No, this isn’t from my personal experience, I talked with a lovely 18-year-old yesterday whose first love has turned out to be less than deserving of her. It got me thinking about what films are good therapy for young women when they feel betrayed by someone they love. Films that have kick-ass women who you’d really like to be friends with, women who are allowed the power to stand up for themselves. Films that show that love is a diverse and wonderful thing and that you have a lifetime of opportunities to find people who will treat you well. Here are my current top five.
Sucker Punch is a stylish and layered roller coaster ride with five powerful women, in particular Babydoll (Emily Browning), Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish) and Rocket (Jena Malone). A style mash-up of music videos, anime and computer games, we watch all five vanquish dragons, warriors, automaton armies, cyborgs and the men who are trying to destroy them. Accompanied by a great soundtrack, the story has a deeper meaning that is revealed slowly. The message is that we have everything within ourselves to fight for what is right.
The best quote – “And finally this question, the mystery of whose story it will be. Of who draws the curtain. Who is it that chooses our steps in the dance? Who drives us mad? Lashes us with whips and crowns us with victory when we survive the impossible? Who is it, that does all of these things? Who honors those we love for the very life we live? Who sends monsters to kill us, and at the same time sings that we will never die? Who teaches us what’s real and how to laugh at lies? Who decides why we live and what we’ll die to defend? Who chains us? And who holds the key that can set us free… It’s you. You have all the weapons you need. Now fight!”
Ellen Page, Drew Barrymore, Kristen Wiig and roller derby. That’s good enough for me. Directed by Drew Barrymore, Ellen plays Bliss Cavendar, a misfit in a small Texan town whose mother has beauty pageant aspirations for her. She discovers a roller derby league, meeting some fearless women, like Iron Maven, Eva Destruction, Bloody Holly and Smashley Simpson. There’s a bit of a love story but the real message is about finding a passion, standing up for yourself and the importance of being genuine in all the relationships in your life.
This is the second one in the franchise. Yes the first one is great and my favourite in filmic terms but the sequel really lets Ripley grow in strength and determination. Although it is justified as a latent maternal imperative, there is a lot of pleasure in seeing Ripley battle the alien with ferocity, even if it is ultimately two mothers battling it out to save their ‘offspring’. The message is about having courage, even when everything seems hopeless. The best quote – “Get away from her, you bitch!”
The Spy Kids series is a favourite in our household, mainly because of the great characters in Carmen (Alexa Vega) and Juni (Daryl Sabara), the two kids of the title whose parents are super spies played by Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino. Directed by Mexican Robert Rodriguez, the sensibility is definitely not typically Hollywood. In the first two movies in particular, Carmen’s gender is never a limitation and there is humour in the film to appeal to kids and adults. Film 1 is the best, 2 is pretty good, 3 is okay but only watch Spy Kids 4 (made eight years after 3) for the scene near the start with a heavily pregnant Jessica Alba kicking ass. The message is that, when things get tough, you find out how much strength you have (and never underestimate your parents). The best quote – “Our parents can’t be spies…they’re not cool enough!”
Harold and Maude
Perhaps an odd choice for this list as the main protagonist is male but what I love about this film is how it doesn’t conform to stereotypes about who is deserving of love and where you might find it. It’s one of my all-time-favourite romantic comedies although it does lean toward the black comedy genre and is not what you would normally expect. Young Harold (Bud Cort) struggles with finding purpose midst the conservative, affluent world of his parents. His many macabre attempts to be heard fall of deaf ears and it is not until he meets Maude (Ruth Gordon) that he learns how to find meaning in his life. With a great soundtrack by Cat Stephens, this is a life-affirming movie with a wonderful character in Maude. The message is, may we all be more like Maude.