Thoughts About the Movie “The Woman”

15 09 2012

I was loading up my Netflix streaming queue again, and happened upon a movie that was filed under “horror” called The Woman. The 2-bit summary is as follows:

When a sadistic backwoods lawyer brings home a feral woman he found lurking in the woods, he locks her in a shed and orders his family to “civilize” her.

As usual, the summary isn’t quite accurate, and as usual, spoilers follow.

Okay, then, well. I watched this earlier today and it has been nagging at me ever since. I threatened to stop watching it more than a few times, as it seemed “cheesy” at first, then simply bad. But I stuck with it (yay me!) and as the movie progressed I found myself more engrossed by it and invested in the outcome. In short, I think this movie is the poster child for “ask and ye shall receive” because I wanted gritty, and boy howdy did this movie deliver.

The Good:

It takes a while to get going, but once the main plot is established (jerk captures feral woman) you just know it’s not going to end well. I saw several people knocking the movie calling it misogynist, or hyper-feminist (not sure how it manages to be at either extreme simultaneously), but ultimately, the filmmakers said “what would happen if some jerk found a feral woman in the woods and took her home to his family” and then they filmed that. I was on high alert looking to see how the family would respond to this development and all of the actors did a fine job of selling their reactions and subsequent response.

Finally, someone gets it that locked in the cellar = no bathroom facilities = get the shovel. Details, people! Not that I want to see a rash of similar movies but I appreciate attention to detail.

Pay close attention to the supporting cast when they’re in the background. One scene features the son and the oldest daughter sitting across from each other and their facial expressions change to reflect how they feel about the argument their parents are having.

Another key detail: Showing that the jerk obviously learned his attitudes from somewhere, and how he treats animals let alone other people lays that bare.

The Bad:

The woman of the film’s title isn’t fully fleshed out. She’s “feral” in that she doesn’t shop at the Gap and hold down a part-time job, but there are hints that she speaks some sort of language and even carries a knife and sheath in the beginning. That came from somewhere, as did her layers of clothing. Did she find all of this somewhere? The movie was supposed to tie in with a book written by the filmmakers but I suspect the book covers this in more detail as I saw some blurb that she was part of some “clan” but it’s never really explored in the movie. Granted, the movie is really about sexist jerks and the family that cowers from him (or in the case of his son, wants to be just like him) so I’ll give some leeway.

Minor quibble about the feral-ness of the woman: Great make-up job having her all dirty and scar-covered. But she shaves her arm pits and legs with, what, that knife? Maybe they’ll fob that off as “the parents did that when they clean her off” but it just seems like a missed detail, and lowers the window of disbelief a bit.

The movie is verrrrry disturbing and not a “fun” time, by any stretch. Be ye warned if you’re looking for fluffy entertainment. And actually, if this does come off as fluffy entertainment to you it’s probably time to seek counseling.

I got the impression that the “backwoods” lawyer is something of a descriptive cheat. He seems to work “in town” and has a nice-looking law practice, but his home is indeed “in the country”. Just saying.

The Ugly:

This is “good” in that this was good acting, but wow, the son’s sadistic streak that grows by leaps and bounds over the course of the story is really, really awful. Not sure when he hits his personal crescendo why what he did is downplayed as a lesser crime, but maybe that ties in with the attitudes about women held by the family. Notice that the mother is hard on her daughters but light on the son (and husband, mostly).

SPOILER, for reals: Aw man, the hot teacher got killed! Why God, why?

This was NOT a horror film, per se. I would file it under “drama” or “thrillers”. I think the mis-filing is going to turn people off when they’re expecting mad-slasher stuff and getting misogyny-a-go-go.

The Verdict:

Well, not one I’m rushing to add to my DVD collection, frankly. It was worth a single viewing, but beyond that, it’s so upsetting and so uncomfortable to sit through that I’m content to rate it 3/5 stars on the 5-star Netflix scale and watch a Care Bears marathon.

Definitely worth a look, though, for a good example of attention to details and character development.

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