Sadly, it doesn’t seem like much good has come of this.
During the early 20th Century, women in Britain were able to do a lot of things. They could work, get married, breed children, cook, clean, smoke, drink, and a whole bunch of other things that are most associated with living. However, the one, and perhaps, most important task that they could not, hell, were not allowed to do, was vote. Because of this, many women stood-up and let their voices be heard, spearheading the suffrage movement; it’s also the same movement that one woman named Maude (Carey Mulligan) doesn’t quite care for to begin with. For one, she knows that her job is valuable, her husband (Ben Whishaw) loves her, and that she doesn’t want to lose her, so she decides to just keep her mouth shut and move on. That changes one day, however, when she’s recruited by Edith New (Helena Bonham Carter) and brought to an appearance by the suffrage movement leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep). Now, Maude understands what the fight is all for, and although she risks not just her family, but her own life as well, she’s still very inspired to do the right thing and make sure that women are granted their given right.
Like most other civil rights movies, Suffragette likes to point out just how ridiculous it was that a certain group of people couldn’t do something, because of an even more ridiculous ideology that, in hindsight, doesn’t seem to ever make much sense. In this movie’s case, the certain group is women, and the ideology is the right to vote; why women weren’t allowed to vote for so very long is based on pure sexism, but that’s about it. While it would have been one thing for the movie to dive deeper into exactly why so many British men/politicians thought that this idea was right, the movie doesn’t ever go for that.
Instead, it just focuses on a few stories of a few women who may, or may have not existed during this movement, but hey, that’s what movies are all for.
And honestly, the best parts of Suffragette are when it’s focusing on all the backlash these women received for making their voices heard. There’s something incredibly disturbing about watching a group of women getting beaten and clubbed by a group of policemen because they, “were felt as a threat”. There’s also the not-so violence backlash these women faced – whether it be through losing their jobs, their families, or being tossed aside from the rest of society as “trouble-makers” – it’s all sad, but serves a greater purpose to make the movie’s message go down a lot less smoothly.
But the problem with Suffragette is that it also deals with these women’s lives which aren’t all that interesting, if I’m being frank. Not to say that I had a problem with the movie trying to focus in on these character’s lives and show how they were affected by each and everything, but at the same time, it was still hard for me to wholly care when everything was laid out in such a conventional manner. Take, for instance, our lead protagonist, Maud, and her story; though I’m sure she shares her story along with many other women, hers, above all the rest, is given the most focus and attention because she doesn’t actually start out as a suffragist.
In fact, she was actually recruited into it all, and the hows and whys of that all, are probably a little more interesting than the character herself. Which isn’t to say that Carey Mulligan doesn’t do a solid job in this role, because she does, but still, it’s very much the same kind of Carey Mulligan performance we’ve seen her do a hundred times before, but in far more prettier clothes and wigs. She’s emotional, sad, and supposedly dirty and ragged, but somehow, her hair still finds a way to be in the right place at that right picture perfect time. Don’t worry, I’m not ragging on Mulligan for being beautiful, however, most of the movies that she does, can’t seem to help but pay as much attention to this aspect of her, and sort of put the rest of her versatility on the back-burner.
The only exception to the rule is, of course, Shame, for obvious reasons.
And everybody else here is fine, too, if a tad underused. Helena Bonham Carter seems like she had a more fun and fiery performance here, but is mostly just called on for some witty one-liners to deliver when the movie needs a joke to clear the air; Anne-Marie Duff is also fine, but it seems like her backstory and what her character goes through during the duration of the film, is actually more interesting than Maude’s, but hey, that’s just me; Ben Whishaw plays Maude’s husband and, as expected, is sort of there to just serve as a needed window-dressing; Brendan Gleeson gets a meaty role as a police inspector who may, or may not be pleased with these suffragists, and to see how he constantly fights with himself over what the next best move to make, is very engaging; and Meryl Streep, despite being advertised heavily in the promotion for this movie, is hear for maybe five or ten minutes, and that’s about.
But, in true Meryl Streep fashion, she’ll probably win an Oscar for it. Just you wait.
In case you couldn’t tell, though, there’s a lot of interesting subplots going on here, but sadly, none of them get nearly as much attention as Maude’s does and that’s a bit of a problem. It isn’t a problem that Maude’s was actually given some attention to begin with, but because she’s the main one, and it’s not all that compelling, it does feel like she’s taking a bit away from the rest. Once again, she doesn’t ruin the movie, but she does keep it away from being as smart and as powerful as it could have definitely been, considering the message and all.
Consensus: Though the message is strong and the cast is fine, Suffragette still suffers from a less-than-engaging main story, that doesn’t always blend in well with the rest of the proceedings.
6 / 10