So, I thought I'd add a little intermittent feature to the blog where I review movies for their treatment of women, sexuality, relationships and roles. This week Steven and I went to see Now You See Me at an ill-advised 10:30 showing, so I'll start there.
Role of Women: It's nice to see that they had two female characters who were fleshed out beyond just "women who fall in love with men in the film" (although both of them did) I especially appreciated the character Alma Dray, the female Interpol detective whose intuitive, observational-- more feminine-- style of investigating is portrayed in a positive light against Rhodes' (supposedly) more aggressive, logical, "masculine" style. Often when films cast a woman in a military, police, or other more "combative" role, they work hard to make her seem tough, hardboiled, and no-nonsense. Dray uses co-operation, careful research, and intuition to make strides in the case that Rhodes would not have been able to make on his own, and I appreciated that portrayal.
Henley fared a little worse, especially at the hands of Merrit, who blatantly considers her merely as a sex object. Which would be okay, because there are men like that, except that she doesn't seem to mind at all when, for example, the first thing he does on meeting her is look her over and assess her value solely based on her appearance. Like, sure, that's not creepy at all.
Still, overall I think it did a lot better than many similar films. I could've done without Henley falling in love with J. Daniel Atlas despite him doing nothing to reform the arrogance and self-absorption that she dislikes in him at the beginning of the movie, and it's a bit funny that an Interpol detective would casually overlook her love interest's massive bank robbery but overall, I think the treatment of women in this film was fair-to-middling. (If only the character development of the film matched that, but that's a subject for someone else's film review...)
Sexualization of Women: Considering the strong precedent the filmmakers had to dress Henley in the traditionally skimpy costumes of women in magic, I was pretty impressed that they only had her in one such costume, when she's doing her solo work. And arguably that is realistic both because she was working in entertainment, and because of the trick she was doing (long heavy clothes would probably interfere with her lockpicking and escape from the water tank). Once she was with the Four Horsemen, she was generally not dressed in a revealing matter.
However-- whatever art team was in charge of the poster above totally missed the memo and thought cleavage, legs, and canting were the best way to portray her character. Where all the male characters communicate a sense of purpose, with straight-on glances and squared shoulders (except Freeman who is posed more to communicate his observational role in the movie), Henley has a sidelong, come-hither sort of glance/head pose and is dressed to display her sexuality instead of the drive and purpose she shares with the other three Horsemen.
Bechdel Test Pass/Fail: Fail. Features two (and only two) named female characters, but they never speak.
Male:Female Ratio: Out of eight main characters, two were female. That said, in modern day magic, rough estimates suggest that women make up only 3-8% of the professional magical workforce, so actually, I think, kudos to the filmmakers for casting a female magician and portraying her as a solid and talented solo act (instead of the sexy assistant role The Prestige filmmakers, for example, gave their magic lady.)