WEEK IN WOMEN news roundup: Greta Gerwig’s ‘Lady Bird’ becomes best-reviewed film on Rotten Tomatoes, Disney finds its live-action ‘Mulan,’ ‘The Post’ star Meryl Streep laments the lack of gender parity

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Star Saoirse Ronan, left, and writer-director Greta Gerwig appear on the set of "Lady Bird." A24 photo

Star Saoirse Ronan, left, and writer-director Greta Gerwig appear on the set of “Lady Bird.” A24 photo

A movie written and directed by a woman, as well as centered on and starring a woman, is now the best-reviewed film of all time on influential review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

The coming-of-age story written and directed by Greta Gerwig and starring two-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan is not only “certified fresh” but it set the best-reviewed record Nov. 27 when it reached the milestone of a 100 percent fresh score with 164 reviews – and counting. That “and counting” is important, as “Lady Bird” currently maintains its 100 percent fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes with an incredible 185 reviews.

The previous record-holder was the 1999 Disney/Pixar animated hit “Toy Story 2,” which originally made the record with 163 fresh reviews.

“This is completely amazing and so incredibly appreciated by the entire team that made Lady Bird,” Gerwig told Rotten Tomatoes. “We put our heart and souls into this movie, and the last step of this deeply collaborative art form of filmmaking is giving the film to the audience and the film critics. That there has been such a warm reception is a dream come true. Thank you to everyone who has seen the film and has written about it so thoughtfully. We are all on cloud nine and using our tomato emoji more than we ever thought possible.”

Gerwig’s solo directorial debut is set in 2002 in her hometown of Sacramento, California, and chronicles the final days of high school for Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Ronan), an artistically inclined 17-year-old from the wrong side of the tracks who longs to escape to the East Coast for college. Her relationships with her no-nonsense mother (Laurie Metcalf), her depressed and unemployed father (Oklahoma native Tracy Letts), her straight-laced best friend (Beanie Feldstein), her first boyfriend (Lucas Hedges) and the richest and most popular girl at her Catholic school (Odeya Rush) remain in constant flux as the teenager struggles to figure out who she is and what she wants her future to look like.

Not only is “Lady Bird” a critical hit, it also has achieved monetary success: The film got off to a strong start Nov. 3, grossing $375,612 in four theaters, giving the A24 release a sizzling $93,903 per theater average, the best of 2017, according to Deadline. It crossed the $10 million mark having played in fewer than 800 theaters nationwide, EW.com reports.

In its fifth week in theaters, the coming-of-age drama is now playing in more than 1,000 screens , and this weekend its total domestic reached $17 million, according to Business Insider. Keep in mind, the movie was made for close to $10 million. (A co-worker and I decided to catch a 5:30 p.m. matinee last Thursday at an Oklahoma City theater and were pleasantly surprised to find a nice crowd laughing and relating along with us.)

The critical and commercial success of “Lady Bird” is significant for many reasons: It’s a movie written and directed by a woman at a time when both female writers and directors are a regrettable rarity; it’s a movie with a woman as the lead character at a time when even female speaking parts are still shamefully scarce; and perhaps most importantly, it’s a movie that allows its woman character to be real, complicated and even occasionally unlikable. Gerwig has managed to genuinely and winningly captured the fascinating and frustrating duality of teenage women: Lady Bird is wise beyond her years and incredibly compassionate one moment and clueless, inexperienced and careless with the feelings of those she loves the most the next.

The Rotten Tomatoes milestone hopefully will help people continue to discover “Lady Bird” and solidify the film’s status as an Oscar contender.

Liu Yifei appears in a promotional photo for the 2012 film "The Assassins." Changchun Motion Picture Studio photo

Liu Yifei appears in a promotional photo for the 2012 film “The Assassins.” Changchun Motion Picture Studio photo

Chinese actor Liu Yifei cast in title role of live-action ‘Mulan’

After a yearlong worldwide search, Disney has found the star of its live-action version of “Mulan.”

Chinese actress Liu Yifei, also known as Crystal Liu, is set to star as the title woman warrior, which the Mouse House previously depicted in the 1998 animated film.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, a team of casting directors visited five continents and saw nearly 1,000 candidates for the role, which requires credible martial arts skills, the ability to speak English and star quality. In deference to cultural accuracy, the studio focused on locating an ethnically Chinese young woman to play Hua Mulan, who disguised herself as a man to take her father’s place when he was drafted into the army in 5th century China.

Nicknamed “Fairy Sister” by the Chinese public for her sweet looks and image, the 30-year-old has been one of the country’s most popular performers since breaking out with a series of hit television dramas in the mid-2000s, while she was still a teenager enrolled in the Beijing Film Academy. Liu is fluent in English, having lived in Queens, N.Y., for part of her childhood, and acted in English in both 2008′s “The Forbidden Kingdom,” alongside Jackie Chan and Jet Li, and 2014′s “Outcast,” opposite Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen. She also starred opposite Emile Hirsch in Danish auteur Bille August’s period romance “The Chinese Widow,” which opened the Shanghai International Film Festival in June.

“Whale Rider” director Niki Caro, who most recently helmed the period drama “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” is directing the live-action “Mulan,” which is being produced by Chris Bender, Jason Reed and Jake Weiner. Penciled in for a 2019 theatrical release, it will come more than 20 years after the animated version, which featured the voices of Ming-Na Wen, Eddie Murphy and B.D. Wong, earned $304.3 million worldwide and garnered Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations.

Meryl Streep appears in a scene from "The Post." Twentieth Century Fox Film photo

Meryl Streep appears in a scene from “The Post.” Twentieth Century Fox Film photo

‘The Post’ star Meryl Streep laments the lack of gender parity

Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep is portraying the late Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham in Steven Spielberg’s new drama “The Post.” Set in the early 1970s, the film depicts journalists from The Washington Post and The New York Times who published the leaked documents of the Pentagon Papers regarding the involvement of the U.S. government during the Vietnam War.

While the importance of a strong and independent press is a central theme in the film, Variety reports that “The Post” is ultimately a story about how Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) overcame self-doubt and the sexism she endured as publisher of one of the country’s top newspapers.

“For me, this was her coming-of-age story,” co-writer Liz Hannah told said after a screening of the film at the Directors Guild of America in West Hollywood. “There’s something very relatable to a woman finding her voice.”

Streep, who relied on Graham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography “Personal History” and interviews with her children to prepare for the role, lamented just how little things seemed to have changed in nearly 50 years since Graham became the first female CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

“I try to tell young women who weren’t alive then how different it was very recently and it still is in those leadership circles,” Streep said. “We’ve filled up the bottom of the pyramid, but where it all gets decided, we don’t have parity. We’re not even close. … It’s relevant to today.”

“The Post” also features two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks as legendary Post editor Ben Bradlee and a strong ensemble including busy “Lady Bird” co-star Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Rhys, Alison Brie, and Carrie Coon.

“The Post” debuts in limited release on Dec. 22 and opens wide on Jan. 12.

-BAM

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