This little gem of a film won the Nora Ephron Prize at this year’s Tribeca film festival, which is awarded to recognise the work of female writers or directors whose film is making its North American premiere at the festival, and it’s easy to see why. Adult Life Skills is based on writer/director Rachel Tunnard’s short film Emotional Fuse Box and centres on the character of Anna (Jodie Whittaker). Anna is approaching her 30th birthday and struggling to cope with recent life events, which are gently revealed to us throughout the film via flashbacks and Anna's visual manifestations of the past as she attempts to live in the here and now.
Whit Stillman's adaption of Jane Austen's relatively unknown novella, Lady Susan, follows the delightfully scandalous exploits of the recently widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale). Lady Susan is forced to leave the Manwaring family's estate in the midst of adulterous allegations, instead taking up residence with her in-laws and their handsome young relative, Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel), whereby she attempts to marry off her long-suffering daughter and elevate her own social standing in the process. The ensuing events make for one of the most entertaining and joyfully witty Austen adaptations we have yet been treated to on screen.
You may be wondering why you are reading a review for a film initially slated for release in 2014, after its première at the Los Angeles film festival, in the here and now of 2016. It tells us a lot about contemporary cinema and the struggle independent films face in finding distribution that this well-made film has waited two years for a wider release when there have been countless lesser films clogging our screens in the intervening time. It has been with the recent support of Ava DuVernay’s company ARRAY that Echo Park has found a cinematic release in LA and New York as well as an international release through Netflix and, if you are looking for something different to the sometimes saccharine cuteness of US indie romances, I would encourage you to seek this film out.
The figure of the action heroine in film has always been present to some extent, even looking back to some of the adventure shorts of silent cinema or the femme fatales of post-war film noir it could be argued that there were early incarnations of the action heroine that we recognise today. However, despite her presence as a figure across all genres and time periods, it has only been in the last few decades that we have really seen women taking centre stage in their own stories and action set pieces. Female led action films have rarely avoided criticism, such is the weight of expectation when women feature prominently in a genre in which they have more often than not been excluded or marginalised.
Catherine Hardwicke's name may now be synonymous with a certain teen vampire movie, but her career has spanned a diverse and accomplished selection of films encompassing skateboarding SoCal teens, adolescent angst, fantasy action and moving comedy drama. Hardwicke is now also well-known for her work in raising the profile of both female filmmakers and highlighting the industry bias against them, an issue she has experienced first hand throughout her career and one on which she is not afraid to speak out. Whatever project she undertakes, her work is full of energy, vibrancy, and authenticity.
There has been a historical frequency in film for older men to be depicted in romantic relationships with younger, sometimes much younger, women. This article seeks to examine whether this propensity for older men to be paired with younger women on-screen can reveal something of mainstream cinema’s and, by extension, western culture’s attitudes towards older women, sex and romance. Might contemporary examples featuring fresh approaches to the age gap be leading us down a new path, featuring a wider range of romantic perspectives?
As another Hollywood award season gathers momentum, so too do its accompanying controversies and questions. Last year’s Academy Awards were remembered as much for the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite as they were for any of the achievements of film’s apparent best and brightest. This, coming the year after 2014’s Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres knowingly quipped before the Best Picture award was announced that: