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10 Female-Directed Films to See This Season, From ‘Lady Bird’ to ‘Professor Marston & the Wonder Women’

From first-time filmmakers to bonafide superstars, personal stories to historical epics, this season has something for everyone, and all from women.

All this week, IndieWire will be rolling out our annual Fall Preview, including the very best indie cinema has to offer, all the awards contenders you need to know about, and even blockbuster fare that seems poised to please the most discerning tastes, all with an eye towards introducing you to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed fall movie-going season. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer, and clear your schedule, because we’re going to fill it right up. 

Finally: 10 new features from female filmmakers. From first-time directors to bonafide superstars, personal stories to historical epics, this season has something for everyone, and all from women.

“Viceroy’s House” (September 1)

Viceroy's House

“Viceroy’s House”

IFC Films

After investigating her own heritage during the filming of an episode of BBC’s “Who Do You Think You Are?,” “Bend It Like Beckham” filmmaker Gurinder Chadha  was inspired to delve more deeply into her own family’s history, and its thorny relationship with India’s independence. That personal story pushed her to make “Viceroy’s House,” which stars Hugh Bonneville as Lord Mountbatten, the final Viceroy of India, and traces his — and his family, including Gillian Anderson as his wife, Lady Edwina Mountbatten — final months in the country, set mostly in 1947 during the Partition of India. The film delves into the “upstairs/downstairs” real-life history of Lord Mountbatten and his family in post-war 1947 India from the perspectives of both the Mountbatten family and the people of India, and looks to be a handsomely mounted historical outing with some timely echoes. –Kate Erbland

“I Do… Until I Don’t” (September 1)

I Do... Until I Don't Lake Bell

“I Do… Until I Don’t”

The Film Arcade

Four years after making her directorial debut with the quick-witted and tart-tongued Hollywood sendup “In a World…,” Lake Bell is back behind the camera for what looks like another smart-minded comedic look inside a potentially outdated system. This time around, she’s not taking on an industry or a group, but the very concept of marriage itself. Bell stars alongside Ed Helms, Mary Steenburgen, Paul Reiser, Amber Heard, Wyatt Cenac, and Dolly Wells in the comedy, which seeks to delve deeper into the “meaning of matrimony,” as aided by a scheming filmmaker (okay, so she’s not entirely free of ideas related to Hollywood) who sneak attacks her subjects with a big idea: what if every marriage had a seven-year option to renew? With Bell behind the camera, the film will likely be a sharp, funny, and pointed as her first. -KE

“Home Again” (September 8)

reese witherspoon milf home again

“Home Again”

Screenshot/Open Road Films

Nancy Meyers’ daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer makes her debut behind the camera after long hinting at her intentions – and years of popping up in her mom’s features, from “Father of the Bride” to “The Parent Trap” – with a feature that fans of Meyers’ brand of acerbic rom-com will likely delight in. Reese Witherspoon stars as the recently separated Alice (incidentally, the daughter of a very successful Hollywood director), who is attempting to forge a new life for her and her kids in sunny Los Angeles. Despite living in a gorgeous house (of course) and having some excellent prospects (including interior decorating for Lake Bell, in an uproarious supporting role), Alice is adrift – until she meets a trio of aspiring filmmakers who move into her guest house and basically enliven her entire existence (and, yes, one of them enlivens other stuff, too). The film is fresh and feel-good, and makes a strong case for Meyers-Shyer as, well, the next Meyers. -KE

“Battle of the Sexes” (September 22)

“Battle of the Sexes”

Fresh off her Oscar win, Emma Stone returns to awards season opposite Steve Carell in a based-on-fact movie that has the Golden Globe for Best Picture — Musical or Comedy written all over it. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen, but one imagines that “Little Miss Sunshine” directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris will make the literal and verbal back-and-forth between their leads as entertaining as the tennis match that “Battle of Sexes” is based on. Said contest, which took place between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973, was watched by some 90 million people and was a watershed moment for women’s tennis; the ending may be spoiled by the premise, but that doesn’t mean that watching it reach game, set, match won’t be worthwhile. -Michael Nordine

“Novitiate” (October 27)

“Novitiate”

Courtesy of Sundance

Maggie Betts’ feature debut didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved at this year’s Sundance, where it premiered amongst a predictably crowded field, but those who did see it (including Sony Pictures Classics, who snapped it up at the fest) were richly rewarded. The film traces the journey of the starry-eyed Cathleen (a breakout Margaret Qualley), which begins in parochial school when a nun explains that the Catholic faith is different from all others because it’s built on the twin pillars of love and sacrifice. Combine that with the sense of peace that she gains from the church, and boom: This is a lovesick teenage girl, and Cathleen’s beloved is no less than God. As the decrees of Vatican II begin to forever alter the world of nuns, Cathleen and her cohorts grapple with the meaning of faith, while Melissa Leo’s frantic Mother Superior turns in yet another god-level supporting performance. -KE

