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Awards Profile: Suffragette

Welcome to the 2015 Awards Profiles series.  For the next two months, every day (except for Saturday), we will bring you a run down of a future 2015 film that we see as a potential awards vehicle for next year’s Academy Awards.  This is all speculative since with just about all these films, we haven’t seen a frame yet.  Nonetheless, we venture on.  If you miss a film, then click on the tag “2015 Awards Profile.”

suffragette-careymulliganDirector: Sarah Gavron
Writer: Abi Morgan
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw

Synopsis: The story of the British Women’s Suffrage Movement and the near dangerous conditions they worked in to obtain the right to vote.

Why It Might Succeed:

A movie about the women’s suffrage movement, directed and written by women, seems like a slam-dunk, doesn’t it? Particularly in a cinematic landscape where a lot of ink has been spilled regarding the marginalization of women-led movies, as well as the lack of female directors and screenwriters.

Screenwriter Abi Morgan has experience chronicling female-led political movements as the screenwriter of The Iron Lady. She also wrote the screenplay for the underseen Invisible Woman, about the unknown woman alongside writer Charles Dickens (played by Ralph Fiennes). Her biggest claim to fame is writing the screenplay of Steve McQueen’s 2011 drama Shame. Her scripts are complex, and focus on the unspoken thoughts of characters with various public personas.

Let’s not forget a little thing called the Streep factor. There’s no denying Meryl Streep’s name on this project, as leading feminist Emmeline Pankhurst, gives the film an added veneer of prestige it wouldn’t have garnered before. Sure, A-list talent like Mulligan (in a role that’ll probably give her more attention than Far From the Madding Crowd) and Bonham Carter are strong, but they’re backup to Streep’s Diana Ross (or Beyonce, for you young ones). If Streep’s role as Pankhurst is showy enough, or, let’s be honest, if she speaks more than a handful of lines, she’ll secure a Supporting Actress nomination.

Distributor Focus Features is likely the ace in the hold – assuming The Danish Girl doesn’t eat up all the awards glory for the studio – so this could be their pony.

Why It Might Fail:

Director Sarah Gavron is an untested entity for many, considering this is her big studio debut since her 2007 film, Brick Lane (which she worked with Morgan on). Before Suffragette, she helmed a TV movie, some shorts, and was co-director of a documentary, leading to six credits on her resume including this film. The Best Directing race is still very much a boy’s club, and it’s doubtful that a neophyte like Gavron will crack into the Directing race, even worse if the movie isn’t received well.

The reteaming of Morgan and Streep might remind people a bit too much of The Iron Lady, a movie that, despite focusing on the life of an amazing woman, devolved into her issues with her husband. The subject matter is fascinating enough, but a script that’s too weepy and involved in romance will make this play like a Lifetime movie.

It’s also a bit questionable that principle photography for this started at the beginning of 2014 and, if memory serves, this was presumed to be released in time for last year’s season and was pushed back (feel free to correct me). It wasn’t until March that Focus Features even acquired this for distribution.

Oscar Potential:

Best Supporting Actress (Meryl Streep)
Best Original Screenplay
Best Costume Design
Best Production Design