Suffragette

Focus Features

Rated PG-13 for intense violence, mature themes, brief profanity and partial nudity

Moving Period Piece Recounts British Females’ Fight For The Right To Vote

Nowadays, most females take access to the ballot box for granted. Nevertheless, they owe a big debt of gratitude to the mostly unsung Suffragettes who made great sacrifices for decades before securing that hard-fought right.

In the United States, women got the vote in 1919 via the 19th Amendment. The year before, England granted the franchise to females over 30 who were either landowners, college grads or married to a politician. However, a decade later, it was finally extended to all British citizens over 21 on an equal basis.

Directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane), Suffragette is a moving docudrama set in London during the critical period leading up to Parliament’s passage of the Representation of the People Act of 1918. The film serves up a substantially fictionalized version of events, as only a couple of the characters here were real-life heroines, namely, Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) and Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913), portrayed by Meryl Streep and Natalie Press, respectively.

Streep merely makes a cameo appearance as Pankhurst, a pioneer reduced by advanced age to playing an inspirational role in the movement at that juncture. Still, that doesn’t mean the perennial Academy Award-contender won’t net her 20th Oscar nomination for delivering yet another sterling performance. The picture’s other historical figure, Davison, was a fiery activist who was periodically imprisoned for advocating arson, stone throwing and other violent tactics in her zealous pursuit of the vote.

The movie revolves around Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), a protagonist primarily a creation of scriptwriter Abi Morgan’s (The Iron Lady) imagination. Curiously, she’s initially less a suffragette than a fed up, steam laundry employee ostensibly motivated by a general desire to improve women’s lot, especially in terms of wages, sexual harassment and safe working conditions.

In many respects, Maud’s persona is suspiciously reminiscent of Norma Rae (1979), the feisty union organizer played by Sally Field in an Oscar-winning turn. Might Morgan have deliberately crafted Maud for Mulligan with an Academy Award in mind?

Who knows, but the parallels are hard to ignore. Both characters are uneducated, underpaid factory workers. Both have their consciousness raised with the help of a colleague. And both have unsupportive husbands opposed to their sudden embrace of political activism.

Similarities aside, Suffragette ultimately proves to be a poignant reminder of just how far women have come over the past century. Oh, and yes, the very capable Carey Mulligan is likely to be remembered come awards season, too.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 106 minutes

 

 

Spotlight

Open Road Films

Rated R for profanity, sexual references and mature themes

Journalistic Drama Revisits Protection Of Pedophile Priests By Boston Archdiocese

The Catholic Church has a very checkered past regarding its handling of the rampant molestation of children by the clergy. And Pope Francis recently tarnished that image further by issuing a plenary pardon to any pedophile priests willing to confess their sins.

This means the Church is likely to remain a safe haven for its protected perverts. Meanwhile, their traumatized victims continue to be frustrated in their quest for compensation or just to expose the identities of their abusers. That’s because the Church hierarchy has routinely opted to enforce a white collar of silence whereby serial rapists in its ranks are merely reassigned to a different parish rather than defrocked and reported to the authorities.

Directed by Oscar-nominee Tom McCarthy (for Up), Spotlight focuses on one of those rare occasions where the truth did manage to come to light. In that instance, Marty Baron (Liev Schreiber), the editor of the Boston Globe, was willing to look into the widespread rumors of a Catholic cover-up of molestation stretching back decades. After all, as a Jew who was new to town, he wasn’t as awed as the locals by the powerful Boston Archdiocese being run with an iron fist by Cardinal Bernard Francis Law (Len Cariou).

So, the intrepid editor gave his approval to a quartet of reporters interested in launching a deeper investigation. Code-named “Spotlight,” the crack team comprised of Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Robby Robinson (Michael Keaton), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) and Matt Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) researched the story for several years.

On January 6, 2002, they finally began publishing their findings in a series of damning articles that exposed Cardinal Law as an enabler offering protection for cronies he knew to be guilty as sin. For, the inquiry had unearthed mountains of evidence that the archdiocese was not only aware of about a hundred kids who’d been assaulted by numerous different men of the cloth.

But Church attorneys had repeatedly run interference for the perpetrators by settling claims out of court while simultaneously swearing the plaintiffs to secrecy via non-disclosure agreements. Consequently, the repeat offenders were free to move around from parish-to-parish, destroying additional youngsters’ lives in the process.

