Welcome to the year 2016, dear readers. My resolution for the New Year was to watch even more films directed by women! I tallied up every film that I watched in the past year, and out of 373 films (I watch a lot of movies in my spare time), 112 of them were directed or co-directed by women. Percentage-wise, women directed about 30% of all the movies I saw in 2015. Now, you may be saying to yourselves that that’s not a bad percentage. This is true, and I’m quite proud of myself for achieving this high of a percentage knowing that some people more than likely saw exactly zero films by women, but going into 2016 I’m challenging myself to watch an even higher percentage—50% to be specific—and I challenge each and every one of you as well. Look at the percentage of films by women that you saw in the last year, and do better. Let’s all do better so we can continue to support women in the film industry.
With that said, let’s talk about films. One of my favorite genres of films—and one that I’ve been watching in a greater frequency ever since the fall semester ended—is the romantic comedy. I often get extremely frustrated with the way critics and the public dismiss this genre as “women’s films.” First of all, that’s wrong. Romantic comedies are not “women’s films” and I hate this description because it automatically assumes that only women can enjoy them (which I know for a fact is not true) while simultaneously stating that the only kind of film a woman can enjoy is a romantic comedy. This is also untrue, as most of the women I know (myself included) love a variety of different genres. We need to stop placing gender on certain types of film genres. All genders can enjoy any type of film. Men can and do enjoy romantic comedies. Women can and do enjoy science fiction and horror films. Understood?
I personally love romantic comedies because they’re light and sweet and make me feel good at the end. After watching depressing movie after depressing movie, sometimes I want to curl up and watch a movie that will make me laugh. The weird thing about romantic comedies is that despite being generalized as films for women, not a lot of them are directed by women. However, the ones that are directed by women are very well made, and I’m here today to showcase one of my favorites.
My film for this week is The Holiday, written and directed by Nancy Meyers. For those who don’t know about Meyers, she has been writing and directing for almost twenty years, starting with The Parent Trap in 1998. Her most recent film was this year’s The Intern, starring Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro. I’ve liked every film of hers that I’ve seen, but The Holiday, which came out in 2006, is without a doubt my favorite. The Holiday is about two women, played by Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet, who are both unhappy with their lives and decide to switch houses for the holidays. Amanda, played by Diaz, is a Hollywood executive who has just broken up with her live-in boyfriend. Meanwhile Iris, played by Winslet, is an editor living in London who is constantly allowing the man she has been in love with for years to string her along, despite the fact that he does not really love her and is engaged to another woman. This is a romantic comedy, so of course Amanda and Iris both fall in love while on their respective vacations, but what I love about this movie is that the romance, while important, is not the main focus of the story. The point of this movie is that the two women grow as people and learn how to be the best version of their selves. Amanda is a workaholic who keeps people at arm’s length out of fear that her relationships will become “complicated.” Iris, while having a strong personality, lacks the confidence to admit that she deserves better in life, especially where her romantic relationships are concerned. Over the course of The Holiday, Iris becomes stronger and more confident in her capabilities, while Amanda learns to let people into her life, and that sometimes, complicated is a good thing. And of course, as an added bonus, they get to fall in love with Jude Law and Jack Black.
Another highlight of this film is that the love interests (Law and Black) are given plenty of development and are not one-dimensional. This is a common tactic in the genre, but Meyers always fleshes her characters out in her screenplays. They feel like real people, and as a result the relationships between the four are allowed to develop realistically. For instance, Jude Law’s character is a self-proclaimed weeper, and is allowed to be sensitive in a way that men are not always shown to be on the screen. Meyers also includes many memorable supporting characters, including Arthur (played by a then-90 years old Eli Wallach), a famous screenwriter who befriends Iris and gives her classic Hollywood films to watch in order to give her “gumption.” Wallach is a delight to watch onscreen, and the chemistry between him and Winslet is delightful to see. The Holiday is a film that fills the audience with warmth and shows the equal importance of friendship and romantic love. It’s a gem of a film.
The Holiday is currently not available to stream instantly, but is available to rent online on Amazon and YouTube. You can also pick it up from the UWM Golda Meir Library and the public Milwaukee County Library system.
Before I go into films available to rent on VOD for this week, I want to give a little shout out to a documentary miniseries currently on Netflix called Making a Murderer, which was created, written and directed by TWO women, Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi. The show has risen in popularity over the last few weeks and if you haven’t gotten around to watching it yet, you absolutely should.
Some Films Available to Rent on VOD:
A Brave Heart: the Lizzie Velasquez Story, directed by Sara Hirsch Bordo, is available to rent on Amazon.
Sleeping With Other People, directed by Leslye Headland, is available to rent on Amazon.
Meet the Patels, co-directed by Geeta Patel, is available to rent on Amazon.
The Girl in the Book, directed by Marya Cohn, is available to rent on Amazon.
Janis: Little Girl Blue, directed by Amy Berg, is available to rent on Amazon.
Some Films Available to Stream Instantly:
Amour Fou, directed by Jessica Hausner, is available to stream on Hulu.
Mississippi Grind, co-directed by Anna Boden, is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
We Need to Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsay, is available to stream on Netflix.
Something New, directed by Sanaa Hamri, is available to stream on Netflix.
Slow Learners, co-directed by Sheena M. Joyce, is available to stream on Netflix.