Last night I watched The Public (2018) at the theatre without taking notes—something I rarely do now. It is a progressive and entertaining film that scores moderately well for women’s presence and voice. There are four named female characters, and it passes the Bechdel test—a test that serves as an indicator of the active presence of women in movies—but just barely (women speak very briefly about something besides a man). Moreover, Taylor Schilling, Jena Malone and Gabrielle Union have a real voice here. However, it is worth noting that the exchanges between women are very limited and sometimes antagonistic, which constitute drawbacks. For the most part they only interact with men. Also, the sexist age gap is maintained here: the lead male’s love interest (Schilling) is 22 years his junior. Its greatest strengths, as far as women are concerned, are the minimal sexualization of women and an absence of violence against women (VAW). Its main strength, for moviegoers generally, lies in its subject matter: poverty and homelessness. The filmmaker's focus on these issues is so effective that it makes up for the drawbacks. It is also worth nothing that this is one of the exceptionally rare movies in which characters discuss carbon footprints. Evidence that at least some people in Hollywood have heard of the environment and climate change. The Public is actually suitable for teenage viewers, unlike many movies nowadays that have a PG-13 rating. The screenplay was written and directed by Emilio Estevez. If The Public is indicative of the quality of his other movies (as writer/director) they are worth checking out.
© 2019 Alline Cormier