February 16, 2004

HBO Has A Thing For Angels

Hilary Swank & Frances O'Connor in HBO's Iron Jawed Angels
Honestly, Cinecultist is sorry if you're not one of these decadent New Yorkers who insists their television isn't complete without HBO and are missing the really great original movies they've been airing lately. You may have heard that we kinda liked Angels in America but Cinecultist was also blown away by Iron Jawed Angels, a movie about suffragists Alice Paul and Lucy Burns starring Hilary Swank and Frances O'Connor which premiered last night.

The film has a few notable strengths that set it apart from your usual tv, historically-suspect biopic. A top notch cast reminded CC that so many of these women actors are favorite character players, who we really ought to seek out in the future. Swank and O'Connor have each done some real good, critically lauded work (Boys Don't Cry and Mansfield Park) and then each had a bit of a fall from grace (eeek -- a histronic The Affair of the Necklace and a wooden AI) but both redeem themselves here doing what they do best. Sassy, out-spoken, kicking-ass-and-taking-names or as their characters say in one memorable monologue "pissing in the senator's boot," this is what CC wants to see Swank and O'Connor doing on screen. Others in the cast who are equally faboo -- Anjelica Huston (We don't really need to tell you who she is, right? But do catch her in The Grifters if you haven't), Molly Parker (The Center of the World), Brooke Smith (The Contender: Series 7) and Laura Fraser (A Knight's Tale). You go girls!

The other notable thing about this picture is the anachronistic details, taking the story out of its historical setting, but at the same time making it more immediate and the characters more likable. They speak slang and with modern inflections. They express doubts about committing their lives to the cause. They learn to drive cars. They touch themselves in the bathtub, while thinking about Patrick Dempsey. These are not your grandmother's suffragists. But director Katja von Garnier and screenwriter Sally Robinson make what could be jarring elements organic to the whole project and arguably this heightens our sense of shock at what the women must go through to get their 19th amendment passes. CC doesn't think we could withstand force feeding in a worker's prison, but this movie made us proud that these American heroes had. You go girls!

Posted by karen at February 16, 2004 12:15 PM