Ten great sister flicks
Milestone or millstone, 'Sex and the City: The Movie' isn't the first time Hollywood has served up gender stereotyping chixploitation under the guise of 'empowerment'. Here are ten films with 'sisters' doing it for themselves. As Gok Wan would say, you go girl!
Steel Magnolias (1989)This finger-lickin’ insulin wing-ding centres on the big-haired, all-female militia presiding over the affairs of some godforsaken swampland oasis in deepest Louisiana. Herbert Ross’s 1989 entry into the ‘Coven’ genre is certainly the very worst variety of gumbo. When wilful diabetic Julia Roberts decides to have a baby against her doctor’s advice, it’s up to an overly accented troupe of blousy Southern stereotypes (including Olympia Dukakis, Dolly Parton and, of course, Sally Field) to impart their sugar-spun brand of down-home wisdom (and occasionally dangerous and outdated voodoo hokum). Cue mawkish histrionics, calculated one-liners and a wholly expected outcome. Banned in Norway.
Read Time Out's review of 'Steel Magnolias'
The Stepford Wives (1974/2004)Can’t live with ‘em? Can’t live without ‘em? Then how about replacing them all with servile sex-robots? That’s the route the forward-looking men of Stepford, Connecticut have taken and everybody seems to be getting along just fine. The 1975 incarnation of Ira Levin’s bestseller was a chilly, allegorical sci-fi gender bender, but it was nowhere near as harrowing as the 2004 comic update starring Nicole Kidman and Bette Midler in which – for some tantalisingly underexplored and thematically aberrant reason – the lasses come out on top. In either version, however, sisterhood is key to happiness and men are all scheming bastards.Read Time Out's review of 'The Stepford Wives' (1974) Read Time Out's review of 'The Stepford Wives' (2004)
Black Narcissus (1947)In the dark days before air-kissing, Diet Coke breaks and ‘Friends’ box sets, the most likely place for women to congregate was in worship of the Big Man upstairs. Powell and Pressburger’s epic exploration of girl-gang dynamics features a group of nuns with nothing going on ‘south of the ankle’ but a trail of broken dreams. Cloistered within the walls of a mysteriously gothic mission in the foothills of the Himalayas, they are taken to their emotional and physical breaking point by the tropical heat and sexual frustration. It’s already nearing boiling point when David Farrar’s lantern-jawed British agent rocks up and reduces them all to moonstruck bobbysoxers.Read Time Out's review of 'Black Narcissus'
Charlie's Angels (2000)Proving that Karate and six-inch stilettos are a match made in anarcho-feminist heaven, this generous slab of fluorescent baloney from gormless ginger cine-stylist McG was the teeth-itching result of years of castings, rewrites and on-set bust-ups. Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore star as the foxy triumvirate of angelic upstarts who are sent around the world on perilous missions by an enigmatic old geezer who delivers their orders via an old-fashioned intercom. One minute, they’re riding Formula One racing cars through a housing estate, the next they’re sharing a Jacuzzi with Bill Murray. They’ve all got hunky boyfriends watching from the sidelines, but it’s the sisterly bond that helps them defeat their foes. As for Murray, this is generally considered his Altamont.
