Chameleon-like Transformation for Lively
Blake Lively is often referred to as one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, but if anyone thinks that the former “Gossip Girl” actress is just a pretty face, her new movie “The Rhythm Section” is bound to challenge that shortsighted assumption.
Lively is hardly recognizable in “The Rhythm Section,” sporting shorter hair, a number of disguises, and a lot of makeup to make her appear like an “average” woman rather than a head-turning dame. However, as it should be with any actor or actress, it is the performance that matters, not the looks—leave praise for the latter to the hair and makeup department.
In the film, Lively plays Stephanie Patrick, a woman who loses her family to a plane crash. After learning that the crash was no accident, but an orchestrated event, she goes on a vengeful quest to violently punish those responsible. It is a long way from “Gossip Girl” or “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants,” and is a rare example of Lively taking the leading role in a blockbuster movie.
The movie comes in part from Eon Productions, one of the companies that produces the James Bond films. Thus, “The Rhythm Section” is presumably in good hands. Unfortunately, unless it is adapted from a Hunger Games book or attached to a DC, Marvel, or Star Wars franchise, female led action movies do not have a great track record for success. Even when backed by experienced producers and offering star-studded casts, movies like “Columbiana,” “SALT,” “Lucy,” or this year’s “Charlie’s Angels” all missed their critical or commercial marks.
This is likely due to the fact that the American action genre is deeply rooted in masculinity, emerging from the James Bond suaveness of the 1960s and becoming manlier throughout the 1980s with Rambos, Terminators, and John McClanes filling the screen with muscles. Developing a strong female action hero is thus a novel thing that runs somewhat contrary to the genre’s conventional iconography. Even the action movies that do employ female leads often sexualize them or contrarily place them into the overused woman-who-is-too-good-for-womanly-things archetype.
Emancipated Production Concept?
It is almost as if Hollywood is afraid of mixing femininity and action. “The Rhythm Section,” however, may test that notion, for Blake Lively’s character is a mother seeking revenge after losing her children. From Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Commando” to Liam Neeson in “Taken,” the vengeful or savior parent role is often allocated to the father figure. Perhaps “The Rhythm Section” will finally offer audiences a much needed touch of maternal badassery.
It also helps that Reed Morano directs the film. Known for her work on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Morano has been quite effective at blending feminist themes and action-packed content on the small screen. Hopefully, she can carry this same affinity over to a feature film.
Jude Law and Sterling K Brown support Lively’s performance in “The Rhythm Section.” The movie is an adaptation of Mark Burnell’s 1999 novel of the same title—the first of four books he wrote about Stephanie Patrick. Burnell also wrote the screenplay for the film, and if it is a hit, there could be future sequel adaptations in store for Lively and the team. The movie comes out on January 31st.
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