Iron Jawed Angels (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Iron Jawed Angels, fundamentally a historical docudrama, looks inside of a pivotal time in American history, the era of the last group of suffragettes who marched, spoke, picketed, and otherwise campaigned for the right of women to vote.

To bring the issue in clearer focus, let's review the circumstances. Black men received the right to vote after the Civil War (in theory at least), but women were still disenfranchised at the time of WW1. The general legal consensus was that the situation could not be changed by an act of Congress, but would require a constitutional amendment, and thus the approval of 2/3 of the states.


Rear ends from: Vera Farmiga, Jolene Carroll, Frances O'Connor, and one unknown.

Nothing is ever simple in politics. President Wilson thought it politically inexpedient to support the vote for women, even though he was supposed to be the idealistic social liberal. The suffragettes thus directed much of their protest activity in his direction. Wilson was also a wartime President, and many people felt that it was inappropriate, even treasonous, for the crusading women to picket against him. Liberals, who would normally have supported the women, were appalled that the picketers were embarrassing the liberal Wilson and driving voters toward the dreaded Republicans.

There were more sub-plots and divisions among the women, split along racial and age lines. The white, educated suffragettes were divided into various warring factions among the older women who wanted to work within the system as good liberal Democrats, and the more radical younger women who advocated activism against anyone who failed to support them. Furthermore, the white women were asking black women to march in the back of their parades, so as not to antagonize the racial separatists, because they needed every supporter they could get.

This story is told with a clear, simple narrative, so that the issues and personalities are clear. Your reaction to the movie will hinge entirely on your interest in the topic. If you wonder about the struggles women had to go through to get the vote, a right which is universally recognized today, but was highly controversial only 80 years ago, or if you are interested in American politics and history in general, then Iron Jawed Angels is a painless and moderately entertaining way to learn all about the matter. If you are studying this topic in school, you should by all means watch this movie, since it will enable you to understand the topic on an emotional level and in context, rather than as dry facts written in a textbook. Many of us alive today can remember the great struggles which black people have faced since WW2, and the great victories which they have won, but there is virtually nobody still alive who can recall the passage of the women's suffrage amendment, so this is one way to get "inside" of the history. I found it fascinating and edifying. It is, as always from HBO, a handsomely mounted production.

DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic

  • full-length commentary from the director and writer

If the topic does not interest you, my advice is to skip it. Although I found it interesting, you probably will not. It's basically an "educational" film, gussied up with a few cheesy moments of romance and fluff. There is no action. There is minimal plot development and virtually no dramatic conflict, since you know how it all came out. The film basically consists of people long dead talking about issues long since resolved, and the character development is not deep enough to carry the film as a stand-alone work of entertainment.

The Critics Vote ...


The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.0/10. Men are unenthusiastic at 6.5, but women offer "off the chart" support at 8.4, which is approximately Schindler's List territory.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C or C+. It's a good production, but watch it only if the historical issues interest you. If not, it will bore you to tears.

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