It’s all movies this week. The new narrative shows that have started are all showrun by men. The options for films are each pretty unique, though – with a strong offering by each of the three major subscription services and a new virtual theatrical comedy.
Before we get to those, I want to note that “Little Women” has finally made it to a subscription service…it’s just not one of the major streamers. You can still rent director Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” from a number of sources, but it’s now also on STARZ. There’s a chance you may already have it through your cable or satellite provider, or as a Hulu or Amazon add-on. It’s worth checking if you do, if you haven’t seen the film yet.
directed by Marjane Satrapi
“Radioactive” tells the story of Marie Curie. She’s the Polish-French physicist and chemist who figured out what exactly radioactivity was. She discovered two elements. She developed how we isolate radioactive isotopes. Unlike other scientists, she refused to patent her work, understanding that it could be crucial in medical applications that saved lives. In fact, she developed mobile radiography during World War I so that field hospitals could take X-rays of the wounded.
Receiving the credit for the work she pioneered was nearly impossible, but she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win it twice, and the only person in history to win a Nobel Prize in two different scientific fields.
She would succumb to her exposure to radiation in 1934. As much as she pioneered the field, there was still much that wasn’t known about long-term exposure to radiation. Even today, her papers are stored in lead-lined containers, only accessible by someone wearing protective equipment.
Marjane Satrapi is an Iranian-French director with an eclectic filmography. Her first film was the animated movie “Persepolis”, based on her autobiographical graphic novels about growing up in Iran and later Europe. She followed this up with “Chicken with Plums” a live-action graphic novel adaptation about a man who gives up the will to live after seeing his violin broken.
“Radioactive” is her first film since Ryan Reynolds-starrer “The Voices”. That film is one of the weirdest things I’ve seen. It’s a meta-comedy about a serial killer (played by Reynolds) who hears the voices of his moralistic dog, murderous cat, and the remains of those he kills (Anna Kendrick, Gemma Arterton). I bring this up to highlight that Satrapi is unpredictable in terms of the way she uses genre, and she can pull off things that most other directors wouldn’t even think to try.
I don’t expect this biopic (starring Rosamund Pike) to necessarily play by the fundamental rules of what a biopic is supposed to be, because I don’t think Satrapi has ever really played by the rules of what anything is supposed to be – and she relentlessly pulls it off regardless. In that way, she might be the ideal director to take on Curie’s story.
You can watch “Radioactive” with an Amazon Prime subscription.
Romance Doll (Netflix)
directed by Yuki Tanada
Writer-director Yuki Tanada has made a few movies tackling unconventional romances that challenge Japanese norms. She’s also been interested in analyzing less-than-perfect family lives and the changing expectations between different generations. She won the New Directors Award from Japan’s Directors Guild in 2008 for “One Million Yen Girl and the Nigamushi Woman”, about a young ex-convict who decides to save up and leave her family.
Her “Round Trip Heart” followed a young woman who works in a Romance Car (a train car designed for couples to enjoy romantic trips together), and tries to find her estranged mother.
“Romance Doll” follows a married couple whose relationship has become sexless. They each hide a fundamental secret about their lives from each other. He makes sex dolls and sex toys for a living. He doesn’t know her secret, however.
“Romance Doll” reunites Tanada with “One Million Yen Girl” lead actress Yu Aoi, who’s won two Japanese Academy awards and been nominated for five, and been nominated for four Asian Film Awards – the awards that cover the largest primary span of filmmaking and population of viewers in the world.
You can watch “Romance Doll” with a Netflix subscription.
The Assistant (Hulu)
directed by Kitty Green
“The Assistant” is an intense drama about an administrative assistant who begins collecting evidence of sexual abuses by her boss. She’s told to leave it alone by her male coworkers and finds herself alone in collecting evidence to determine what’s real.
This is writer-director Kitty Green’s first narrative feature, but she’s directed two full-length documentaries. “Casting JonBenet” interviews locals from the town in which JonBenet Ramsey was killed. It analyzes how a murder case has become mythology, and where memory departs from truth. “Ukraine is Not a Brothel” tackles the sex tourism industry’s impact on Ukraine, and the feminist organization Femen’s role in opposing the abuses that take place in it. The story’s more complicated than on its surface, and takes a real look at where Femen succeeds and fails.
If I keep sharing “The Assistant” in this space, it’s because the movie has had a pretty tough route. Its expansion in theaters was completely undercut by COVID-19 closing them down. It became rentable in May, but was mixed into a sea of similarly-timed movies trying to scramble from shut-down theaters onto VOD releases without a cohesive marketing push.
It’s important and under-seen enough to get shared every time it becomes accessible in a new way. This is the first time it’s been available as part of the subscription to a streaming service.
You can watch “The Assistant” with a Hulu subscription.
Yes, God, Yes (virtual theatrical)
directed by Karen Maine
“Yes, God, Yes” follows a teenager who attends a Catholic camp while trying to resist sexual temptation. She feels deep shame while making that most profound teenage discovery that a lot of the people telling you how to behave are complete hypocrites.
If you recognize lead Natalia Dyer, it’s probably because she plays Nancy Wheeler on Netflix’s “Stranger Things”. “Yes, God, Yes” is a dryer comedy than Karen Maine’s previous work. She co-wrote the short film on which 2014’s “Obvious Child” is based and has story credit on the feature. “Yes, God, Yes” is her feature debut as a writer and director, though.
You can watch “Yes, God, Yes” through virtual cinema. That means choosing an independent theater and paying a ticket price to watch it at home. This helps support that independent cinema just as if you’d bought a real ticket. The virtual cinema approach helps indie theaters sustain the economic burden of COVID-19 shutdowns.
If you’d like to wait to watch it as a digital rental through VOD services, it should reach services such as Fandango, Google Play, and iTunes in just a few days, on Tuesday, July 28.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
If you enjoy what you read on this site, consider subscribing to Gabriel Valdez’s Patreon. It helps with the time and resources to continue writing articles like this one.