September 2021 Film Preview

Women-centric, directed, and written films opening this month.

By Divyani Sharma and Mercedes Gonzales-Bazan

From a modern-day revamp of a classic fairytale to a comedy about unabashed suburban women who become Robin Hoods of their community, along with an array of socially conscious documentaries and biographies, September offers a wide array of theatrical releases.

This month offers an assortment of promising firsts, as it kicks off with Kay Cannon’s star-studded modern take on a beloved classic, “Cinderella” (September 3). The musical sees two-time Latin Grammy winner Camilla Cabello making her acting debut as an aspiring fashion designer eager to make her mark on the world and escape her oppressive home. “The Big Scary ‘S’ Word” (September 3) marks Yael Bridge’s feature doc debut. The film surveys the elaborate history of the American socialist movement, featuring interviews with contemporary political figures such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

In another first, artist Amalia Ulman makes her directorial debut with “El Planeta” (September 24). In addition to helming, Ulman wrote, produced, and acts in the distinctive black and white movie, which explores complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, economic hardships, and female desire.

Paying tribute to a long-distance friendship forged during dire times, actor, director, writer, and activist Natalie Morales’ “Language Lessons” releases on September 10. The comedy explores an unexpected bond formed between a teacher and her student during a pandemic. Morales describes it as a “weird little movie made in a very weird time about finding friendship in strange places and accepting love even when you think you may not be worth it.” Releasing on the same day, Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet’s “Queenpins” is a comedy inspired by a true story. It follows Connie (Kristen Bell), a suburban homemaker, and her best friend Jojo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a vlogger, and charts their journey operating a counterfeit coupon ring that scams corporations and delivers deals to consumers.

Other standouts of the month include a number of documentaries and biopics. Based on true events, Sara Colangelo’s “Worth” (September 3) delves into the story of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Crystal R. Emery’s “The Deadliest Disease in America” (September 10) is a documentary that investigates the racial discrimination and disparities in the U.S. medical system. Betsy West and Julie Cohen’s “My Name Is Pauli Murray” (September 17) depicts the extraordinary journey of the social rights activist and pioneering attorney who championed race and gender equity. “Little Girl” (September 17), a French-language documentary, chronicles the experiences of a trans child discovering and exploring her gender identity, with the love and support of her family.

Here are the women-centric, women-directed, and women-written films debuting this September. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.

September 2

“Afterlife of the Party” – Written by Carrie Freedle (Available on Netflix)

Cassie (Victoria Justice) lives to party — until she dies in a freak accident. Now this social butterfly needs to right her wrongs on Earth if she wants to earn her wings.

September 3

“Cinderella” – Written and Directed by Kay Cannon (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

From Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect”), “Cinderella” is a modern musical with a bold take on the story you grew up with. Our ambitious heroine (Camilla Cabello) has big dreams and with the help of her Fab G, she perseveres to make them come true. Cinderella has an all-star cast including Idina Menzel, Minnie Driver, James Corden, Nicholas Galitzine, Billy Porter, and Pierce Brosnan.

“Worth” – Directed by Sara Colangelo (Available on Netflix)

Following the horrific 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Congress appoints attorney and renowned mediator Kenneth Feinberg (Michael Keaton) to lead the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Assigned with allocating financial resources to the victims of the tragedy, Feinberg and his firm’s head of operations, Camille Biros (Amy Ryan), face the impossible task of determining the worth of a life to help the families who had suffered incalculable losses. When Feinberg locks horns with Charles Wolf (Stanley Tucci), a community organizer mourning the death of his wife, his initial cynicism turns to compassion as he begins to learn the true human costs of the tragedy.

“The Big Scary ‘S’ Word” (Documentary) – Directed by Yael Bridge (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

Featuring interviews with Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cornel West, and Naomi Klein, “The Big Scary ‘S’ Word” explores the rich history of the American socialist movement. Weaving together hidden episodes of history and verité footage, the film shows that, contrary to popular belief, socialism is in fact deeply American and led to popular government programs such as public schools and Medicare. Activists and journalists explain how the 2008 financial crisis, the Wall Street bailout, the Occupy Movement, and the ascension of politicians like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez have pushed a new generation to embrace the language of socialism.

“Who Do You Think I Am” (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

Claire (Juliette Binoche), a 50-year-old divorced teacher, creates a fake Facebook profile of a 24-year-old woman. She finds a photo of a pretty young blonde and uses it. She has created an entirely fictional character, but why?

“Yakuza Princess” (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

Set in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo in Brazil — the largest Japanese diaspora in the world — Yakuza Princess follows Akemi (Masumi), an orphan who discovers she is the heiress to half of the Yakuza crime syndicate. Forging an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who believes an ancient sword binds their two fates, Akemi must unleash war against the other half of the syndicate who wants her dead.

