In encouraging news for the weekend, Sony reported this Where the crayfish sing (produced by Reese Witherspoon and featuring a new song by Taylor Swift) earned $2.3 million on Thursday. Either the film, based on the hugely popular (12 million copies sold) novel by Delia Owens, is seriously preferable, especially for a non-sequel film that’s not geared towards geeks, or we’re looking at a debut worth over 20 million US dollars. The Sony/3000 Pictures release starring Daisy Edgar-Jones as a young woman growing up alone in a swamp after her mother and siblings fled their abusive, alcoholic patriarch, cost around $24 million to produce. Even a $15 million debut would be a win. However, the adaptation, directed by Olivia Newman and written by Lucy Alibar, is the first mainstream adult female release since Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum The Lost City End of March.
as a movie, Where the crayfish sing is shockingly simple. Despite being well played by a cast that includes Taylor John Smith and Harris Dickinson as two-thirds of a cinematic love triangle, the film seems (perhaps intentionally) to have been sanded down a bit. It tackles darker themes (parental abuse, poverty, racism, bigotry, toxic masculinity, etc.) without ever really delving into feel-bad-movie territory. A colleague of mine mentioned The Shawshank Redemption and, apples and oranges maybe, he’s right. Both are seemingly gritty films filled with difficult moments that nonetheless play like feel-good audiences (in this case including the preternaturally beautiful heroine, regardless of the social/economic circumstances). This is one of crayfish Problems as a film, it can certainly be a commercial advantage for audiences who don’t want to have a wasted time at the cinema.
It’s also shocking how male-centric cinemas have become this summer. Where the crayfish sing is “it” for big films with a women’s front. It hasn’t been this bad since Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy back in the summer of 2013 The heat was the only game in town next to it Iron Man 3, Star Trek into Darkness, Fast and Furious 6, Man of Steel, The Lone Ranger and White House is out of action. Even the toons were Monster University and Dispicable Me 2 (a romantic comedy that enchanted her female co-star), while The Mortal Instruments crawled into cinemas in mid-August. Since then, partly because studios have recognized the value of diversifying blockbusters, we’ve had semi-regular likes from (among others) The fault in our stars in 2014, pitch perfect 2 in 2015, ghostbusters in 2016, wonder woman in 2017, mama mia 2 2018 etc.
Part of this is Covid-related as some of the films that ended up on a streamer (Mulan, The Happiest Season, The Mitchells vs. The Machines, etc.) in 2020 and 2021 were indeed female-fronted Biggies. Without getting conspiratorial, most of the big films that held off until theaters could safely play them were the ‘white man’s journey’. No time to die, The Batman, Top Gun: Maverick, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Venom: Let there be carnage. The summer of 2021 wasn’t awash in White Lady-centric releases, with all due respect Black Widow, A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella). However, it has been mostly occupied by minority-run films like Escape Room: Tournament of Champions, Spiral, F9, Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, In the Heights, Snake Eyes, Candyman and jungle cruise.
It doesn’t help that many of the bigger female-led hits (like almost everything that isn’t a YA fantasy flick, horror movie, or a DC/Marvel superhero film) are now considered “unworthy of cinema” in the eyes of both those studios as well as the audience. The next” Lucy” or the “next train wreck” would probably end up on Netflix or Peacock. However, The Lost City has earned $190 million worldwide while Lady Gaga’s House Gucci made $155 million worldwide when every other studio programmer died in late 2021. Everything everywhere at once was a hit ($67 million domestically) for both Asian audiences and audiences of all the demos, who enjoyed a quality mother-daughter fantasy melodrama that happened to be starring Michelle Yeoh. To redden couldn’t have done much worse light year.
I may have to eat my words in the morning. Nonetheless, Where the crayfish sing (barely) works and will presumably play well for those who enjoyed the novel. It is the first major theatrical release of the summer of 2022 that is clearly aimed at women, making it a demographically specific event film. Yes, it’s disturbing that 50% of the population is considered a niche group, but that’s the culture we’ve built for ourselves. I fear that Covid has wiped out much of the progress that has been made on parity. It joins The 355, Marry Me, Scream, The Lost City and Everything everywhere at once among the few major theatrical releases this year whose highest-paid star isn’t a dude. That I can almost count such things on one hand is not encouraging.