“Professor Marston & the Wonder Women” (October 27)

“Professor Marston & The Wonder Women”

Annapurna/Sony Worldwide

What in goddess’ name did we ever do to get so lucky to land not one, but two movies about Wonder Woman in a single calendar year? Sure, Angela Robinson’s fact-based biopic isn’t the same kind of splashy superhero outing that Patty Jenkins gifted us with this summer, but it looks to offer up its own special brand of insights and delights. Starring Luke Evans as William Moulton Marston, the film promises to delve into the author and psychologist’s complicated personal and professional life, and how it spawned the creation of one of the world’s most beloved heroines. How complicated? Robinson’s feature, an Annapura release, also stars Rebecca Hall as his wife Elizabeth and Bella Heathcote as his lover Olive. Both women are credited with helping him conceive of Wonder Woman, and their stories alone are worthy of a film. -KE

“Lady Bird” (November 10)

"Lady Bird"

“Lady Bird”

TIFF

With “Lady Bird,” brainy actress and screenwriter Greta Gerwig is finally making her solo directorial debut after her collaborations with Noah Baumbach on “Frances Ha” and “Mistress America” and co-directing “Nights and Weekends” with Joe Swanberg. The semi-autobiographical relationship comedy stars twice-nominated Saoirse Ronan (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn”) as Christine McPherson (a.k.a. Lady Bird, no relationship with the wife of LBJ), a rebellious student at a conservative Catholic Sacramento high school who wants to escape her family and small town constraints to go to college in New York. Laurie Metcalf costars as her complicated mother, along with Lucas Hedges, Tracy Letts, Timothée Chalamet, and Beanie Feldstein. Scott Rudin produced, and A24 is taking the film to fall festivals. -Anne Thompson

“Mudbound” (November 17)

mudbound sundance

“Mudbound”

Sundance darling Dee Rees returned to the festival that gave her — and her revelatory “Pariah” — a home earlier this year with the starry premiere of her historical drama “Mudbound.” Based on Hillary Jordan’s novel of the same name, the film follows a relocated Mississippi family trying to find their way after the tragic upheavals of World War II, and pains that have struck both at home and aboard. Packing a wallop of a final act and a sterling ensemble that includes Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, and Mary J. Blige, the film could rocket Rees right where she should be: squarely in the awards conversation. Netflix paid a pretty penny for the feature at Sundance, now lets hope they can line up a suitable awards campaign to get the film in front of both voters and audiences alike. It’s a movie that doesn’t just deserve to be seen, it must be seen. -KE

“Pitch Perfect 3” (December 22)

Pitch Perfect 3

“Pitch Perfect 3”

The first attempt to turn the aca-awesome (sorry) smash hit into a fledgling franchise hit a majorly sour note, thanks to an all-too-familiar story, retread songs, and some bizarrely transparent attempts to turn the series over from Anna Kendrick and co. to a not-quite-ready Hailee Steinfeld (the singer/actress is aces, but her character, a confused kiddo who is uncomfortable with her talents, was a baffling choice for replacement on a series that shines most when it’s filled with crazy stars). The film made plenty of money – and established first-time director Elizabeth Banks as a one to watch – but it lacked the spark and pop of the original, the giddy weirdness and great songs. Can “Pitch Perfect 3” turn that beat around? With “Step Up All In” director Trish Sie helming, there’s at least one area where the film will likely not be lacking: energy. Again promising one last big adventure, the film will also benefit from its returning cast (Steinfeld, Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Anna Camp, and scores of other familiar faces) and an amusing new twist on the acapella franchise: what if they had to face off against, gasp, a team that used instruments? -KE

“Bitch” (Fall TBD)

Bitch

“Bitch”

Sundance Film Festival

Marianna Palka’s films have always cannily chronicled under-addressed issues of female sexuality, from the sensitive healing of “Good Dick” to the professional pains of “Always Worthy,” and she takes that skill in an entirely new direction with her wildly off-kilter “Bitch.” A midnight movie of an entirely stripe (fur? furry stripe?), “Bitch” follows a beleaguered housewife (Palka) who suddenly snaps and turns into, well, you guessed it: a wild dog. As her family — including a slew of talented kids, a revelatory Jaime King as her sister, and her frequent star Jason Ritter as her douchey husband — grapple with the unexpected change, “Bitch” unfolds into something sharply funny and doggedly human. -KE

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