Summary of Best Feminist Films of 1999
By Linda Lopez McAlister
(or at least the best of the ones I saw and reviewed)
1. American Beauty. The main focus of this film is on the male
character, played by Kevin Spacey. However, the spectacular
portrait of his striving-for-perfection wife created by Annette Benning
gives more insight into a contemporary upper middle class woman in deep
trouble than many other films whose main focus is women. Besides, it's a
spectacularly good film all around.
2. Anna and the King. A Victorian widow who thinks she's the equal of
the King of Siam. Now there's a liberated woman! Jody Foster and Chow Yun
Fat are terrific in this megabudget epic treatment of the diaries of Anna
Leonowens who finds herself teacher to practically the whole Siamese court.
3. Anywhere But Here. Anything that Susan Sarandon does usually ends
up on one of my best 10 lists. Here she's a mother who has the gumption to
up and leave her husband and move with her teenage daughter to Beverly Hills
adjacent so that her daughter will not have her vision limited by small town
4. Dreamlife of Angels. Extraordinary story of two working class
French women who share an apartment but not a life. Insightful and truthful
and beautifully photographed with haunting images.
5. Hilary and Jackie. This biography of renowned cellist Jacqueline Du
Pre and her sister is flawed but fascinating. Emily Watson pulls no punches
in her portrayal of Jackie, but the one thing that gets short shrift is the
brilliance of Du Pre's cello performances. They used a much less gifted
musician on the soundtrack.
6. Mansfield Park. Canadian feminist filmmaker Patricia Rozema does
the Jane Austen thing and she does it better than anyone else has so far.
She based her screenplay not only on the novel but on Austen's own early
letters and diaries so it's kind of a Jane Austen biopic!
7. Music of the Heart. Meryl Streep as a single mother and violinist
who talks her way into a job teaching violin to East Harlem school children
and turns it into a successful program that touches and changes the lives of
many children and their families. A feel good film that really happened.
The current batch of kids performed on the Kennedy Center Honors program
just the other night.
8. Run, Lola, Run. Off beat contemporary German comedy in which Lola
runs through Berlin. Three times. Doesn't sound like much fun, but it is.
9. Tea With Mussolini. I'm a sucker for films about little old
British ladies, films with Cher, and films with Lily Tomlin. So imagine my
delight with this one that includes not only Cher and Lily, but Maggie Smith
and Joan Plowright as expatriates in Mussolini's Italy before and during
WWII. Apparently based on director Franco Zefferellli's early life. Great
10. Xiu Xiu The Sent Down Girl. I'm sure hardly anyone got to see this
film when it was here which is a shame because it is a moving story about
the silent love of a nomadic horse herder in western China for a teenage
girl sent from the city to this remote place as part of the Cultural
Revolution. Unforgettable ending and great acting.