2.5/10 Writer/director Sarah Polley started in Hollywood with a promising acting career (I loved her in 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead”) before making the career switch to behind the camera and while Polley genuinely seemed like she had a promising acting career ahead of her, she continues to prove that she doesn’t have what it takes in the more challenging writing/directing realm. We can add “Women Talking” to the likes of “Triangle of Sadness”, “Avatar: The Way of Water” and so much more in the long line of movies undeserving of their respective Oscar nominations. Nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture, “Women Talking” is incredibly boring and feels way more low stakes than it should, considering the subject matter. Writer/director Christopher Nolan, one of the best directors working today, often gets correctly criticized for not being able to write female characters very well. Polley is the opposite where she can certainly write female characters but all of her male characters across her three movies (not including her one documentary even though the rule still applies) are either cuckholds or immoral/evil, with nothing else to offer. Polley’s debut movie, “Away from Her” was her best, even if the direction was bland. Gordon Pinsent played Grant, who was a cuckhold. In her abysmal and horrible sophomore slump, “Take This Waltz”, Seth Rogen as Lou was the cuckhold and Luke Kirby was the immoral Daniel. Then we got the overly long, self indulgent documentary about Polley’s family “Stories We Tell” where we learn that the father who raised her was a literal cuckhold and now with “Women Talking” Ben Whishaw as August is the current cuckhold while all of the other men in the movie are rapists and abusers. Since Polley’s father was a cuckhold in real life, it does make sense that she would gravitate towards these kinds of male characters in her writing but she really only knows how to write men in those two different ways, which has become repetitive over her career. “Women Talking” is essentially #MeToo porn and it is ironic how underwritten these characters are considering the Oscar nomination for the script. Most of the movie takes place in a barn as we follow a group of Mennonite women in 2010 who have been raped, sexually assaulted, drugged and abused who are deciding whether or not they should leave their colony, stay and do nothing or stay and fight. The movie certainly lives up to the title but in a dialogue driven movie, you need the dialogue to be the movie’s strength but Polley is no Tarantino or Sorkin and her dialogue often falls flat, with only a few exceptions. Since this is a modern Hollywood movie and we have to force some LGBT content into the movie, we even get a transgender man (AKA a woman) in the colony. Yes, I am sure there are just tons of transgender Mennonites out there watching this movie, so happy to be represented. Never mind the fact that that kind of behavior would completely be against the Mennonite religion and therefore nonsensical to include. Another big problem is the beginning of the movie. We jump right in with no introduction and go straight towards the women voting on what to do and the ensuing dialogue. Polley would have been much smarter if she would have shown an inciting incident like a rape or sexual assault. While hard to watch, this would have shown the evils of the men in the colony and why so many women wanted to leave while also acting as a final straw for the women on why they finally decided to vote on leaving or not. Instead we are just unceremoniously thrown in and it doesn’t work at all. Oscar winner Frances McDormand is utterly wasted here in her five minutes of screen time and despite a few solid tracks, Oscar winning composer Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score isn’t up to her usually incredibly high standards and feels forgettable. The cinematography feels cramped and had a blue-ish hue the entire time that didn’t do much for me. I also found it curious that these oppressed women were allowed to sit around in a barn conversing all day without having to check in at all with the men of their community. If the men were at work, surely some must have been left behind to watch over things and make sure work is being done or certain men must have been farmers working there in the colony. The only note worthy thing about the movie was the acting, which makes sense considering all of the Oscar winners/nominees that the cast boasts. Rooney Mara and Ben Whishaw stood out the most for me but pretty much everyone did a solid job, especially considering the weak script they were given. There are a few individual moments that work really well, usually between August and Mara’s Ona characters but they aren’t enough to make this movie work. All of Polley’s movies have zero replayability as you will have no desire to rewatch any of her movies a second time. “Away from Her” because it is slow and depressing. “Take This Waltz” because it has the single most annoying group of unlikeable characters ever put to celluloid. “Stories We Tell” because the documentary only appeals to the Polley family and no one else and finally, “Women Talking”, a slow, dreary, PC slog that only got its nominations to check some diversity boxes. I’m hoping Polley may one day go back to acting but if she doesn’t, then at least she only directs movies once every five to ten years or so.
#DecisionToLeave2 / #AugustHush / #MeNnoniteToo / #Womennonite / #RunHideFight2 / #TheGirlWithTheWagonComeThrough

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