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Help me find wonderful movies about coming into your own
February 24, 2010 3:43 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a certain type of movie: about a woman, 20s/30s/40s, who is finding herself, not historical, not sappy and Hollywood, and not about finding meaning in a man/babies...

That's about it. Looking for movie recommendations about a single, strong female (or one whose coupling isn't relevant to the story), out of her teens, who seeks to find herself (could be professionally, traveling, artistic, etc.) and succeeds. No movies where the point of the story is some larger goal (Erin Brockovich, Silkwood), or where she meets a man who makes it all better (she can meet him, but life has to get better for some other reason in addition to him). I'd prefer something set in the present day.

Something like Whip It, but for grown-ups. Persepolis, without the political message. Sex and the City, without the agonizing about men. A quarterlife crisis, but where the character ends up going somewhere in the end. A true coming-into-her own movie.

(Really, if you have a great guy movie, that would be okay too!)

Help me find awesome movies!
posted by metametababe to Society & Culture (64 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
 
i personally feel that amelie, while a beautiful love story, is really more about amelie finding herself. it's a movie about breaking out of isolation and starting the pay it forward process.
posted by nadawi at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Housekeeping.
posted by ldenneau at 3:47 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The first thing that springs to mind is Sliding Doors - about a woman whose life could go in one of two directions. I can't remember it well enough to know if it meets your criteria, but I do remember it being a cut above your average romcom.

Guy movies are full of this kind of thing though. It's a really interesting question because I can't think of any female-led movies that feature this kind of thing, but I can think of a fistful of male ones: Grosse Point Blank, Fight Club, The Bourne films, I could go on...
posted by hnnrs at 3:48 PM on February 24, 2010


This is probably going to be laughed at as a recommendation, but what about 28 Days? There is some love interest story, but I think the movie is really more about Sandra Bullock's character sort of owning and confronting her alcoholism and growing as a person. I avoided seeing that movie for years, but when I finally saw it I really liked it.
posted by bunnycup at 3:49 PM on February 24, 2010


Portrait of a Lady might fit the bill.

It's a bit of a problematic movie (it's based on Henry James' novel -- that should say it all!) but it certainly explores those themes.
posted by prettypretty at 3:52 PM on February 24, 2010


Ruby in Paradise comes to mind.
posted by supermedusa at 3:52 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Piano
Orlando
Three Colours: Blue
posted by KokuRyu at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2010


Ruby in Paradise.
posted by smilingtiger at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2010


Party Girl
posted by Zed at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think the recent Sunshine Cleaning would fit the bill.
posted by iminurmefi at 3:54 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


Under the Tuscan Sun? (I've seen bits and pieces of it, but I think it's what you describe.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:55 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Try Cafe Lumiere.
posted by whiskeyspider at 3:57 PM on February 24, 2010


Seconding Sunshine Cleaning, also... it's a great movie, and my old house happens to make a cameo in it! ;-)
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2010


Just went and brushed my teeth and Thelma and Louise smacked me in the face. Not literally. And it could be argued that the only way they discover themselves is through rather masculine acts of violence.

I'm trying to think of female-led films, and most of them seem to be of the horror genre. I can't think of any horror films where the protagonist has actually learned something other than stay away from psychos/monsters/aliens/psycho-monster-aliens.

Is someone going to make a spreadsheet out of these, too?
posted by hnnrs at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2010


HBO just released Temple Grandin, a movie about Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who ended up revolutionizing the meat industry by making slaughterhouses much more humane, while also helping raise public awareness about autism. [ Wiki | Temple's professional page | Temple's Autism page ]
posted by not_on_display at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Temple Grandin. The film takes her from her teens through her late 30s/early 40s. No romance. Really well done.
posted by iconomy at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2010


(or, what he said)
posted by iconomy at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2010


I recommended this in a previous thread about quarterlife crisis movies, but the Korean Take Care of My Cat is about five young women (each about 20, so on the young side of your age group). There is almost no romance and while there's some melodrama, it's still a nice look at growing up.

