Suffragettes, Action Heroines, and BDSM: Most Anticipated Films By and About Women in 2015

Suffragettes, Action Heroines, and BDSM: Most Anticipated Films By and About Women in 2015

Our 2014 end-of-year coverage highlighted the good and the bad for women and Hollywood in 2014. As we usher in a new year, let’s focus on some of the exciting female-centric films that await us in 2015. 

Appropriate Behavior – Written and Directed by Desiree Akhavan (January 16)

Desiree Akhavan, the writer/director/star of Appropriate Behaviortold Women and Hollywood that she used the script-writing process “to work through what was plaguing [her] at the time: a failed relationship and the aftermath of having come out to [her] Iranian family.” While the motivations behind Appropriate Behavior may seem ultra-serious, the resulting film is terribly funny. As Akhavan went on to explain to us, “I wanted to make a film which happened to be about a gay Iranian, but didn’t feel like taking your medicine.” Pretty much all of the press on Appropriate Behavior and Akhavan have compared her to Lena Dunham — here’s to ushering in another distinct voice of a generation.

Difret (Sundance Film Festival, January 18) 

This harrowing tale has got us excited — Difret will feature a young leading lady of color (Tizita Hagere), is based on a true story, and boasts a powerhouse of an executive director in Angelina Jolie. The film depicts the kidnapping of a 14-year old Ethiopian girl, Hirut. Although abduction leading to marriage is a common practice in Hirut’s rural village, she refuses to accept her fate, and resists her captors and tries to escape — shooting her would-be husband in the process. It will be interesting to see how this look at the tensions between tradition, the legal system, and human rights will play out, and it’s reassuring to note that the writer-director (Zeresenay Mehari) is himself Ethiopian, so these issues won’t be examined through a white lens.

52 Tuesdays – Directed by Sophie Hyde (Sundance Film Festival, January 18) 

Sophie Hyde’s ambitious directorial debut chronicles a teenage girl adjusting to her lesbian mother’s decision to embark on a female-to-male transition. Hyde’s approach to telling this story is unique: the director shot chronologically on each Tuesday, every week, for a year. The cast received a new script each week so they didn’t know what to expect next — and could very convincingly portray that uncertainty onscreen. Transparent was one of our favorite series last year, and so we can only hope that the series’ recent Golden Globe win will serve to place a greater spotlight on trans representation in movies like this one. 

Mistress America (Sundance Film Festival, January 24)

If you enjoyed 2013’s Frances Ha, you should definitely keep your eye on Mistress America, as it reunites Greta Gerwig with her Frances Ha director Noah Baumbach. Gerwig plays an adventurous woman who introduces some much-needed excitement to the life of a loner college freshman (Lola Kirke), who happens to be her soon-to-be stepsister. Gerwig does good work, and this concept sounds interesting — a manic pixie dream girl of a stepsister? I’d like to see how this one plays out.

Girlhood – Written and Directed by Celine Sciamma (January 30)

Girlhood will inevitably be compared to 2014’s critical darling Boyhood, just by the nature of its title alone. Ideally, this will lead to more people seeing writer and director Celine Sciamma’s drama about Marieme, a 15-year-old with a challenging home life who’s unengaged by school. Marieme joins a group of rebellious girls, changing her appearance and personality to fit in. Rather than tracking Marieme’s life from childhood to young adulthood, Girlhood offers a singular snapshot of a particular time and place in its protagonist’s life. Sciamma drew inspiration for the film, which focuses on black female adolescence, after observing girls interacting with each other at malls and subway stations in Paris. 

Jupiter Ascending – Co-Written and Co-Directed by Lana Wachowski (February 6)

In their first original screenplay since The Matrix trilogy, sister and brother duo Lana and Andy Wachowski offer the story of a janitor (Mila Kunis) who discovers she is in fact alien royalty. We’re eager to see Kunis in this role, which is unlike anything she has done before. Also, from what we’ve seen and read so far, there won’t be very many sci-fi offerings with female leads in 2015, so Jupiter Ascending will probably be worth checking out if you’re a sci-fi nerd in the market for a female protagonist. 

