From massive blockbusters to tender dramas, movies would be nothing without the dynamic personalities at their center.
The language of cinema, from closeups to music cues, complement the best performances of the year. More than anything else, however, our favorite films allow us to soak in the sensibilities of their stars.
The movie season gets so busy in the fall, with one title after another piling up, that almost nobody has the time to make sense of it all until the new year. Fortunately, the onset of awards season makes it a lot easier to identify the different styles and attitudes that came to life on the big screen over the last few months. And what a vibrant period it has been. Anyone looking to assemble a much-watch list of award contenders and under-appreciated indie gems should look no further. Here’s a rundown of several memorable film characters from the latter half of 2015, curated for our quintessential Free People muses.
Furiosa/”Mad Max: Fury Road”
Just when you think director George Miller’s post-apocalyptic refashioning of the action franchise he launched with Mel Gibson more than 30 years ago couldn’t be more masculine, it goes the opposite direction — sort of, shifting focus from Tom Hardy’s wasteland survivor to Charlize Theron’s undeniably badass Furiosa for most of the running time. With her shaved head and mechanical arm, Furiosa sports battle scars from her time spent under the cruel enslavement of Immortan Joe but, by the time we meet her, she’s had enough. Speeding through the dust-caked landscape in search of salvation and revenge in equal doses, her relentless attitude and menacing air exhibit more domineering energy than any recent superhero (and yes, there have been many).
But if you’re looking for something a bit more grounded in the modern world, look no further than French director Celine Sciamma’s “Girlhood,” and the wily teen Marieme (breakthrough actress Kairdja Touré) at its center. Frustrated with her low income household and drab neighborhood, Marieme finds an outlet for her rage by joining a local girl gang. At first the shy outsider, she eventually musters the courage to wrestle control of the group, while sorting out her life priorities in the process. It’s an electrifying role made all the more exciting by the movie’s lively party scenes, including a memorable performance by the aforementioned gang of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” that outdoes the actual music video.
There was so much hype surrounding the release of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” that many people missed out on the ingenuity of its latest star, the young scavenger who just might be on the path to become a Jedi on par with Luke Skywalker himself. But Rey’s not your average heroine. Adorned in loose fitting clothes as she bounds across the desert planet she calls home, then comfortably settling into the pilot seat of the iconic Millennium Falcon, Rey is a rascally adventurer who refuses to sit by the sidelines as the ominous Kylo Ren attempts to lead the First Order to a new era of darkness. It’s exciting to watch her brandish her first lightsaber, especially since we know she’ll back soon for more.
But while her go-getter attitude exists purely in the realm of fantasy, Brooke, Greta Gerwig’s ambling New Yorker in “Mistress America” exhibits the same brand of attitude in more realistic proceedings. Struggling from financial hardships even as she takes her soon-to-be stepsister (Lola Kirke) under her wing, Brooke is the rare bubbly urbanite, but more than anything else, she just wants to have fun.
Pixar’s most ambitious concept to date is also its most affecting: “Inside Out” brings us into the mind of a 12-year-old girl and her diverse spectrum of emotions, none more appealing than wide-eyed Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler). While Joy goes on a surreal odyssey to cope with her host’s shifting sensibilities, teaching her pal Sadness a lesson about emotional maturity in the process, the movie gives its protagonist the chance to justify her name. From the moment we meet her, Joy leaps about, eager to spread good cheer through every frame, and the movie follows suit.
Still, life isn’t all candy and flowers, as the immigrant star of “Brooklyn” learns the hard way. However, the ever-talented Saoirse Ronan imbues Eilis — a young adult Irish immigrant at the turn of the 20th century — with a gentle attitude and infectious curiosity that carries her through innumerable hardships. Learning the ins and outs of New York City while coping with homesickness, Eilis’ plight is rooted in history, but her spirit of inquiry as she grows up before our eyes is universal.
Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures, TSG Entertainment
There were several alluring women at the movies over the past year, none more enchanting than Carol, the strong-willed mother who pursues a lesbian romance with a young shopgirl in Todd Haynes’ mesmerizing period drama of the same name.
Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company, Studio Canal
Then again, Alicia Vikander’s robot prisoner in the chilly sci-fi “Ex Machina” did a pretty memorable job of attracting a gullible programmer in her quest for freedom.
Photo Credit: Universal Studios
Yet that triumph pales in comparison to the achievements of Lysistrada (Teyonah Parris) in Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq,” a modern update of the Greek classic in which Parris plays the leader of a sex strike aimed at ending gang violence in Chicago. Unapologetically absurd, “Chi-Raq” is like a colorful political cartoon. The movie’s incendiary power is nothing new for a Spike Lee joint, but Parris’ exuberant turn gives it soul. From the moment she slinks on to the screen, Lysistrata renders the men of the movie powerless.
Photo Credit: Roadside Attractions
While Blanchett gives “Carol” its haunting leading lady, she’s complemented by the introverted Therese, played by Rooney Mara with so much nuance it’s impossible to fully absorb the depth of her performance in a single viewing. Sulking her way through a boring heterosexual relationship and an even drearier day job, Therese finds her salvation in Carol — not only the person, but the liberating world she represents.
Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company, Studio Canal
A similarly textured portrait of internal strife and mystery comes from the other end of the age spectrum with veteran Charlotte Rampling’s turn in “45 Years,” in which she plays a committed wife on the verge of a major anniversary as she discovers new details about her husband’s past. The plot of “45 Years” is simple, but Rampling’s droopy features and knowing gaze speak volumes about complicated feelings that defy words, and the people who wrestle to express them anyway.
Photo Credit: Artificial Eye
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