We all know that Paul Feig had a big hit in 2011 with the female-oriented comedy Bridesmaids. The movie’s success ($169,106,725, 14th highest domestic gross that year) was considered a game changer. Women could anchor a comedy and a mostly female cast can draw a crowd. 2011 seems awfully late for that lesson to be learned, but we learned it. Presumably. Feig had another huge hit this year re-teaming with Melissa McCarthy and bringing Sandra Bullock on board for The Heat. This was another monster hit ($159,578,352, 13th highest domestic gross so far this year) and, once again presumably, the lesson we learned is that yes, Virginia, women can represent in the action genre. Even if it is action/comedy.
Why do I keep saying “presumably?” Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps because The Heat was the only major studio release this summer with women in the lead roles. It’s been awhile since 2011. Shouldn’t would have seen more of the alleged ripples we were promised from the success of Bridesmaids? Sure we’ve had some great roles for women this year. Between Gravity (man is Sandy having a good year), Catching Fire and Frozen (plucky princesses count!), the fall movie season had a pretty decent representation and empowering roles.
But what about the Christmas releases? What about the premium Oscar rush? August: Osage County is definitely female friendly. As is at least some of American Hustle. Are we counting Scarlett Johansson’s voice in Her? The female character (played by Evangeline Lilly) who was invented to save us from the sausage fest that is The Hobbit? Emma Thompson’s shrewish (and hideously inaccurate) P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks? That doesn’t sound terrible, but when you pull the camera back for a wider shot you’ll see that The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Her Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Wolf Of Wall Street, most of American Hustle, Lone Survivor and Grudge Match are all about men. Not just “happen to feature men.” Those films are all about exploring definitions of masculinity. Oh yes, even Anchorman 2.
That’ll bring us back to Paul Feig, of all people, who is doing his level best to carve out a larger space for women-driven films in Hollywood. It was announced today that Feig will be producing (and possibly directing) a new comedy vehicle for “a group of ethnically diverse comic actresses.” You hear that, SNL? The premise of the film hasn’t been released, but the script is based on Feig’s original concept (you hear that Hollywood?) and will be written by Melissa Stack who wrote another, yet-to-be-released female comedy about two women (Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann) who team up to take revenge on a man who’s cheating on both of them. Based on the premise, I doubt that movie will pass the Bechdel test, but, hey, chest bumps!
Okay but before Paul Feig can make this awesome ethnically diverse female comedy, he’s going to first re-team with Melissa McCarthy (basically his muse at this point) for the espionage flick Susan Cooper. The movie (co-starring Rose Byrne who is SO fun in comedies and Jason Statham who, well, we’ll see!) takes on the James Bond concept with McCarthy and Statham as a spy team. I hope it’s not a re-hash of The Heat with McCarthy as the wild card and Statham as the straight man. That wasn’t my favorite (or most original) dynamic. But no matter what, we have to hand it to Feig for the good work he’s doing and his impeccable taste in muses.