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This is a frustratingly vague topic. And these are the two that occurred at the time, which is about the best explanation I have. Another day, it could have gone completely differently. Also, it's been a very busy few days and I'm knackered, so there are no guarantees that this is at all thought through.

Day Twelve: Favorite female character[s] in a movie[s] that occurred to me at the time

Docking pilot Carolyn Fry of Pitch Black, and Fanny Chenal of A Good Year.

Other than their gender and their type of media, these two characters have basically nothing I can think of in common. [Eta: ... huh. Except their initials.] One's a character in the tradition of Ripley and Sarah Connor in a budget, cult-hit sci-fi thriller, shot in the harsh outback of Australia; the other's the love interest in the creative team of Gladiator's entry in the rom-com genre (shut up, I like it, I find it deviously charming), lushly shot in Provence. Oh, and I like them both a lot. So. Let's get started.

I'm kind of beginning to think in the grand scheme of things I might prefer Carolyn Fry just slightly over both her predecessors. I mean, Ripley and Sarah Connor, they're the classics. And rightly so. They're our quintessential everywoman action heroines, dropped into overwhelming, terrifying circumstances and not only enduring but learning to fight back. But with that template already in place, if you're going to have a woman rising to the occasion to kick alien (or robot) ass and save [people/planet/the day/the future/stuff], you need to do something new with it to make it stand out.

Carolyn's just as human and fragile flesh-and-bone as they are, no superwoman she, but her arc is not that of surviving and overcoming the enemy, it's a redemption arc, overcoming herself. She begins the movie ready to sacrifice everyone else on the doomed ship to save her own and her crewmember's life; the crash means she starts in ruthless survival mode. Then, through having to step up as the de facto leader and assumed protector of the survivors, confronting human monstrosity, and the increasingly contrived planetary factors that jeopardises everyone's lives (it's still pretty effectively freaky, despite the coincidence of timing), she eventually attacks the human Big Bad to stop him from abandoning the last two survivors – and then goes on to put her life on the line to save him too. And not only succeeds but by virtue of redeeming herself, also redeems him. The fact that she doesn't actually survive the effort is (unfortunately) the right narrative choice, putting proof to the revolution in her choices, and ultimately slaying the monster that was the unredeemed Riddick.

Like Ripley (at least in Alien), the role is pretty genderless – you could make her a male character with only superficial changes. But making it a female character adds just a bit of an edge to what is already a plain old-fashioned really solid character arc, if only because you so rarely get to see women in those kinds of action roles. They probably couldn't have got away with it if it weren't such a cheap little film, but it works beautifully and it's awesome to watch.

Now, as for Fanny Chenal, I can't say exactly why I like her so much. Well, okay, she's sassy, fiery, aloof, alluring, sophisticated, utterly independent and gives as good as she gets. (Plus, played by the stunning Marion Cotillard, rarely a drawback.) She's not only a very successful restaurateur, doing what she loves in a place that she loves, but she calls the main character on each attempt to make her play into his story as love interest. She's got her own life going on, and basically flat-out tells him that it's not that she, and her home, doesn't suit his life – it's that his life doesn't suit her (or her home). And best of all, she is delightful and provocative – going so far as to "rescue" him from having fallen into an empty pool by turning on the water and walking away (retaliation for him running her off the road by accident) – without the slightest whiff of Manic Pixie Dream Girlishness. It's not her job to awaken the ~joy of life~ in the heart of the closed-off, arrogant, living-life-wrong hero. It's not her problem. He's drawn to her, of course, but it's his job to get his head out of his arse, and she has no interest in getting involved.

Even though proportionally she doesn't have that much screen time, she's the highest embodiment of the spirit of the place, intoxicating and irreducible, impossible to tame but worthy of a lifetime's dedication and enjoyment. In her own words, on their date (which is just about the most enchanting example I've ever seen on film, although I acknowledge that's a subjective thing),

There's something you should know about me, Max.
I'm very, very choosy.
Well I'm very, very honoured.
I'm also very, very suspicious, very, very irrational, and I have a very, very short temper. I'm also extremely jealous, and slow to forgive. Just so you know!
Well, this promises to be a lovely evening!
*clinks glasses*

She doesn't ask him to change, and in fact only gives in to her attraction to him for the one night because she considers him "safe" – burned in love herself, she believes he will leave, go back home and never ask more of her. And he does. Until he comes to his senses, comes back, and gives himself wholly over to her and the place. As he ought.

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January 2016
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