1.) It has to have at least two women in it, 2.) who talk to each other, 3.) about something besides a man.
This weekend The Heat will submit itself up to the Bechdel Test and has a good chance of getting the seal of approval.
Starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as an uptight FBI agent paired with a loose cannon Boston cop to hunt down a drug lord, the movie is a rarity—a female buddy cop movie.
Not all of he movies on Bechdel’s list are winners—Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula, anyone?—but the test isn’t an indicator of quality, just gender bias.
For example, the buddy picture Beaches, starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey as lifelong friends has the Bechdel seal of approval but is hopelessly melodramatic. The story of the bond between singer “C.C.” and wealthy lawyer Hillary is a weepie (the Wind Beneath Your Wings moment is a five Kleenex scene) that audiences responded to because of the tender relationship between the two women.
Woody Allen’s most successful movies have frequently had women’s names in their titles and while Vicky Christina Barcelona isn’t a classic like Hannah and Her Sisters and Annie Hall it really good and earned a thumbs up from Bechdel.
The movie begins with two girlfriends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), on summer vacation in Spain. They’re best of friends but have very different outlooks on life. Vicky is a straight-laced New Yorker, Cristina is a sexually audacious free spirit, still trying to find herself. The young Americans meet an intriguing painter (Javier Bardem) who woos them both as he tries to deal with his residual feelings for his passionate but slightly loopy ex-wife (Penelope Cruz).
Finally, Whip It, first time director Drew Barrymore’s movie about female roller derby, also gets a passing grade on Bechdel’s test. Ellen Page plays an unhappy teenager from small town Texas who stumbles across a flyer for a female Roller Derby league and sees a way out of her mundane life. Turns out she has a natural derby demon ability and soon learns that just because she’s found a new family at the roller rink she can’t throw her old family away.