Fifty Shades of Grey – Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson; Written by Kelly Marcel (February 14)  

This entry is a wildcard. I still haven’t read the E.L. James novel that led to reading pornography in public becoming a socially acceptable pasttime, but the popularity and influence of Fifty Shades of Grey cannot be denied. The film had the most-viewed trailer of 2014, features a female protagonist, and is written and directed by women, so it’d be a pretty big omission from this list. What has my interest piqued — besides wanting to see what everyone will be talking about — is the involvement of director Sam Taylor-Johnson and screenwriter Kelly Marcel. Their most well-known works are Nowhere Boy and Saving Mr. Banks, respectively. How do you go from a John Lennon biopic and the wonderful world of Walt Disney to BDSM? I’m certainly curious to find out.

Insurgent (March 20)

Shailene Woodley is back as Tris in the second installment of the Divergent trilogy. The veritable YA queen of 2014 starred in Divergent, as well as the supremely popular big screen adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars last year. Fresh from battling cancer and heartbreak in the latter, Woodley is ready to battle tyranny in a dystopian version of Chicago in Insurgent. Woodley is a very capable actress, and it’s nice to see her get the opportunity to headline diverse projects. Plus, with Katniss leaving multiplexes for good after Mockingjay – Part 2 is released this year, it will be good to have another adolescent girl carrying the ass-kicking torch in a blockbuster franchise.

Woman in Gold (April 3)

As we previously wrote, “The box-office success of 2013’s Philomena (which enjoyed a worldwide gross of $100 million on a $12 million production budget) apparently convinced the BBC that movies about women — even older women — do make money. Philomena paved the way for Woman in Gold, another based-on-true-events movie about a daffy septuagenarian who teams up with a younger, book-learned man to right a wrong from her past.” We’re always excited to see movies about older women, and not just on principle, because this is a woefully underrepresented demographic. It’s not exactly a controversial stance to claim that the movie business tends to privilege youth and conventional beauty, but contrary to what Hollywood shows us, women don’t stop existing, or cease to be interesting, after the age of 40. Put simply, older women have seen and lived more of life, and so we’re always heartened to see movies like Woman in Gold that recognize this simple fact. 

Don’t Mess with Texas – Directed by Anne Fletcher (May 8) 

2014 was an outstanding year for Reese Witherspoon, with highlights including her work as a producer for Gone Girl, one of the highest profile films of the year, and her beautiful return to form as an actress in Wild. As of late, she’s been very outspoken about the lack of opportunities for actresses in Hollywood — and has played an instrumental role in not only pushing this conversation further but by creating tangible change by developing and championing female-driven films as a producer. Witherspoon will both act and produce in Anne Fletcher’s Don’t Mess With Texas, playing an uptight cop trying to protect the widow of a drug dealer (Sofia Vergara). If you’ve seen Election, you know Witherspoon can play uptight phenomenally well. 

Pitch Perfect 2 – Directed by Elizabeth Banks; Written by Kay Cannon (May 15)

Pitch Perfect was fuuuun. And it was evident that the people who made it had as much fun making it as we did watching it. Anna Kendrick is charming, talented, and funny. Pitch Perfect 2 will mark Elizabeth Banks’ directing debut and the return of its predecessor’s writer, Kay Cannon. For all of these reasons and more, I am on board for Pitch Perfect 2. The Barden Bellas are back and singing in an international competition that has never been won by an American team. I’m less concerned with the plot than with the cast’s amazing chemistry, though. Plan on an aca-zing good time. 

Spy (May 22)

Spy marks the third time that Melissa McCarthy and Paul Feig will team up. Their previous projects, Bridesmaids and The Heat, both struck box-office gold, with domestic grosses coming in at over $169 million and $159 million, respectively. McCarthy will star as a teacher who quits her job to join the CIA and is assigned a daunting mission: to infiltrate the world of arms dealers. Hijinks undoubtedly ensue. Feig has made a fine career of writing good roles for women and directing female-centric projects: the aforementioned McCarthy collaborations, Freaks and GeeksNurse Jackie, and Reese Witherspoon’s upcoming Wish List, to name a few. We hope that Spy is as commercially successful as Bridesmaids and The Heat — and as funny too. 