“Anne at 13,000 Ft.” (In Theaters)

Anne (Deragh Campbell) hasn’t been the same since the jump. While skydiving for her best friend Sara’s (Dorothea Paas) bachelorette party, the 27-year-old felt focused, free, above it all. Back on the ground, the pressures of her daily life threaten to overwhelm her. Her co-workers at the daycare center are constantly questioning the way she connects with the children. At Sara’s wedding, she meets a nice guy, but she can’t help bringing him into ever-more-awkward social situations. As the stressful circumstances mount, Anne prepares for another jump.

September 7

“Samantha Rose” (Available on VOD)

“Samantha Rose” is a coming-of-age story shot on location in the Pacific Northwest. Centering non-binary actor Sam Rose, the film is a tale of a young woman battling family codependence and aimlessness alike. Sam returns to her hometown in northern Oregon and is reunited with a childhood friend and his misfit commune of friends where they work the fall harvest on the surrounding vineyards. Sam is lost, working a dead-end job, and afraid to pursue a real life of her own, while this ragtag family of runaways are fearless and free, leading Sam on a journey of discovery and healing. There are motorcycle rides and homemade wine, midnight swims and bonfires, horses, camping, and a love story that unfolds as Sam comes to see her life for what it really is: her own.

“Slaxx” – Directed by Elza Kephart; Written by Elza Kephart and Patricia Gomez Zlatar (Available on VOD)

​​In “Slaxx,” a possessed pair of jeans is brought to life to punish the unscrupulous practices of a trendy clothing company. Shipped to the company’s flagship store, the killer jeans proceed to wreak carnage on staff who are locked in overnight to set up the new collection. 

September 9

“Martyrs Lane” – Written and Directed by Ruth Platt (Available on Shudder)

In this unsettling ghost story, Leah (Kiera Thompson), 10, lives in a large, old house with her family but can’t quite work out why her mother seems so distant. At night she is visited by a mysterious guest, who might be able to give her some answers. With a new challenge every night, Leah is rewarded with bits of knowledge that, when pieced together, threaten to shine a dangerous light on both the truth in her nightmares and of the world she lives in.

“Time Is Up” – Directed by Elisa Amoruso; Written by Elisa Amoruso, Patrizia Fiorellini, and Lorenzo Ura (In Theaters One Night Only; Available on VOD September 24)

Vivien (Bella Thorne) is a highly accomplished student, with a passion for physics and keen to get into a prestigious American university. She seems to live her own life as a mathematical formula that drives her to look at her own happiness as something to be postponed into the future. Roy (Benjamin Mascolo), on the other hand, is a troubled and problematic young man who, due to a trauma suffered as a child, sees his desires continually hindered by a past that seems to constantly haunt him. But mathematics too has its variables and as always happens, life manages to weave events together in increasingly surprising and unexpected ways. Indeed, an accident will force our protagonists to come to a stop and reclaim their lives, and finally start living in a present that perhaps will prove to be more exciting than any predefined formula.

September 10

“Queenpins” – Written and Directed by Gita Pullapilly and Aron Gaudet (In Theaters)

Inspired by a true story, “Queenpins” is an outrageous comedy about a bored and frustrated suburban homemaker, Connie (Kristen Bell), and her best pal JoJo (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), a vlogger with dreams, who turn a hobby into a multi-million dollar counterfeit coupon caper. After firing off a letter to the conglomerate behind a box of cereal gone stale, and receiving an apology along with dozens of freebies, the duo hatch an illegal coupon club scheme that scams millions from mega-corporations and delivers deals to legions of fellow coupon clippers. On the trail to total coupon dominance, a hapless Loss Prevention Officer (Paul Walter Hauser) from the local supermarket chain joins forces with a determined U.S. Postal Inspector (Vince Vaughn) in hot pursuit of these newly-minted “Queenpins” of pink collar crime.

“Language Lessons” – Directed by Natalie Morales; Written by Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass (In Theaters)

When Adam’s (Mark Duplass) husband surprises him with weekly Spanish lessons, he’s unsure about where or how this new element will fit into his already structured life. But when tragedy strikes, his Spanish teacher, Cariño (Natalie Morales), becomes a lifeline he didn’t know he needed. Adam develops an unexpected and complicated emotional bond with Cariño — but do you really know someone just because you’ve experienced a traumatic moment with them? Bittersweet, honest, and at times darkly funny, “Language Lessons” is a disarmingly moving exploration of platonic love. 

“Kate” (In Theaters and Available on Netflix)

After she’s irreversibly poisoned, a ruthless criminal operative has less than 24 hours to exact revenge on her enemies and in the process forms an unexpected bond with the daughter of one of her past victims.

“The Deadliest Disease in America” (Documentary) – Directed by Crystal R. Emery (In Theaters)

“​​The Deadliest Disease in America,” a documentary film produced and directed by Crystal R. Emery, traces the history of racism in American healthcare, beginning with the brutal medical experimentation that enslaved people were forced to undergo. As this story unfolds over our nation’s history, the very same inequalities and biases continue to plague our healthcare system, creating disparities in the quality of care that Black, Brown, and Indigenous people receive. Interwoven with these expert testimonies are the personal stories of patients who have been victimized by healthcare inequities, including the filmmaker’s own experiences as a quadriplegic African American woman.

