Picks of the Week: Women Defying Gender Norms on Big and Small Screens

Picks of the Week is Women and Hollywood‘s newest resource. W&H writers are often asked for recommendations, so each week they’ll spotlight the women-driven and women-made projects—movies, series, VOD releases and more—that they’re most excited about. (Sign up for the Women and Hollywood newsletter at womenandhollywood.com to get each week’s picks delivered to your inbox!)

Series of the Week: “Gentleman Jack”

Created and Written by Sally Wainwright; Directed by Sally Wainwright, Sarah Harding, and Jennifer Perrott

Sally Wainwright (“Happy Valley”) has reclaimed Anne Lister in a bold way in the HBO limited series “Gentleman Jack.”

Suranne Jones (“Scott & Bailey,” “Doctor Foster”), at the top of her game, plays Lister, a woman who wore a long black coat and a top hat and made it clear in her prolific diaries—part of which were written in code to cover up her relationships—that she would never marry a man.

Jones’ Anne is a woman far ahead of her time. Comfortable with her sexuality in a world where it cannot be spoken, she devotes her time to finding a woman with an income that she can build her life with. (Melissa Silverstein)

Read Women and Hollywood’s interview with Sally Wainwright and Suranne Jones.

“Gentleman Jack” premiered April 22 on HBO. Its first episode is now available on HBO GO and HBO NOW. Future episodes will air Mondays at 10 pm ET. 

Feature of the Week: J.T. LeRoy

Written by Savannah Knoop and Justin Kelly

Kristen Stewart moves to New York City and finds herself serving as the avatar of a celebrated author in J.T. LeRoy.

Savannah’s (Stewart) life takes an unexpected turn when their sister-in-law, Laura (Laura Dern), encourages them to explore “all these selves” inside of them—by taking on the role of J.T. LeRoy, the name Laura writes under. She hires Savannah to play the male author in interviews and public appearances.

Based on a fascinating true story, J.T. LeRoy sees Savannah trying to adjust to the limelight and the complications of pretending to be someone they’re not. “You’re as much a part of J.T. as me,” Laura tells them. But the balancing act is taking a toll on Savannah, and they want out.

An exploration of gender fluidity, fame, identity, power and creativity in its many forms, the drama doesn’t offer overly simplistic answers—and Stewart and Dern shine. (Laura Berger)

J.T. LeRoy hits select theaters and VOD April 26. Find screening info here.

Documentary of the Week: Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché

Directed by Pamela B. Green; Written by Pamela B. Green and Joan Simon

#TimesUp on Alice Guy-Blaché’s contributions to cinema being overlooked, underestimated and forgotten. Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché tells the story of the first female filmmaker.

Narrated by Jodie Foster, Pamela B. Green’s documentary explores how the trailblazer wrote, directed and produced one of the first narrative films ever made—among many other remarkable achievements, including running her own studio. The doc also investigates how Guy-Blaché was shut out from the industry she helped create.

Featuring interviews with Guy-Blaché’s family members, film historians, and directors such as Patty Jenkins, Ava DuVernay and Julie Taymor, Be Natural asks how and why one of cinema’s most important pioneers remains largely unknown.

“My hope is that this film furthers the conversation about how necessary women are to the art of cinema,” Green told Women and Hollywood in an interview. “If people know about Alice—or knew about and continued to remember her contributions to early cinema—how different might the creative and business landscape be? There were many, many women filmmakers in the early years but history has forgotten them. It’s time to change that.”

Over 100 years after Guy-Blaché stepped behind the camera, women directors are still met with skepticism by some. It’s time to learn some long overdue history and push onward. (LB)

Watch the Ms. LIVE Q&A with Be Natural director Pamela Green on Facebook.

The Ms. LIVE Q&A: How Pamela Green Put Alice Guy-Blaché Back into Hollywood's History

Ms. digital editor Carmen Rios talked to filmmaker Pamela Green about Be Natural, her new documentary on the "Mother of Cinema," and what it took to write Alice Guy Blaché back into Hollywood history.

Posted by Ms. Magazine on Monday, April 8, 2019

Be Natural is now playing in LA. It will be released in NY April 26. Find screening info here.


Women and Hollywood educates, advocates and agitates for gender diversity and inclusion in Hollywood and the global film industry. The site, founded in 2007 by Melissa Silverstein, sets the standard, defines the conversation, fuels coverage and reinforces messages throughout the specialized and mainstream media to call for gender parity on a daily basis. Follow W&H at @WomenaHollywood and Melissa @MelSil.