They say there are no good parts for women on the big screen.
They say that movie stars are a thing of the past.
They may be right — generally speaking. But, somewhat unexpectedly, the summer of 2018 looks to be a celebration of great actresses, great acting, and straight-up star power.
Yes, there are the usual sequels, remakes, and reboots, and many of them feature male characters or male stars with major box office clout. Han Solo of “Star Wars” is back in an origin story called “Solo,” with Alden Ehrenreich playing the young Han. (That said, people seem more excited about seeing Donald Glover as young Lando Calrissian.) Tom Cruise will play Ethan Hunt in the 532nd “Mission: Impossible” movie. There will a second “Deadpool” (Ryan Reynolds), another “Equalizer” (Denzel Washington), a new “Superfly” (Trevor Jackson of TV’s “Grown-ish”), and a fifth in the “Jurassic Park” series (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”). Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars in something called “Skyscraper.” It wouldn’t be summer at the box office without an overdose of testosterone.
This year, though, there’s an incoming tide of counteractive estrogen. Consider “Ocean’s 8,” a spinoff of a sequel of a remake that nevertheless trades in the guys of the earlier heist films for Cate Blanchett, Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, and more. Or “Book Club,” a comedy in which Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen set their literary group on its ear by reading “Fifty Shades of Grey”?
In the upcoming “Tully,” Charlize Theron gives herself yet another makeover to play an exhausted new mother on the brink of collapse. Melissa McCarthy goes back to college in “Life of the Party.” Elle Fanning plays an alien crashing a party in “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” based on a Neil Gaiman short story and directed by John Cameron Mitchell (“Hedwig and the Angry Inch”). That one also features Nicole Kidman as the rebel Celtic ruler Queen Boadicea.
We’re getting double the Saoirse Ronan, first in “On Chesil Beach,” based on an Ian McEwan novella, and then in an adaptation of Chekhov’s “The Seagull,” costarring Annette Bening, that just conquered the Tribeca Film Festival.
There are movie queens returning to the screen: Jodie Foster as the mysterious proprietor of the “Hotel Artemis,” set in post-apocalypse Los Angeles; Glenn Close gunning for an Oscar in an adaptation of the Meg Wolitzer novel “The Wife,” and Our Royal Majesty herself — Meryl Streep — letting her hair down and raising her voice in “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” (It’s her very first sequel, for those keeping score.)
In case you’re worrying that summer has become one long class act, know that actresses are anchoring genre projects like the psychological horror film (and SXSW hit) “Hereditary,” starring Toni Collette, or the action-suspense prequel “The First Purge,” toplining Marisa Tomei. Mila Kunis and “Saturday Night Live” cast member Kate McKinnon go undercover in the espionage buddy-comedy “The Spy Who Dumped Me.” Toward the end of the summer, “Crazy Rich Asians” gives Michelle Yeoh (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), Constance Wu (TV’s “Fresh Off the Boat”), and Gemma Chan (TV’s “Humans”) a chance to play broad mainstream farce.
Nor can you discount the new faces arriving this summer: Elsie Fisher in the coming-of-age indie “Eighth Grade,” Thomasin McKenzie in “Leave No Trace,” and the entire freshly found cast of teenage skater girlz in “Skate Kitchen,” from “The Wolfpack” director Crystal Moselle.
Even the summer’s documentaries are dedicated to women who have stirred things up, past and present: Ruth Bader Ginsburg in “RBG,” Whitney Houston in “Whitney,” and the late proto-punk chanteuse Christa Paffgen in “Nico, 1988.” By contrast, male subjects getting the doc treatment in the coming months include the pope (“Pope Francis: A Man of His Word,” from Wim Wenders) and Mr. Rogers (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”). Icons of kindness and decency, both of them — but this summer it’s the women who have all the fun.