It’s no secret that excellent roles for women have been lacking in movies lately. You have a few exceptions in independent film, but they hardly get enough award buzz due to limited marketing budgets. There’s also the usurpation of the mainstream romantic comedy that shows women in a much lesser light than they used to be. Then you have the busy genre of the female action hero. But what’s really happened to those rare films showing a strong woman taking on nature on her own for a particular cause or just because it’s there?
In most cases, movies about those women were based on real people rather than creating one out of the blue. Whether that’s a perpetual sign of trouble for good women roles, those female adventurist female roles have been all too rare. Yes, we remember some of the best ones, including “Out of Africa” and “Gorillas in the Mist.” There were also a few biopics on Amelia Earhart made over the last 35 years. After all of those, though, the female turned into a literal kick-ass heroine without any care in making it a part of reality.
Things might be changing now thanks to one small Australian film that’s coincidentally coming out just as another movie about a female adventurer is being made.
If you’ve never heard of Australian adventurer Robyn Davidson, then you’ve missed out on a very compelling and true story of a woman taking on one of the world’s most treacherous deserts. Her book called “Tracks” was a bestseller in Oz and tells about her solo 1977 trek across the western deserts of Australia using nothing but camels (plus some dogs and a National Geographic photographer). After years of gestation trying to be made into a film and finding an A-list star who wouldn’t melt in the Aussie sun, it was finally made last year with the perfect choice: Mia Wasikowska.
Considering Wasikowska looks quite similar to a younger Davidson, it was dream casting in the making. It was also a chance to bring back the solo female adventurists of yore and show that a top actress can hold a movie on her own just as much as Tom Hanks or Robert Redford can. With Wasikowska’s brand of being able to tell you a vast reservoir of thought through mere expression, it could be an award-worthy endeavor once released thanks to Harvey Weinstein at the helm.
Its only problem is it doesn’t openly explain why Davidson did her trek other than just to prove herself. That’s a marked contrast from a new film being made with Reese Witherspoon called “Wild” based on another book about travailing nature alone. This story comes from a woman named Cheryl Strayed who took on the Pacific Coast Trail because her life was simply in a shambles.
While giving an exact reason why someone takes on such adventures could lessen the intrigue, it might help the woman adventurist genre. Not stating exactly why a woman does such things potentially brings a frustration that it’s merely an excuse to place a woman at mercy to nature without reason.
With “Tracks” about to release and “Wild” filming in Oregon with a release next year or later, it provides two healthy opposite samples of what’s possible with the female adventure movie. It’s probably inevitable that a movie about swimmer Diana Nyad will be made, and there’s plenty more real-life solo adventure tales from women yet to be told or revealed. Would it lead to someone finally writing a decent fictional tale in the same mold?
Screenwriters are still too busy right now creating fictional female martial arts experts who kick male antagonists in the nether regions. Regardless, with more subtle women roles not quite as plentiful, expect the female adventure movie to be the more obvious path toward an Oscar nomination.
Just don’t look for any other actress to be as subtle in dealing with the nature adventure like Mia Wasikowska can. Expect much more conventional emoting from the others when taking on all the spiders and snakes.