Danny Boyle, the director who brought us the 2012 London Olympics as well as that moment in Trainspotting when Ewen Bremmer (Spud) literally shits the bed, has a new movie coming out about hypnotism, art heists, and Vincent Cassel being evil. Trance also features Boyle's recent ex Rosario Dawson as a possibly duplicitous hypnotist, a role that, according to Boyle, has many more dimensions than that of your run-of-the-mill femme fatale.
While promoting the new flick, Boyle said recently that women need better movie roles, like the role of Elizabeth in Trance, for instance. He explained that, although the femme fatale usually appears to be a major character, women are often reduced to roles without nuance or complexity:
Elizabeth's obviously a classic femme fatale, using her allure, her beauty to manipulate the men but I didn't want the icy blonde Hitchcock kind of thing...
It's a big problem for a lot of those actresses. They play the apparent lead in a film but when you look at the part it's not that great, they're like a figurehead.
It's nice to give them a role that puts them in the engine room of the film. I've been guilty of not doing that.
Boyle's promoting his new movie, so it's hard to read too much into this statement about gender politics. Rosario Dawson will still be playing a character that relies on seduction to relate to the movie's main (male) characters, and, a week shy of Trance's release, most of us have to take Boyle at his word that this role is really, truly complex. His point, though, about women's roles seeming better than they actually are is well-taken — more often than not, a big, tentpole action movie with a female lead (ahem, Tomb Raider) objectifies that main character in a way that an action movie with a male character never would.
There are plenty of reductive, one-dimensional roles to go around in Hollywood, but women usually get stuck playing young and playing sexy even as their male counterparts are allowed to age, grizzle, and romance women half their age.