emily B. aren't stupid, by any means, and I feel that at the very least they did this movie for Zack Snyder or because it was a Zack Snyder film. But I want to hope that it is better than the internet is making it out to be.

  • Scott Mendelson | March 25, 2011 5:02 AMReply

    The movie is a critical deconstruction of the very things (the casual sexualization of young women in pop culture, the inexplicable acceptance of institutional sexism and lechery, whether or not images of empowered females on film can be disassociated with the sexual undercurrent of those same images) that you criticize the movie for containing. It's an angry feminist screed, and a genuinely disconcerting little myth, without the 'it's all okay' feel-good elements that would have made it more palatable to mainstream audiences. I wish it were a better movie overall (the plot is needlessly confusing in the first 25 minutes, and the characters are more game-board pieces than actual characters), but this is genuinely challenging movie-making and should be acknowledged as such.

    http://scottalanmendelson.blogspot.com/2011/03/review-sucker-punch-2011.html

  • Jennifer | March 25, 2011 4:08 AMReply

    Enjoyed the post.

    Good visual reference of you "stuck" in the theatre and loved the summarizing of what may have happened in discussions with this actress! As soon as I saw the trailer I made a judgement...this time it appears it was correct.

    I finally feel vindicated, as your last paragraph mirrors what I have been saying all along (which has not been well received in the past.) Good to know I'm not an outsider in that thinking.

  • Kacy | March 25, 2011 3:52 AMReply

    I know nothing about the movie itself, but thoroughly enjoyed this post! Well done, Melissa - from the sentiment to the attitude to the writing. Maybe someone should've given YOU a shot at the script.

  • Gina | March 25, 2011 2:48 AMReply

    Abbie Cornish is incredibly talented and I like Emily B as well. If they would let more women direct, my superhero goal would be to save our young actresses from these horrible roles. They deserve better, we all do!

  • janedoe | March 25, 2011 2:05 AMReply

    I knew this movie would be trash. Too bad because I had great hopes for Emily B and Abbie C. What the heck were they thinking?

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