If you want to track it down, I'd also recommend Tsui Hark's All About Women. There is romance, but it's not really the focus. (There's also a funny inversion of the whole "manic pixie dream girl" motif -- one of the male characters desperately wants one of the women to be his manic pixie dream girl and she's basically having none of it.) It's a little, uh, strange, but also delightful.
posted by darksong at 4:06 PM on February 24, 2010


To fulfill a GE requirement in college, I took an East Asian cinema class. One of the movies we watched was a Korean film called Take Care of My Cat, and I really enjoyed it. It focuses on five young women who were great friends in high school, but who start taking very different paths after they graduate. They aren't very far out of high school, maybe only a year, so they're probably a little younger than you're looking for - more coming-of-age than quarterlife crisis. But all of them in a way are seeking to find themselves, and it's interesting to watch the different ways they go about it. And as a bonus, you get a little glimpse into modern South Korean culture, which I didn't know much about.
posted by sigmagalator at 4:09 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Whoa, darksong, jinx!
posted by sigmagalator at 4:10 PM on February 24, 2010


Shirley Valentine.
Eat Drink Man Woman.
Bridget Jones' Diary wishes it was in this genre, but alas, the Mark Darcy plotline probably ruins it for what you're looking for.
Legally Blonde, for all that I hate about that movie, probably fits just fine.
posted by norm at 4:14 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky
posted by ocherdraco at 4:15 PM on February 24, 2010


Fried Green Tomatoes
posted by dilettante at 4:16 PM on February 24, 2010


That sounds like "Private Benjamin".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:16 PM on February 24, 2010


Blue Crush

there's a love interest, but basically it's about the main girl deciding to go after what she's good at.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:17 PM on February 24, 2010


Both of the things that came to my mind are tv series, not movies. But I figured I would contribute them anyway.

The HBO series Big Love feels like it's exploding with this topic right now, in several of the main female characters' lives! I am enjoying it immensely. It's in season 4 right now, but I feel like there have always been distinct threads of the same along the way (the main male character's mother is fairly antithetical to the image of a traditional Mormon wife, for example).

I also thought of Ruth Fisher from Six Feet Under; the first episode involves her becoming a widow suddenly, and that sets the stage for her journey to find her authentic self. Her daughter is beginning her "who am I" journey too, but she's just graduating from high school.
posted by so_gracefully at 4:21 PM on February 24, 2010


nthing Sunshine Cleaning and Temple Grandin. I absolutely loved both of those.
posted by bunnycup at 4:21 PM on February 24, 2010


Not sure if this is exactly a "wonderful" movie, but Working Girl always satisfies my need to watch a woman find her way in the world.
posted by bethist at 4:27 PM on February 24, 2010


Alien...oh, and Aliens...maybe.
posted by hiteleven at 4:27 PM on February 24, 2010


Desperately Seeking Susan.
posted by yoga at 4:33 PM on February 24, 2010


How about "La Vie en Rose" about Edith Piaf? She came into her own, and I don't belief having a man or baby played a central role in her coming of age...This is a great question by the way, thanks.
posted by dmbfan93 at 4:42 PM on February 24, 2010


Muriel's Wedding!! Don't let the title fool you, I swear.
posted by sallybrown at 4:44 PM on February 24, 2010


Seconding Under the Tuscan Sun.
posted by donnagirl at 4:44 PM on February 24, 2010


Wendy and Lucy
posted by at the crossroads at 4:51 PM on February 24, 2010


I came in to say MURIEL'S WEDDING and sallybrown beat me to it! It's a makeover movie where the makeover is almost entirely internal. And it's hilarious.
posted by moxiedoll at 4:51 PM on February 24, 2010




The google phrase you're looking for is Alison Bechdel's Mo Movie Measure Test - the criteria are as follows:

1. It has to have at least two women in it,
2. Who talk to each other,
3. about something besides a man.

One great sleeper that hardly anyone saw is In Her Shoes - highly recommended. I saw it on Hulu on a whim, and was surprised how great it was.
posted by susanvance at 5:09 PM on February 24, 2010 [5 favorites]


An Angel at my Table
posted by hot soup girl at 5:18 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Dreamlife of Angels
Rosetta
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 5:52 PM on February 24, 2010


Hm.

For wonderful, how about
Frida (does this count as historical? I'd suggest it anyway)
Tampopo
Amelie (she meets a man, but I agree he's incidental to her development)
Chocolat
Atonement, for the main story about Briony
North Country (maybe this violates your Silkwood requirement, though)
seconding Temple Grandin enthusiastically

How about Monster? Sure, she's a murderer, but it's a plot without cooking or a famous jazz singer as a protagonist, for a change.