Inside Out (June 19) 

Pixar’s latest offering is guaranteed to be a tearjerker. Inside Out will give us unprecedented access into the mind and heart of a character. Much of the film takes place “inside” Riley, the young protagonist. We are confident that Inside Out will be a visual and emotional delight. Everyone has an inner world, and all too often children are treated as though theirs either don’t matter or don’t exist. We’re looking forward to this intimate look into a young person’s interior life — and a movie that treats kids as the complicated beings that they are.

Train Wreck – Written by Amy Schumer (July 24)

We are huge fans of Amy Schumer’s show on the Comedy Network. Inside Amy Schumer makes us guffaw on the regular, and we’re consistently impressed by Schumer’s ability to juggle laugh-out-loud moments with searing social commentary. As we previously described, the series offers a “crass, honest, and of course hilarious meditation on female self-esteem and self-loathing.” Amy Schumer wrote and stars in Train Wreck, and thus, we are very excited to see it. If you need more details before you jump on the bandwagon: the script is apparently based on Schumer’s own life and portrays a woman wary of commitment who habitually self-sabotages. Judd Apatow directs. 

Ricki and the Flash (August 6) 

Meryl Streep stars as an aging rock star trying to make amends with her estranged children, one of which will be played by Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer (Cake, The Good Wife). Granted, Streep is already a rock star of sorts, but it will be fascinating to see her play a rock n’ roll maven, and doubly so because of the presence of Gummer. It seems beyond doubt that the pair’s relationship behind the scenes will add to their chemistry onscreen. 

Suffragette – Directed by Sarah Gavron, Written by Abi Morgan (September 11, UK)

Suffragette seems like something Women and Hollywood dreamt up. The film is written and directed by women, focuses on female characters, and narrativizes historical events that led to UK women securing the right to vote. The all-star cast includes Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, and Helena Bonham-Carter. It’s very likely that this will be a serious contender come awards season 2016. Screenwriter Abi Morgan will reunite with both Streep and Mulligan; she penned the screenplays to The Iron Lady and Shame. 

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (November 20)

The time has come to say farewell to Katniss Everdeen, but rest assured, the action heroine won’t go gently into the night. Our Mockingjay continues her full-scale revolution against the Capitol in the final chapter of The Hunger Games saga. Mockingjay – Part 1 earned over $705 million worldwide and served to demonstrate (yet again) that audiences want to see female protagonists kick ass — and will gladly pay for the favor. It’s nigh impossible to overstate how many girls (and boys) Katniss has inspired, and we’re pleased to celebrate (and mourn) The Girl on Fire’s final appearance on the big screen. 

Sisters – Written by Paula Pell (December 15) 

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler! Playing sisters! The curtain recently closed on the comediennes’ Golden Globe hosting duties, but fear not: We will get to see the two reunite on the big screen for at least ninety minutes or so, which will be much more satisfying than being so rudely interrupted from our collective Fey/Poehler happy place with awards being delivered and accepted. Written by Paula Pell, a former SNL writer, Sisters focuses on siblings (Fey and Poehler) who host a house party as a last hurrah before their parents sell their childhood home. If this is only half as funny as it ought to be with the combined comedic forces of Fey and Poehler, Sisters will still be worth watching. 

Joy – Co-Written by Annie Mumolo (December 25) 

Jennifer Lawrence plays Joy Mangano, a famous inventor who made her biggest splash by inventing a way to clean them up — the mop. Mangano, who worked on inventions from the time she was a teen, continued to tinker and toil while raising three kids as a single mom. Joy marks the third time Lawrence will be directed by David O. Russell; their previous collaborations led to two Oscar nods and one win for the ultra-talented actress. Bridesmaids co-writer Annie Mumolo worked on the script for Joy alongside Russell and Lawrence is famously hilarious, so it’s fair to expect some good laughs.

