Six movies that explore the epic conflicts between women and men
10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
This clever update of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew shifts the setting to high school. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the new kid, hopelessly smitten by his fair classmate Bianca. But her dad has decreed that Bianca cannot date until her challenging older sister Katarina (Julia Stiles) also has a boy. Enter the mysterious Patrick (Heath Ledger), who’s up for the task. Ledger and Stiles have delightful chemistry, and are backed up by a terrific supporting cast that includes Allison Janney and Larry Miller.
All of Me (1984)
The male-female conflict in this resonant romantic comedy magically takes place in the same body. Lily Tomlin plays an ailing rich woman who endeavors to have her still-strong spirit placed in a younger woman’s body. It accidentally ends up in her lawyer (Steve Martin) instead. Martin demonstrates his exceptional gift for physical comedy in this wacky yet touching story, directed by Carl Reiner. Richard Libertini does a wonderfully daft turn as the easily-distracted swami attempting the body transfer.
The Lion in Winter (1968)
Two great stage-and-screen actors of the 20th century—Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn—chew up the scenery in this chamber drama by William Goldman. O’Toole plays King Henry II of England re-united with his estranged wife and sons at Christmas time, 1183. Henry needs to designate a successor to his throne, and he and Eleanor have differing opinions about who that should be. A delirious war of words ensues. The film was nominated for seven Oscars and won three, including one for Hepburn.
Much Ado about Nothing (1993)
Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, married in real life at the time, play Benedick and Beatrice, two proud individuals hopelessly in love with each other, yet unwilling to admit their affections in this fairly faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s comedy. Along the way, they discover that even verbal battles can wound. Briskly directed by Branagh and beautifully shot in sun-drenched Tuscany, this cerebral comedy is a treat for the ears and eyes. For another excellent variation on the theme, see Joss Whedon’s 2012 film.
The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
Three frustrated female friends—bewitchingly played by Cher, Susan Sarandon and Michelle Pfeiffer—feel stifled in their seaside New England village and conjure up (quite literally) a man to fill the void they feel in their lives. Although the man, Daryl Van Horne (Jack Nicholson), brings out some transcendent quality in each of them, it comes at a cost. They soon join forces to re-take control of their lives. Nicholson plays the role for which he was born—the Devil.
The War of the Roses (1989)
An ink-black comedy of manners, the titular war starts as a simple divorce proceeding between two equally dislikable and self-absorbed spouses (played by Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas). With neither willing to give up their showplace home, they gradually escalate the dispute, goaded by their unscrupulous attorneys, and destroy the house. Danny DeVito directs (and plays one of the lawyers), and wisely remains faithful to the novel by refusing to make either of the Roses overly sympathetic. The result is a two-hour cinematic car crash, from which the viewer is unable to look away.
And a shot…
The Lovers (2017) Screening July 7 – 9 at Theatre N.
In keeping with this month’s theme…Debra Winger and Tracy Letts portray a complacent married couple whose indifference to one another has provoked each into barely-hidden outside relationships. As they inevitably head toward divorce, an unexpected spark throws them into a tempestuous affair…with one another. Written and directed by Azazel Jacobs, this trenchantly observant comedy doesn’t pull its punches or follow any obvious rom-com path. For this critic, the midlife angst was worth it just to see Winger on screen again. For a full schedule and more information, go to theatren.com.