With any comment on quality reserved, I offer
GI Jane
The Josephine Baker Story

and second
Muriel's Wedding (dated, kind of tacky, but charming and compelling)
Desperately Seeking Susan (very dated, hello shoulderpads)
Thelma and Louise (shows a lot of personal development, but stems from victimhood)
Fried Green Tomatoes (the book is 100 times better than the movie, though)
La Vie en Rose

You might be able to sift some more examples out of Google by searching for "Bechdel test". The requirements are not precisely congruent to yours, but it will get you closer.
posted by Sallyfur at 6:15 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh, yeah, Tampopo!
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:21 PM on February 24, 2010


You might be able to sift some more examples out of Google by searching for "Bechdel test". The requirements are not precisely congruent to yours, but it will get you closer.
posted by Sallyfur at 9:15 PM on February 24 [+] [!]


this is awesome. I have also favorited it in a parallel universe

posted by toodleydoodley at 6:23 PM on February 24, 2010


Coal Miner's Daughter.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:25 PM on February 24, 2010


Living out Loud, with Holly Hunter
Judith Nelson quit her medical studies to marry. Years later, her husband, a physician, divorces her to be with another doctor. Deeply frustrated, she now lives alone in her luxury apartment in New York, looking for a new meaning for her life.

Waitress
Jenna is a pregnant, unhappily married waitress in the deep south. She meets a newcomer to her town and falls into an unlikely relationship as a last attempt at happiness. (the relationship IS unlikely)

Lovely & Amazing
posted by elle.jeezy at 6:33 PM on February 24, 2010




Guinevere (the one with Sarah Polley), Gas, Food, and Lodging, ditto Housekeeping.
posted by Prayless at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2010


The two-part beginning of The Mary Tyler Moore show is up on Hulu. It's perfect.

Mary has left her boyfriend, moved to the city all by herself, deals with a lot of self-doubt, but lands a great apartment and a job. It'll make you feel awesome and maybe tear up just a little.
posted by amtho at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2010 [3 favorites]


Baghdad Cafe aka Out of Rosenheim
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Only Yesterday
posted by jb at 7:56 PM on February 24, 2010


Be with Me
posted by at the crossroads at 7:58 PM on February 24, 2010


My God, you people: NORMA RAE.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:00 PM on February 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


you should try some of Pedro Almodovar's films - Volver might be a great place to start.
posted by poissonrouge at 8:13 PM on February 24, 2010


Antonia and Jane.
posted by dustyasymptotes at 8:46 PM on February 24, 2010


The Maid.
posted by wyzewoman at 8:52 PM on February 24, 2010


A League of Their Own?
posted by purlgurly at 8:56 PM on February 24, 2010


+1 to Muriel's Wedding!

It has been a long time since I've seen it, but Celestial Clockwork was kind of like this. I have been meaning to watch it again. Also Bread and Tulips.
posted by apricot at 9:11 PM on February 24, 2010


I was going to suggest Waitress, but someone already has. While the main character's coupling is definitely relevant to the story, I think you would find it satisfies the requirements of this post.
posted by wondermouse at 9:50 PM on February 24, 2010


Seconding An Angel at my Table, seconding it hard! This film will always be in my top 5 favourites of all time, Janet Frame's life was truly inspiring.
posted by zarah at 12:32 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Dammit, I forgor BABETTE"S FEAST.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:25 AM on February 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


forgot. Also, in a sickeningly disturbing and creep way. AUDITION kinda sorta fits your request, but please don't watch it.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:26 AM on February 25, 2010


The Devil Wears Prada (although Meryl Streep really steals the show from the main character)
posted by decathecting at 10:47 AM on February 25, 2010


Pieces of April
About a Boy (as the title says, there is a male protagonist in this movie)
posted by yawper at 6:01 PM on February 25, 2010


These are all so great -- I can't choose just one favorite! Thank you so much to all for replying. :)
posted by alternateuniverse at 7:27 AM on February 27, 2010


My first two thoughts (back when this thread was new (four whole days ago)) were Shirley Valentine (already mentioned) and Educating Rita. On checking the links, I see why they were paired in my mind -- the two have the same director and writer.

But this morning, it strongly dawned on me (yea, subconscious!) that if your preference for contemporary, non-historical is not absolute My Brilliant Career (set in early 20th century Australia, and based on Miles Franklin's autobiography) is a real gem. I think this user review is spot on.

On preview: Wow. Great answers; great AskMe; everyone wins..
posted by Tuesday After Lunch at 3:26 PM on March 3, 2010


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