In the beginning, as some people like to say, god created… well pretty much everything. But, it was kinda like throwing a party and nobody showing up, so god created guests: it solved the immediate problem and saved him on the cost of invitations. It wasn’t too long, though, before there was drama. God created man first and then pulled woman from an extra body part: so they were created together but not equally. Man was to be the boss of the woman. And while woman sought knowledge, man, by proxy for god, found that to be evil. They were cast out of paradise and woman was made to bear the burdens for her transgressions.
At least that’s what some people say.
Some people might say that man, in his natural state, prefers the balance found in a matriarchal belief system. Others still might say that man was created as a result of biological happenstance and natural selection. One thing that could be agreed upon is that Lucky McKee’s “the Woman” is a potent movie.
Meet the Cleek family – Chris (Sean Bridger), Belle (Angela Bettis), Peg (Lauren Ashley Carter), Brian (Zack Rand) and little Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen) – and something’s just not right with them. While the rest of the community may see a perfect family, a current of fear runs through them. Chris, a lawyer in the small town they live outside of, rules his family. One day, while he is out hunting, he comes across a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh). Driven primarily by lust, he captures the woman and chains her up in his cellar with the intent to “civilize” her.
“The Woman” drives its knuckle into the cultural pressure-point of male/female relations. If audiences find it disturbing, it is because it cuts so close to the beliefs that many people have: men are the undisputed kings of their castles and women are there only to service them. It’s a foundational notion that underlies much of how our society operates. This movie takes that notion and expounds upon it to a grotesque and unfortunately realistic conclusion. McKee, expanding on the universe created by writer Jack Ketcham, expertly reveals to us things that we might ordinarily turn a blind eye to. It could be looked to as an allegory of the “white man’s burden,” of bringing – or rather – forcing our culture on the “savages.” In this case, it is also highlights the disparity in the relationship between men and women.
In addition to McKee’s sure guiding hand, his cast does an exceptional job of bringing this story to life. Bridger, as the family patriarch brings a dangerous calm to the role, like calm ocean waters filled with sharks. Bettis, as the long-suffering but cowed wife, brings a mutli-faceted performance as Chris’ wife that garners both sympathy and scorn. McIntosh is downright fearless as “the woman” expressing volumes with just a look. Topping the list for me, though, was the performance of young Zack Rand. As Chris’ only son, it’s easy to see him initially as just another victim of his father’s domineering hand. However, as the movie progresses, you see the depths to which his soul is poisoned by his father’s teachings and attitudes. His eyes hold a seething contempt for his sisters, his mother and just other women in general. I personally felt it was a first class performance for the actor in his first film.
“The Woman” is an extended gut punch. It is an unflinching, uncompromising film that will challenge you, possible disturb you and definitely entertain you.And in the end, that’s what you’re looking for.