“Suffragette”

“Suffragette”
Directed by Sarah Gavron

Brody-TheToo-EasyHistoryofSuffragette-1200The percentage of feature film coverage given to women’s rights issues  can probably be measured with a decimal in front of whatever number you come up with. And I’ve often wondered why this story had not been told before. If you know British history, you’ll know, as I did, exactly how this movie unfolds, including the ending. And yet, I was still quite shaken. That “Suffragette” accomplishes this is due to its performances, its beautiful re-creations, and its lovely direction.

Carey Mulligan has now delivered two of my favorite performances of the year (“Far From the Madding Crowd” being the other). When she smiles, you can’t avoid grinning. When she sobs, you ache. And when she is forceful, you feel it viscerally. But if Mulligan is the picture’s heart, Anne-Marie Duff (unrecognizable as the same woman who plays Fiona in Showtime’s “Shameless”) is its gravity. Sensational as the embodiment of Mulligan’s conscience, I don’t think it will surprise anyone if she’s nominated for several Supporting Actor awards. Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw, Helena Bonham Carter and the always good, but hardly used, Geoff Bell, make the world of the film complete.

This film looks so authentic, you initially think the budget must be exorbitant. But Hollywood doesn’t dole out tens of millions of dollars to just anyone, no matter how good the source material. So I looked at the budget…$14mil…which ain’t peanuts, but they sure did get their money’s worth. This looks, feels and smells like London in 1912, which is absolutely essential to its success.

Which is all the more amazing when you realize the director has exactly one feature to her helming credit – about seven years ago. What a second feature! Ms. Gavron has created a film more than worthy of the subject. It has a couple second act issues which lead to a little dullness, but it doesn’t last. And she never allows any of these characters to become two-dimensional, which is difficult when attempting to accurately present such well-known history. And while I normally rail against the need to give us text-filled frames of “meaningful” postscript at a film’s end, here they fit perfectly, adding modern context to the century-old tale.

Finally, a shout out to the great Alexander Desplat. After a plethora of recent mediocre scores (I’m talking to you Mr. Newman), this works just as it should.

Written on 11/7/2015

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