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    Perfect and Not-So-Perfect Female Casting in 2023 Films

    By Jan Wahl–

    There were some great movies released in 2023. One of the best was Barbie. I just watched it for the second time and the screenplay continues to blow me away with its wit and wisdom. The last third of the film is especially brilliant, asking us to think and feel while being highly entertained. Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig’s screenplay is Oscar worthy, but it helped that a real actress played the leading role. Margot Robbie reminds us that there is someone home behind the eyes, able to show us identifiable emotions.

    Therein lies my heartbreak hotel. In the 2023 film Priscilla, Cailee Spaeny is completely miscast as Priscilla Presley. Written, directed, and produced by Sofia Coppola, the movie tells the true tale of teenage Priscilla meeting and hooking up with superstar Elvis. The story is fascinating since she was very young and he began running her life early on with seduction and dreams of glory.

    If a good actress had played the title role, it would have been fascinating. This actress, however, is empty and repetitious in her portrayal of a tormented young girl. Even when she wakes up to her disappointing life with Elvis, she just goes through the motions, never bringing us in on pain, humor, or thoughts. Wrong actress. As a result, the film is slow and ponderous. An interesting leading actress could have saved it.

    Aside from Margot Robbie as Barbie, other perfect 2023 female casting included Jodie Foster and Annette Bening in Nyad. Oscar nominations for both, please. Also, Viola Davis in Air, a movie I hope people will find. Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks along with Taraji P. Henson in the wonderful musical The Color Purple had to hit every emotional note and dance move perfectly … and did! Lily Gladstone in Killers of the Flower Moon was strong in her stillness, holding her own in the starry cast of that terrific film. Who knew a movie almost three and a half hours long could fly by so quickly?

    In the TV series The Crown, an actress showed me it is possible to play the iconic Princess Diana. Elizabeth Debicki told interviewers she was emotionally stuck in becoming Diana, feeling like she was underwater but still breathing. I’m just glad she took us on her amazing journey into this complicated, gifted woman. Issa Rae was controlled and compelling in American Fiction. And the combination of Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston created a believable platform for The Morning Show, a series that struck me as a longtime broadcaster as altogether too true.

    I’m starting the new year rather positive about cinema. It is time to remind everyone to see the new Color Purple on the big screen.  Row along with The Boys in the Boat, take the plunge with Nyad, enter the epic of the Flower Moon, and the heady worlds of Oppenheimer, American Fiction, and Maestro.

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian and film critic on various broadcast outlets. She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at

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    Published on January 11, 2024