John Mulaney once said, “You could never put together a heist with women. Like Ocean’s Eleven with women wouldn’t work because two would keep breaking off to talk shit about the other nine.” Just like the film’s heist, the success of Ocean’s 8 was high stakes, but with its $100 million domestic gross, the film silences the critics and proves, once again, that women dominate at the box office.
For decades, female ensemble films have been hitting the silver screen and subsequently proved to be substantial and fun entertainment. I asked my social media followers to name their favourite powerhouse group of ladies on film, with the following – of many films referenced – coming out on top.
The Women dir. George Cukor
While Ocean’s 8 is void of the male criticism predicting a movie full of catfights, The Women (1939) has plenty – one in which Rosalind Russell bites Paulette Goddard leaving her with a scar – and it makes for some good comedy. The film is based on Clare Boothe Luce’s play of the same name and stars some of the biggest names of the era: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Fontaine. With a supporting cast comprised of Lucile Watson, Mary Boland, Florence Nash, Virginia Grey, Ruth Hussey, Virginia Weidler, Butterfly McQueen, Hedda Hopper, as well as Marjorie Main and Phyllis Povah who reprised their stage roles for the film. Despite the film’s slogan “It’s all about men!”, the entire cast of 130, including extras, were all women (even the dogs featured were female). The central theme of the film is the women’s relationship with the men in their lives, with most of them going to Reno to get a divorce. The film follows these Manhattan socialites, focusing primarily on Mary Haines (Shearer) who, thanks to the gossipy Sylvia (Russell), finds out her husband is having an affair with the perfume counter girl Crystal Allen (Crawford). The claws come out and leads to one of the best scenes of the film, a standoff between Mary and Crystal who dish out some harsh quips. The drama between Mary and Crystal allowed for the interconnectedness of the rest of the cast, as their lives change over the film’s two year period. With witty dialogue and elegant costuming, sparks-fly in this comedic classic of extravagant bitchery.
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