Overall, Spotlight amounts to a scathing indictment of the Catholic Church as little more than a meat market racket masquerading as a religious institution. Though not exactly a date night or a feel-good flick, the film nevertheless comes highly recommended for a few reasons.

First, it relates an important reminder about the salutary value of investigative reporting in a Digital Age when Google search engine optimization would assign a higher page ranking to a picture of a cute cat than to a story of such social relevance. Second, the compelling screenplay unfolds in gripping fashion and without resort to rehashing salacious details in a manner bordering on re-victimization. And third, the A-list cast turns in a plethora of dynamic performances, most notably Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci.

An iconoclastic drama that makes a convincing argument in support of the incendiary axiom, “The closer to Church, the further from God.”

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 128 minutes

 

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening November 6, 2015

 

Brooklyn (PG-13 for a sex scene and brief profanity) Romance drama, set in the ’50s, revolving around a homesick immigrant to the U.S. (Saoirse Ronan) who finds herself torn between a suitor (Emory Cohen) she meets in New York and another (Domnhall Gleason) she left behind in Ireland. With Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent and Michael Zegen.

 

The Outskirts (PG-13 for profanity, crude humor, suggestive content and teen partying) Revenge comedy about a couple of ostracized nerds (Victoria Justice and Eden Sher) who join forces with other geeks to topple the clique of popular classmates making high school miserable. Supporting cast includes Peyton List, Ashley Rickards, Katie Chang and Ted McGinley.

 

The Peanuts Movie (G) Charlie Brown (Noah Schnapp), Lucy (Hadley Belle Miller), Linus (Alexander Garfin) and company make their big screen debut in this adaptation of the Charles Schulz classic comic strip. Adventure finds Charlie pining for the object of his affection (Francesca Capaldi) while his pet pooch Snoopy (Bill Melendez) takes to the skies in a biplane for a dogfight with his nemesis the Red Baron. Voice cast includes Rebecca Bloom, Mar Mar and Venus Schultheis.

 

Spectre (PG-13 for violence, sensuality, profanity, intense action and disturbing images) Daniel Craig is back as James Bond for another globetrotting adventure which finds 007 going rogue to infiltrate a sinister organization. With Monica Bellucci, Christoph Waltz, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris.

 

Barista (Unrated) Coffee documentary chronicling the competition among entrants in the National Barista Championship to brew the best cup of java.

 

In Jackson Heights (Unrated) Melting pot documentary about an ethnically-diverse neighborhood in Queens, New York, where 167 languages are spoken. (In English, Spanish, Arabic and Hindi with subtitles)

 

Miss You Already (PG-13 for sexuality, profanity and mature themes) Bittersweet dramedy about a couple of lifelong BFFS whose relationship becomes strained when one (Drew Barrymore) starts a family around the same time that the other (Toni Collette) is diagnosed with breast cancer. With Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine and Tyson Ritter.

 

My Nazi Legacy (Unrated) Truth and reconciliation documentary about a descendant of Holocaust survivors’ visit to concentration camps in the company of two sons of Nazi war criminals.

 

Palio (Unrated) Sport of kings documentary about the oldest horse race in the world which is staged twice a year in the city of Siena. (In Italian with subtitles)

 

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (Unrated) Prestige biopic about an iconoclastic socialite with impeccable taste who amassed one of the most impressive collections of 20th century art.

 

Sembene! (Unrated) Reverential documentary about Ousmane Sembene (1923-2007), the Senegalese filmmaker/writer/freedom fighter who used storytelling as his weapon.

 

Theeb (Unrated) Jacir Eid Al-Hwietat plays the title character in this coming-of-age saga about a young Bedouin boy who escorts a mysterious British officer on a secret mission (Jack Fox) across the Arabian desert during World War I. Featuring Hussein Salameh Al-Sweilhiyeen and Hassan Mutlag Al-Maraiyeh. (In Arabic with subtitles)

 

Trumbo (R for profanity and sexual references) Historical drama, set in the late ’40s, recounting the blacklisting of Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) and some colleagues after being branded as Communists because of their progressive political views. With Diane Lane, Elle Fanning, John Goodman and Helen Mirren.

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