Read Time Out's review of 'Charlie's Angels'
Bad Girls (1994)OK, right, so, yeah you know how Westerns are always centred on male characters? Well, why don’t we make one based on a band of sick-to-the-teeth prostitutes who decide to unload their six-shooters at the patriarchal society of the Old West? With the sonorous shuffle of John Ford rolling in his grave constantly in the background, director Jonathan Kaplan offers us a revolting glimpse of what ‘Sex and the City’ might have looked like at a time when the only place for four upwardly-mobile, self-assured girls-about-town would have been in the upstairs rooms of a Deadwood saloon. Madeleine Stowe heads up our team of vengeful vixens, with Mary Stuart Masterson, Andie MacDowell, Drew Barrymore bringing up the rear.Read Time Out's review of 'Bad Girls'
Scrubbers (1983)Veering wildly from the original social-realistic portrait of gang-related thuggery among cleaning ladies, ‘Scrubbers’ reprises writer Roy Minton’s earlier Borstal breakout ‘Scum’, swapping the boys for girls but holding on to the tools. The shower scene count may be down, but the dynamics remain the same as new girls Annetta and Carol get a taste of the kind of brutal social Darwinism and casual mental cruelty not seen again until ‘Slap Her, She’s French ’. Despite heaps of self-harming, bored sexual transgression and sudden ultra-violence, the producers ditched the idea of a Goldie Hawn/Meg Ryan pairing and bravely opted for a cast of (mostly still) unknown Brits, including a young Kathy Burke who steals every scene she’s in with little more than a scowl and a snout.Read Time Out's review of 'Scrubbers'
The Beguiled (1971)Anyone who’s ever watched a ‘St. Trinian’s’ movie (or sat on the top deck of a London bus between the hours of 3.30 and 4.30 pm) knows how terrifying a pack of schoolgirls can be, swarming like locusts, preying on the weak and leaving the bones to bleach. Following their success tackling urban crime in ‘Dirty Harry’, Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel turned their attention to an even more pervasive threat, as Clint’s wounded Yankee war veteran is laid up in a Confederate girls’ boarding school and gradually falls prey to the at first amorous, but later murderous attentions of the sex-starved schoolmistress and her worryingly nubile charges. Deluded into believing, like so many before him, that he can turn the situation to his advantage, Clint’s opportunistic soldier discovers all too late the power of feminine wrath, and finds himself on the losing end of a spoonful of wild mushroom broth…Read Time Out's review of 'The Beguiled'
Queen of Outer Space (1958)The first manned flight to Venus touches down, but instead of the scientifically mooted ocean of primordial sulphur, finds a dry, rocky planet not unlike Southern California. It’s also populated by foxy swimsuit models dressed in shiny spandex and fascistically ruled by the evil Queen Yliana, who has knocked off all the fellas while they weren’t looking and now presides over a sexless, loveless planet. After pleading ineffectually with the dames to ‘knock off all this Gestapo stuff and try to be a little friendly’, our intrepid heroes’ luck turns when they run into Zsa Zsa Gabor’s underground resistance movement, dedicated to stopping the Queen and her leggy cronies before they can carry out an evil scheme to aim a death ray straight at the unsuspecting, man-infested planet Earth (prompting one to observe: ‘How could they aim it? You know how women drivers are!’). Read the Time Out review of 'Queen of Outer Space'
Angels' Brigade (1979)Post- ‘Charlie’ chixploitation par excellence as DTV superstar and Playmate of the Month July 1977 Susan Kiger (of ‘The Happy Hooker goes Hollywood’ fame) leads an all-female band of sexpot vigilantes against the drug-dealing Nazis that killed her brother. Even prime manflesh like grizzled rhino-hide megastar Jack ‘pick up the gun’ Palance and swingin’ shoo-be-de-bop Ratpack eyebrow king Peter Lawford are no match for these headstrong, high-kickin’ hitwomen, whose ranks include a martial arts mistress, a Vegas showgirl and – notepad out, Quentin – a hard-ridin’ stunt driver.
Certain Fury (1985)Jake and Maggie’s pop, Stephen Gyllenhaal, landed his first studio feature with this pyro-happy dive into the world of Hot Young Perps On The Run and, somehow, managed to survive its pervasive awfulness to roll camera another day. In a nod to the classic Wilder/Pryor comic masterworks, the long-undreamt pairing of Tatum O’Neal and Irene Cara escape a courtroom shooting match…into a whole bunch of trouble!! etc, only to outwit the law in the exploding sewers and flammable crack houses of renowned mean city, Vancouver. While on the run, O’Neal’s sweary hooker, Scarlet, uncovers some hurriedly scripted maternal feelings, Cara’s Tracy eases the tension with a few songs, and you yearn to hear that line from the start of the movie once more: ‘Maybe you’d prefer it if we got our heads blown off?’
Author: Adam Lee Davies, Paul Fairclough, David Jenkins, Tom Huddleston
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