Opening this Friday from director Sarah Gavron and Focus Features comes the history of women’s right to vote in Europe with “Suffragette.”
It is the 1900s as women have come together trying to get the women’s right to vote. The leader of one group is Emmeline Pankhurt (Meryl Streep) who insights women to stand up for what they believe in. Avoiding all of the protests is Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) who works in a laundry along with husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw) to support themselves and young son George.
Taking George to see Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), Maud learns that she is part of the suffragette movement. When Edith asks her to join in, Maud politely declines and goes back to work. While on the job she learns that fellow worker Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) is also a part of the movement.
When Violet is asked to speak to the politicians who could help the women, at the last minute Maud takes her place. Watching is Inspector Arthur Steed (Brendan Gleeson) who has one goal – to arrest Emmeline Pankhurt! Going to a gathering to hear the decision on the vote, Maud finds herself emotionally charged about the rejection and is arrested.
Now her life will change in ways she never expected as time in jail, a husband who does not understand and a system that won’t accept what the women are doing is about to test their limits.
Mulligan as Maud has the saddening demeanor one would need to play this role. Hiding from her the past and trying to find peace in the present, it isn’t surprising that Maud would be rather depressed. I didn’t mind Mulligan’s portrayal but it seemed to have no bark behind it.
Carter as Edith would be the militant believer if ever there was one. Turning on a dime against anyone who doesn’t see the vision, Carter is able to scare the beejeezuz out of anyone with just a look – she’s always been good at that. Duff as Violet is the middle of the road suffragette in that she believed in the cause but not to the point where it is worth dying for.
Whishaw as husband Watts portrays a man who wants his wife to believe what he believes and cause no waves. Keeping his head down and working hard is good enough for him so having a wife who interferes with that only manages to embarrass.
Gleeson as Inspector Steed starts out a hard nosed man who doesn’t believe in a woman’s rights to much of anything. In the second half of the film he seems to find a heart or maybe I just wanted him to but Gleeson can portray a man with a mission of his own.
Streep as Pankhurt gives an Evita style balcony speech to the twenty or so women in her best Julia Child voice. Trust me, that’s the very first thing that came to my head in that scene and then I was done with this character.
Other cast includes Grace Stottor as Maggie Miller, Geoff Bell as Norman Taylor, Amanda Lawrence as Miss Withers, Shelley Longworth as Miss Samson, Sarah Finigan as Mrs. Garston, Lorraine Stanley as Mrs. Coleman, Romola Garai as Alice Haughton, Samuel West as Benedict Haughton, Clive Wood as James Burrill, and Finbar Lynch as Hugh Ellyn.
TUBS OF POPCORN: I give “Suffragette” three tubs of popcorn out of five. Seriously, and this is going to hurt but I truly couldn’t keep focused. I understand that the story focused on one segment of the women who fought for the right to vote but it is portrayed in a bland and lifeless manner.
For such an important moment in time it gives no emotion really. I kept waiting for it but – nothing. Did I expect the men to treat women badly? Of course, but in this film it is predictable and that is what had me constantly shifting in my chair. I really do hate predictability in character portrayals.
It has it’s moments but unfortunately when sitting through a film that comes in at 106 minutes; something has to keep me from twitching around. Now if you want to talk costuming and scenery I will give that great scoring. The costumes are so well done and the scenery at least gives the feel of the times so it does have that going for it.
In the end — these are women who inspired their era!