Oh no, HBO!

The story of American suffragettes struggling for the right to vote is a stirring one. HBO's film centers on Alice Paul (Hilary Swank) and a host of other characters facing the general scorn and prejudiced attitudes of the time. Their efforts eventually resulted in the 19th amendment.

It's an interesting moment in history. The film stays on target for the political story, but flops around needlessly with Paul's personal life. I'd rather it have erred in the other direction, being interested in the history of the time, but that's just my own agenda. The film is clearly well researched, with a number of harsh details that serve as a testament to the determination and conscience of these women. Unfortunately, the sincerity of the film crumbles with some very poor decisions made in the production.

The masturbation scene? Why was that necessary? The modern music doesn't make sense. What is this, A Knight's Tale? Did these suffragettes protest in disco? The stylized images are more forgivable, characters at odd angles over dramatic backdrops, and you could even argue that the approach has certain consistency. That's not the issue - it's jarring. I'm not suggesting mixing period and modern is wrong, but it needs to be justified or explained some way.

The dialog is uneven, but the acting makes up for it. The costumes are great, the locations too - all the usual high production values we expect from HBO. I suppose that the free reign HBO gives its talent must necessarily result in some mediocre projects, as well as their resounding successes. This was a story that neede to be told, but it could have been told in a much better way.

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