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Best Movies of 2018: Widows, Support the Girls, and Mandy

Time: 2018-12-28 15:37cheongsam dress Click:

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Throughout Many Genres of Films in 2018, Women Said No—Standing Up for Themselves, Their Own Desires, and Their Power

By Roxana Hadadi | Film | December 24, 2018 |

By Roxana Hadadi | Film | December 24, 2018 |

AndreaRiseboroughMandy-2.jpg

Women are supposed to say “yes.”

That’s what society seems to always expect of us: say yes to more responsibility, say yes to less money, say yes to fewer rights, say yes to whatever a man asks you to do, say yes to your elders, say yes to your children, yes yes yes. Women who say “no” are just, ugh. Lesser-than and problematic and uppity and bitches. Know your place. Shut your mouth.

So whenever a female character in a movie this year said “no”—whenever a girl or a woman stood up for herself, prioritized her own needs over others, and refused to let anyone push her around—goddammit, I wanted to stand up and cheer. Hell, a few times I did! It’s been a rough year, and it’s always been rough to be a woman. Let us have some catharsis any way we can.

[SPOILERS for a number of female-centered films from this year follow; BE AWARE.]

Think of Michelle Rodriguez’s Linda in Widows, affirming her commitment to their $5 million heist so that her children would know that she didn’t just “take it,” didn’t let her deadbeat husband and his irresponsibility derail their whole lives. Think of Elizabeth Debicki’s Alice standing up to the wealthy real estate developer she’s been sleeping with, realizing that she doesn’t need him to have a “nice life.” Think of Viola Davis’s Veronica Rawlings rejecting her husband’s desperate tears — remember that she reached for his hand after shooting him to grasp it not in tenderness, but to plant a gun that would incriminate him and let her go free. Liam Neeson’s Henry Rawlings thought only of himself; Veronica Rawlings, in her strongest moment, thought of herself and the women she came to trust with her life, too.

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Cynthia Erivo appeared in both Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale this year, and in both films, she was a pillar of black female strength, of continuing to stand up and stare defiantly into the face of injustice. Think of her in Widows, not only realizing the depth of the Mulligans’ corruption and acting to save her friend from their predatory recollection practices, but also telling Davis’s Veronica to speak to her instead of around her. “I don’t require a vouch,” Erivo’s Belle said, because she doesn’t need anyone to make excuses for her. She can stand on her own.

The same goes for her turn in the underappreciated Bad Times at the El Royale, too, in which Erivo plays the soul singer Darlene Sweet, who ends up at the rundown hotel after saying no to the sexual advances of a nefarious producer played greasily and convincingly by Xavier Dolan. A flashback shows that he promised her a lucrative career if she spent a night with him; the fact that she is at El Royale, though, practicing her songs in her room and traveling out of her car, makes clear what her answer was. “You must be one hell of a singer,” Chris Hemsworth’s cult leader smirkingly says to her during the film’s climactic conclusion, and his look of surprise when she confidently replies “I am” is a realization that this is one woman he can’t control. And Darlene just keeps going: “I’m not even mad about it anymore. I’m just tired. I’m just bored of men like you.” It’s Darlene who survives while Billy Lee dies, performing later at a gig in Reno, in a sequined mini dress and in her natural hair. Bad Times at the El Royale is her story, even though Hemsworth’s gyrating hips are the image so many remember.

Saying “yes” usually keeps you out of harm’s way, at the cost of your soul and your selfhood; saying “no” is dangerous. Saying “no” can keep your dignity and your pride intact, and it can get you killed. So it goes for Andrea Riseborough’s Mandy in Panos Cosmatos’s same-named film, who is kidnapped by Linus Roache’s cult leader Jeremiah Sand (so many evil cults this year!). When he tries to impress her by playing an embarrassing vinyl record of his that has swayed others to his cause, all Mandy does is laugh and laugh and laugh.

There are many gorgeous, disturbing, metal-as-fuck moments in Mandy (Nicolas Cage downing that bottle of vodka, forging a battle ax, and fighting those metalhead demon things), but it’s Riseborough’s laugh that still haunts me, her body in that eerie red light, her hair swaying around her as she refuses to acquiesce to what Jeremiah Sand wants. The camera switches between Riseborough and Roache during those scenes, and slowly their images meld together, and at first it seems as if Sand’s face will superimpose upon Riseborough’s, blotting her out. But it’s her humiliation of him that gives her power, that makes her the focus of that moment, that means eventually the fade favors her face instead of his. By the misogynistic logic of so many men, she has to die for that, and she does — burned alive, like a witch. But before then, Mandy said no.

via GIPHY

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