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‘Oppenheimer, ‘Past Lives,’ ‘Julia’ Show Price Women Pay for Ambition



Ambition paired with jealousy is usually a harmful cocktail. Particularly when gender expectations are thrown into the combo.

Status choices, from “Fair Play” and “Oppenheimer” to “Past Lives” and “Lessons in Chemistry,” have mined that difficult terrain this yr. “Maestro” and the newest seasons of female-led “Julia” and “The Morning Show” have tackled it as effectively. 

And whereas males endure the slings and arrows of jealousy in a number of high-profile Oscar contenders, ladies arguably expertise extra fallout from it than their male counterparts. This goes for feminine characters who’re bold themselves or these partnered with males who suck all of the air out of the room, as in “Oppenheimer” and “Maestro.”

“Nobody likes an ambitious woman,” Sarah Lancashire’s Julia Baby advises a feminine colleague in Season 2 of the Max sequence named for her, explaining why she credited males at WGBH with advocating for “The French Chef” when the present had beforehand established lots of them have been initially skeptics concerning the pioneering cooking present for ladies.

All through its run, “Julia” has deftly explored the obstacles Baby confronted at residence and professionally when she reinvented herself as a chef in center age. We see Baby regularly disarm naysayers along with her joie de vivre. Her tendency to share culinary treats with staffers additionally helps, as does her robust marital bond with husband Paul (David Hyde Pierce), who principally helps her endeavors and offers extra cowl for her covert ambition.

However different ladies have had a trickier go of it in latest choices. On the outset of Chloe Domont’s “Fair Play,” Phoebe Dynevor’s Emily has a seemingly enviable relationship with Alden Ehrenreich’s Luke, however he turns into jealous when she’s promoted over him at work and resorts to bodily dominance in ways in which recall pulpy potboilers of a long time previous, resembling “Fatal Attraction” and “Basic Instinct.”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Within the extra elegiac “Past Lives,” writer-director Celine Tune establishes Nora Moon as extremely bold from her South Korean girlhood to maturity within the U.S. It’s not till her childhood buddy heads residence after a go to that we perceive the worth Moon (performed as an grownup by Greta Lee) has paid for following her desires — even with an extremely supportive husband within the type of John Magaro.

Lee, who additionally portrays equally bold Stella in Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show,” relishes the chance to play characters with a robust drive to succeed — identical to many ladies she is aware of. “The reality is, we don’t get to compartmentalize things like our ambition with every other aspect of our lives,” she says.

Here’s a have a look at the fallout different characters have confronted for ambition — whether or not theirs or that of their romantic companion — on the large and small display screen.

Apple TV+

“The Morning Show,” Season 3

Jennifer Aniston’s Alex Levy has more and more proven her mettle within the Apple TV+ sequence, and within the newest season she falls for Jon Hamm’s billionaire Paul Marks, who helps her notice her need for extra energy within the office. Different feminine characters, together with Reese Witherspoon’s Bradley and Lee’s Stella, are proven to be equally ruthless in pursuit of development.

Melinda Sue Gordon


Cillian Murphy performs J. Robert Oppenheimer as an excellent physicist who’s open to new concepts — a trait that will get him in bother when a jealous bureaucrat (Robert Downey Jr.) orchestrates a profitable marketing campaign to get his safety clearance revoked in 1954. Oppenheimer’s spouse (Emily Blunt), a scientist in her personal proper, finds her profession overshadowed by the person who helped develop the atomic bomb.


Bradley Cooper’s Leonard Bern­stein is brimming over with ambition, and his ardour for males can’t be contained, both. Collateral harm: the profession and happiness of his spouse, Felicia Montealegre, a Chilean actor who’s more and more pissed off by his “sloppy behavior” in pursuit of sexual conquests.

Michael Becker

“Lessons in Chemistry”

On this Apple TV+ adaptation of Bonnie Garmus’ novel, Brie Larson performs Elizabeth Zott, a scientist who overcomes an undesirable sexual advance to search out fame as host of a cooking present. It’s set across the similar time as “Julia,” however the characters are worlds aside: Zott is self-contained and unbothered by defying social norms, whereas Baby leads a decidedly extra standard life. 


Bayard Rustin, a detailed affiliate of Martin Luther King Jr., was double bother for white society as an overtly homosexual Black man combating for civil rights. However the Netflix film exhibits Black energy brokers used his sexuality as a wedge between him and King in an try to manage them each. The duo in the end prevails with the March on Washington. 

©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett C


Margot Robbie’s Barbie isn’t a lot bold as she is assured, whereas Ryan Gosling’s Ken is her craving supplicant on this gender-flipped world. Then the roles are reversed, and the ladies should take care of energy dynamics that extra intently resemble modern life.

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