Suffragette is a fictionalized story of a cell of women who fought for the right of women to vote in England in the early 1900s. Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby), Anne-Marie Duff (The Madeline Sisters) and Helena Bonham Carter star. Mulligan’s is the main character, Duff and Bonham Carter have supporting roles. Meryl Streep — in very misleading marketing — is billed as starring but she’s only in one scene.
Streep plays England’s suffragette movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst.
Mulligan is Maud Watts. She and her husband Sonny work in a laundry and have a nice little boy. Life is hard but they seem happy. A co-worker done by Duff admits to being in the “movement” and so is her doctor. She’s done by Bonham Carter. The plot plods slowly along and then things happen that drag a reluctant Maud into the fray.
That involvement eventually turns tragic.
Admittedly the acting is superb. That’s a given considering the cast but writer Abi Morgan’s (The Iron Lady) script and her characters lack depth. Director Sarah Gavron — who hasn’t done anything you’ve heard of — then takes those two-dimensional characters and Morgan’s so-so script, wastes the terrific performances and pretty much makes this a paint-by-numbers movie experience.
You are never connected to Maud or to her co-conspirators. No matter what happens to them, you feel nothing. It’s just a story about a space in time where injustice for women ruled. There is a scene about 2/3 of the day through involving Maud that should have — at the very least — generated anger, or anger and sorrow both and emotions that border on tears.
But you feel nothing.
No one disputes the suffragette movement was important to the freedom and equal treatment of women. In the late 1800s and the early 1900s it took a lot of courage for women — and men — to buck the system. Social change — as we all know — is painful but it always starts in the streets. Left to their own devices, politicians won’t rock the boat unless rocking that boat brings about gains for them or their political party.
Women’s rights in England in the 1900s didn’t rock the right boats. So women took to the streets and in some cases, violently. It eventually worked in England and in most other countries.
So there’s no dispute that such historical remembrances are important. When it comes to equality and equal rights, it’s critical that we know where we came from. It helps us know where we’re going.
But these historical stories don’’t have to be boring and one shouldn’t have to suffer it as we suffer through Suffragette.
Click here to see the trailer.
Director: Sarah Gavron
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Natalie Press and Meryl Streep
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some violence. Historical semi-biopics ought to enact some sort of reaction. This one doesn’t and earns an Average Joe rating of 2 stars out of 5.
Click here for showtimes and theaters.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0: Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion? Email him!