2017 was a year filled with inspirational women. Here are the women from the screen and behind the camera who inspired me this year.
1. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) from Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri
Frances McDormand usually steals movies with limited screen time, playing complex, irreverent, and often hilarious women. She dominates Three Billboards, taking zero shit as the denim jumpsuit wearing, Molotov cocktail throwing Midlred. Mildred takes matters into her own hands when the local sheriff department fails to find her daughter’s rapist and murderer. She rents out three billboards which read: "Raped while dying", "And still no arrests", "How come, Chief Willoughby?"
2. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) from Lady Bird and Greta Gerwig (director/writer of Lady Bird)
Saoirse Ronan’s performance as a brash high school weirdo looking for more in life struck a chord with me. Director and writer Greta Gerwig’s film covers a year in Lady Bird’s life. Lady Bird’s problems feel weighty—deciding when to have sex for the first time, fighting with her best friend, and butting heads with her mother (Laurie Metclaf) who, somehow, is more “scary and warm” than Lady Bird. In her directorial debut, Gerwing brings her humor and eagle-eyed understanding of how women fight and love to the film. The film feels so real that at times the dialogue feels improvised. But none of it is. It is all Gerwig’s words—awkward, jarring, natural and relatable.
3. Celeste (Nicole Kidman) and Madeline (Reese Witherspoon) from Big Little Lies
The show’s source is Liane Moriarty’s excellent novel, which deftly explores domestic abuse and the complexities of parenting. Reese Witherspoon, playing Madeline, a meddling mom who swears constantly while also pretending she doesn’t, strikes the balance between being insufferable and loveable. Nicole Kidman beautifully acts out the quiet dignity and confusion of Celeste, a woman with a violent husband. Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz round out the cast, all playing complex women. Plus the kitchen islands and the sweeping shots of the California coast are stunning.
4. Margaret Atwood, writer of the novels The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace
2017 was the year of Margaret Atwood. In a year filled with news that eerily feels like it could itself be part of an Atwood speculative fiction novel, two shows based on her words have made their way to the screen. The Handmaid’s Tale looks to a disturbing future, while Alias Grace highlights the harsh reality of a 19th century domestic servant Grace Marks (Sarah Gadon).
5. Sarah Manning, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Helena, Rachel Duncan and several other clones (Tatiana Maslany) from Orphan Black
Orphan Black is a remarkably smart sci-fi thriller with Tatiana Maslany, who plays a series of clones, at its core. When she plays Clone A imitating Clone B, she masterfully adds glimmers of Clone A. I've been a devotee of the show and her work for its entire five-season run (the final season wrapped in August).