Sometimes you just need to sit down, turn your brain off, and watch a good ol’ musical comedy film, where men were men, women were extravagantly attired, and children were poorly cast.
I’ve compiled a brief list of some of my favorite musical films, ones where women are more than just fabulously dressed – they are plot catalysts – movers, shakers, and sometimes murderers.
1) Sweeney Todd – Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett
Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd is your classic femme fatale, with a spicy touch of wit and a strangely human side. Helena Bonham Carter, while a departure from your classic Mrs. Lovett archetype, still plays the role with panache, though her singing voice leaves something to be desired.
Mrs. Lovett is a shrewd businesswoman, the innovator of the idea that Sweeney should murder his barbershop clients and they should bake them into pies that they then sell to the populace. (Why on earth could they possibly have had Tim Burton direct this movie???) Yet she also is multi-faceted, possessing a nurturing side that comes out when she interacts with the young street urchin Toby, feeding him pie (urgh) and brandy and singing him to sleep. She also allows herself the occasional flight of fancy, manifesting in a musical daydream featuring Johnny Depp in a one-piece bathing suit. (Down, girl.) Overall, a whimsical yet eerie characterization.
2) Evita – Madonna as Eva Peron
Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Evita is essentially a biography of the famously beloved wife of Juan Peron, dictator and president of Argentina in the 1940’s. I think that the film itself shoulders more of the burden of truth than Madonna herself does, but she still delivers a powerful performance.
Evita herself was beloved for a reason. Not only was she beautiful and charismatic, but she was outspoken and passionate about women’s rights and about human rights in general. What I find especially interesting about her is that she literally slept her way to the top with a general lack of shame or regret, and it is fascinating to watch her ascend to that peak. Madonna’s clear soprano brings a certain innocence to the role.
3) Bride and Prejudice – Aishwarya Rai as Lalita Bakshi
Holla is you love Bollywood! This film has it all – humongous group dances, elephants, costumes with millions of jewels glittering on them… You won’t be disappointed by the visuals, and even less so by Aishwarya Rai.
Delightfully, the movie is a fairly literal retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, with Lalita functioning as the Elizabeth character. She meets a handsome young American, Darcy, who is doing business in Amritsar where she lives. She has excellent taste in men and knows when she is being treated badly, but she also defends her sisters when they are taken advantage of. Plus, Alexis Bledel!