Women’s History on the Big Screen

Women%E2%80%99s+History+on+the+Big+Screen

By VALLIKA NAYAK ‘21 and KASHISH VARSHNEY ‘21

Women’s History Month is a time when we can recognize and celebrate the struggles and achievements of women throughout history. The highs, the lows, the funny, the tragic. Likewise, it should be a time when we can recognize and celebrate women in film. Both the stories of these characters and the incredible work of those that created the films enlighten the world in a time that can sometimes seem gloomy. But fear not, for we present to you the Eagle’s Eye’s top four films about women! Enjoy!

#1. The Help (2011)

  • Genre: Drama/Romance
  • Platform: Netflix
  • Rated: PG-13
  • 5/5 Eagle Eggs (Certified Eagles Fly)

Review: This film is a beautiful adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel, also entitled The Help, and takes place  in Jackson, Mississippi during the 1960s. The title refers to the African American women working in white Americans’ homes as cooks, cleaners, and nannies. A white society girl named Skeeter wants to write a novel about these women after seeing how badly they are treated by their employers. At first, only a housekeeper named Aibileen is willing to do the interview. But then, as more women realize that their voice deserves an audience, certain secrets start to come out.

The cast of this film is star-studded. Aibileen is played by Viola Davis, who is also known for her six-season show, How to Get Away With Murder. Her friend, Minny, is played by Octavia Spencer, from the Divergent series and Zootopia. Emma Stone, from the Amazing Spiderman plays Skeeter, and the cast even includes Bryce Dallas Howard and Jessica Chastain. 

Though the movie is a long one, at almost two and a half hours, it is tastefully created. The plight of the black woman in 1960s America is shown in a compassionate and sensitive way. Over the last year, both in America and around the world, people have taken to the streets to protest brutality and injustice against black Americans. Just recently there has been an escalation of violence against Asian Americans too. Racial violence was considered normal before the Civil War, a time in American history that many Americans consider very old-fashioned and deplorable. This film is enlightening in its simplicity of plot, and complexity of emotion. The women in this film are strong characters, and the story is developed impeccably. The interviews in this film show a lot about life in the South. But what secrets will be uncovered as the interviews become more intense?

~ VN

#2. Dangal

  • Genre: Bollywood
  • Platform: Netflix
  • Rated: TV-PG
  • 5/5 Eagle Eggs (Certified Eagles Fly)

Review: 

I’m not the biggest fan of Bollywood movies; however, Dangal is one of the best movies I’ve seen. Directed by Nitesh Tiwari, who also directed Bhoothnath Returns and Kill Dil, Dangal stars Aamir Khan–who was in 3 Idiots and PK–and Fatima Sana Shaikh–who was in Thugs of Hindustan–as Mahivir Singh Phogat and Geetha Phogat respectively while Sanya Malhotra co stars as Babitha Kumari. Dangal is a biopic about the struggles and victories of Geeta Phogat, the first daughter of Mahivir Singh Phogat. Geeta is born in a village that only sees women as housewives that should be married off at the youngest age, but after her and Babitha, her sister, beat up a couple of boys, her father’s perception changes: he realizes that his daughters can win gold for India in Olympic wrestling, so he sets out to train them. 

To this day, in parts of India, having a daughter is seen as bringing shame to the family. Like in the movie, a heavy emphasis is placed on marriage.

Dangal’s portrayal of the female struggle is still relative in today’s social climates. Although today’s climates have become more friendly, that doesn’t mean that women’s struggles are still gone. 

~ KV

#3. Little Women (2019)

  • Genre: Romance/Drama
  • Platform: Hulu
  • Rated: PG
  • 5/5 Eagle Eggs (Certified Eagles Fly)

Review: What can I say? It’s an amazing film. Between the cinematography style and the beautiful way they conveyed the story? Just incredible.

This film is based on Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel, also entitled Little Women. It is the story of four sisters in the years after the Civil War: Jo March, played by Soairse Ronan; Amy March, played by Florence Pugh; Meg March played by Emma Watson (it’s Hermione!); and Beth March, played by Eliza Scanlen. And the star-studded cast doesn’t stop there! Laura Dern, Meryl Streep, and Timothée Chalamet play the mother, aunt, and “friend,” respectively. 

Meg is the most traditional character in the film, in that she is married with two kids, as was considered normal and ideal for women in the late 1800s. Amy is an artist with a romantic heart, and Beth is the smartest and youngest of the group. In Louisa May Alcott’s original book, she may have based the character of Jo March on herself, because in the film, they show that Jo is a writer and wants to one day publish a book. Jo is unorthodox in many ways, and during the time period, that was very much not allowed. She likes to dress differently than everyone else, she has interesting ideas about marriage and companionship, and she wants to be a writer in a time when women typically stayed home with their children.

In today’s day and age, the lives of women are much different than portrayed in the film. Women hold jobs and earn their own money. They have a say in current events and politics. They are allowed to not get married or have children, and they decide their lives more than the Little Women did. However, there is a common thread that this film illuminates, where women are still not treated equally to men. Jo had to deal with some condescension from men, and in the way that our society is structured, so do many women now. Today, women are paid less on the dollar. They sometimes are not given the freedom to choose what to do with their own bodies. They are discriminated against just for being women.

This film really is a study in the history of women’s roles in society.

~ VN

#4. I Care A Lot (2020)

  • Genre: Thriller/Comedy
  • Platform: Netflix
  • Rated: R
  • 4/5 Eagle Eggs

Review: This movie centers around a fictional woman named Marla Grayson, who is a court-appointed guardian for the elderly. She sounds so sweet and generous, right? Wrong. The actress, Rosamund Pike, known for movies like Gone Girl, Johnny English Reborn, and Pride and Prejudice, does a wonderful job in portraying a manipulative defrauder.

I have to say, it starts off only a little intriguing, but by the middle of the movie in the “thriller part,” I was at the edge of my seat. Dianne Wiest, recognizable for her roles in Edward Scissorhands and Footloose, plays the elderly woman. She is sweet but fierce, and will not be messed with. The story gets more insane (in a fun way), but the character arcs are satisfying and match the arc of the plot. 

The current news about Brittany Spears and her father, with her checking herself into rehab and her father, (her court-appointed guardian) now supposedly controlling her millions of dollars worth of assets against her will, is exactly the kind of fraud that this Netflix movie was trying to uncover. This movie enlightened me to how the law can be manipulated to make certain people rich and those it is meant to protect, are made poor and helpless.

The basic idea of this movie is that when an elderly person cannot take care of themselves (when a doctor says that they show signs of basically any disease), a person like Marla Grayson can go to a judge, who will make her the guardian (sometimes even over their own children). She puts them in an old age home, and then sells all of their assets, paying herself more than she deserves. Only the power of Roman Lunyon, a wealthy drug trafficker, played by Peter Dinklage (yep, that guy from Game of Thrones) has a chance against her. But who will win in this battle of wills between two evils? 

~ VN