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SUFFRAGETTE (director: Sarah Gavron; screenwriter: Abi Morgan; cinematographer: Edu Grau; editor: Barney Pilling; music: Alexandre Desplat; cast: Helena Bonham Carter (Edith Ellyn), Carey Mulligan (Maud Watts), Brendan Gleeson (Police Inspector Steed), Anne-Marie Duff (Violet Miller), Natalie Press (Emily Wilding Davison), Ben Whishaw (Sonny Watts), Adam Michael Dodd) (George Watts), Meryl Streep (Emmeline Pankhurst), Romola Garai (Alice Haughton); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Andy Stebbing, Hannah Farrell; Focus Features; 2015-UK)
The pic is watchable because its star Carey Mulligan gives an affecting performance.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-meaning prestige drama, much like a safe PBS production, about the women’s movement in early 20th-century Britain. Director Sarah Gavron (“Brick Lane”) and writer Abi Morgan collaborate and show sympathy for the cause but are uninspiring in their confrontational scenes. Things follow a measured preconceived agenda, and there are too many stagy set pieces for comfort. The pic is watchable because its star Carey Mulligan gives an affecting performance.

Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press) is the real-life militant activist who famously stepped in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. Her fatal act of self-sacrifice spurred on the women’s suffrage movement as it made headlines around the world. In this biopic, Davison remains a mostly peripheral figure, while the narrative centers around the wide-eyed fictional London laundry factory worker, the 24-year-old Maud Watts (Mulligan), an amalgam of other activists who serves the traditional narrative well. Maud is married to Sonny (Ben Whishaw) and has a young son (Adam Michael Dodd). Hardly an activist type, Maud changes when she is caught up in a brick-throwing street demonstration involving a fellow factory worker (Anne-Marie Duff) that opens her eyes that her human rights have been violated at work and by the laws of a patriarchal society. Turning politically active, Maud is forced to separate from her hubby and family.

The feminist leader of that time is Emmeline Pankhurst, played in a brief cameo by Meryl Streep. From a balcony Pankhurst rallies the ladies to protest for the cause. Another influence on the radicalization of Maud is Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), a pharmacist determined to bring about radical change.

Maud’s.counterpart is the burly two-faced enforcer police inspector, Arthur Steed (Brendan Gleeson), who shows some sympathy to the fem cause even if relentless in his pursuit of them.

Too middle-brow and too conventional for the viewer to feel captivated by it. The movement was a violent one and took a long-time to come to fruition around the world, something the film gets right only in spurts and fits. And, there’s still Saudi Arabia to modernize. But it does let us know the staunchest believers were the ones who lost the most by their activism.

REVIEWED ON 11/28/2015 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”