Carol – Written by Phyllis Nagy (TBD)

Any movie with Cate Blanchett is probably worth seeing, but Carol sounds especially intriguing. Set in the 1950s, the film co-stars Rooney Mara in the role of Therese, Blanchett’s love interest. Carol (Blanchett) is older than Therese and also married, but it doesn’t look like these factors will stop a romance from developing. Written by Phyllis Nagy, Carol is based on The Price of Salt, a novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote the source material for The Talented Mr. Ripley. Fortunately, it looks like 2015’s female protagonists aren’t all going to be straight. 

Dark Places (TBD)

The latest adaptation of Gone Girl author and screenwriter Gillian Flynn’s work has Charlize Theron playing Libby Day, a woman whose entire family was murdered when she was a child. The trauma doesn’t end there: a secret society is fixated on solving the crime, so Libby can never put the past far behind her. We’ve heard excellent things about Flynn’s novel and are looking forward to seeing Theron in a meaty starring role. The stellar supporting cast, which includes Chloe Grace Moretz and Christina Hendricks, makes Dark Places even more enticing. 

The Dressmaker – Written and Directed by Jocelyn Moorehouse (TBD)

Kate Winslet is in this movie. Enough said? We’re great admirers of Winslet’s work, so it feels like too long since she’s appeared in the leading role of a film. In this period piece written and directed by Jocelyn Moorehouse, Winslet plays Tilly, a dressmaker inspired by couture fashion who returns to the small town she hails from after being accused of murder. Predictably, the small town’s inhabitants don’t welcome her back with open arms. Winslet is always worth showing up for, and The Dressmaker promises drama and pretty dresses, so we’re in. 

The Falling – Written and Directed by Carol Morley (TBD)

How great has it been watching Maisie Williams grow up and evolve as an actress as Arya Stark on Game of Thrones? In The Falling, Williams won’t have to compete with a dozen other storylines for screen time; the promising talent will be front and center in this dark comedy set in a British all-girls school in 1969. Written and directed by Carol Morley, the film focuses on a mysterious fainting epidemic, and the relationship between Lydia (Williams) and her best friend Abbie (Florence Pugh), who Lydia believes to be prettier and more sexually competent than herself. All-consuming female friendship is seriously underrepresented in film, so with a fascinating premise and a great lead actress, we’re totally on board. 

Freeheld (TBD)

Based on an Oscar-winning documentary short, Freeheld stars Julianne Moore as Stacie Andree, a car mechanic battling to secure pension benefits after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Ellen Page co-stars as Stacie’s police-detective girlfriend. We’re not exactly in the minority when we say that Moore can do both drama and comedy exceptionally well, but we’re happy to see her perform in any context — this David and Goliath-type of story included. We also welcome Page’s presence; we don’t see the talented actress, who can always be relied upon to say smart and interesting things in press tours, enough.

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Comments

Gabrielle Maryland

Thank you for publishing this list, there are so many great films coming out; and I’m excited that there are more and more films for women and about women, concerning women’s issues.

Helen Mitchell

Where is Belle written and directed by Amma Asante

MC

Also forgot Meadlowland! That looks to be great.

Joe

List includes Fifty Shades of Gray = list no longer credible

Wayne

This list is missing the most incredible film about women starring only women made in the last forever. Peter Strickland’s "The Duke Of Burgundy". Sensuous, kinky, immaculate and delicious despite it being a 2014 film audiences outside Festivals will only see it in 2015! And see it they should!

Nance Parry

I’m glad there are women’s films – written by and for, and directed/produced by women. It’s about time. I’m a writer with 9 women’s films I’m trying to get sold/made. I was worried, for a minute, when I saw the Suffragette film listed, but it’s the UK one that Meryl Streep did, apparently. I’ve written the life story of Susan B Anthony that I’m trying to get to Meryl (she’s said she wants to play the role. I have the best SBA script around). Let’s make this Women’s Year in the media!!! It’s long about time!

Ellie

50 Shades is NOT bdsm. As a member of the kink community, I can say with certainty that 50 Shades depicts sexual violence and not consensual bdsm activities. Bdsm is about communication, trust, and mutual-respect. 50 Shades simply normalizes sexual violence against women.

Katie

Good list but you forgot Advantageous, Jennifer Phang’s production for Sundance. t specifically focuses on women in a future sort of state and sounds intriguing.

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