“Bad Candy” – Written and Directed by Desiree Connell and Scott B. Hansen (In Theaters; Available on VOD September 14)

On Halloween night in New Salem, Radio DJs Chilly Billy (Corey Taylor) and Paul (Zach Galligan) tell a twisted anthology of terrifying local myths. Residents of the small-town experience horrifying paranormal encounters that lead them to a grim end.

September 14

“The Influencer” – Written and Directed by Meghan Weinstein (Available on VOD)

“The Influencer” diverts from glamorizing the lifestyle, and instead takes a critical view on consumerism and questions: what if someone could use their online influence to do something bigger than just sell products? Abbie Rose (Kasia Szarek) is a popular social-media influencer known for her lifestyle, fashion, and makeup videos. One night she signs a coveted contract with Nutrocon, a notorious cosmetic company known to pollute, test on animals, and treat female workers unfairly. Immediately, she’s taken down and tied up in her home by a group of masked activists. Overnight, they force Abbie through the filming of a video, advertising a mysterious new makeup kit. As the hackers’ plan unfolds, we learn the real reason for their visit and as Abbie’s facade fades we learn more about the lies she’s been living.

“What She Said” – Directed by Amy Northup; Written by Jenny Lester (Available on VOD)

PhD candidate Sam (Jenny Lester) should be nearly finished with her dissertation. Instead, she’s spent the last year in and out of court pursuing charges against her rapist. When she receives news that the trial is postponed yet again, Sam heads to her family’s remote cabin in the Virginia woods, effectively ghosting everyone in her life. A few days before Thanksgiving, Sam’s oasis is interrupted as her brother comes barging in with Sam’s closest friends in tow, to stage a pseudo-intervention and convince her to return to the city and finish out the trial.

September 15

“Nightbooks” – Written by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis (Available on Netflix)

Scary story fan Alex (Winslow Fegley) must tell a spine-tingling tale every night — or stay trapped with his new friend in a wicked witch’s magical apartment forever.

September 17

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (In Theaters)

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is an intimate look at the extraordinary rise, fall, and redemption of televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. In the 1970s and ’80s, Tammy Faye (Jessica Chastain) and her husband, Jim Bakker (Andrew Garfield), rose from humble beginnings to create the world’s largest religious broadcasting network and theme park, and were revered for their message of love, acceptance, and prosperity. Tammy Faye was legendary for her indelible eyelashes, her idiosyncratic singing, and her eagerness to embrace people from all walks of life. However, it wasn’t long before financial improprieties, scheming rivals, and scandal toppled their carefully constructed empire.

“The Mad Women’s Ball” – Written and Directed by Mélanie Laurent (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

“The Mad Women’s Ball” tells the story of Eugénie (Lou de Laâge), a radiant and passionate young woman who is at odds with her bourgeois milieu in the late 19th century. When Eugénie’s family learn that she communicates with spirits, they decide to have her committed. Eugénie is taken against her will by her father to the neurological clinic at La Salpêtrière in Paris, directed by the eminent Professor Charcot (Grégoire Bonnet), one of the pioneers of neurology and psychiatry. La Salpêtrière housed women diagnosed as hysterical, mad, epileptic, and physically or mentally ill. Here, far removed in every respect from Eugénie’s bourgeois background, women are subjected to many experiments, carried out by doctors without scruples, in the name of science. It is here that the young woman’s path crosses that of Geneviève (Mélanie Laurent), a nurse in the neurological unit. Geneviève is tormented by the death of her sister. She leads a monotonous life, between her father, a former doctor, whom she must take care of, and Professor Charcot, to whom she is totally devoted. But the arrival of Eugénie is about to change all that. The meeting of the two women will change their destiny forever as they prepare to attend the famous “Bal des Folles,” a ball at the clinic, organized every year by Professor Charcot.

“My Name Is Pauli Murray” (Documentary) – Directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen (In Theaters; Available on Amazon Prime Video October 1)

Fifteen years before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat, a full decade before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned separate-but-equal legislation, Pauli Murray was already knee-deep fighting for social justice. A pioneering attorney, activist, priest, and dedicated memoirist, Murray shaped landmark litigation — and consciousness — around race and gender equity. As an African American youth raised in the segregated South — who was also wrestling with broader notions of gender identity — Pauli understood, intrinsically, what it was to exist beyond previously accepted categories and cultural norms. Both Pauli’s personal path and tireless advocacy foreshadowed some of the most politically consequential issues of our time. Told largely in Pauli’s own words, “My Name Is Pauli Murray” is a candid recounting of that unique and extraordinary journey.

“Little Girl” (Documentary) (In Theaters)

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a girl,” declares three-year-old Sasha, assigned male at birth in provincial France. In time, the petite seven-year-old dons pink dresses and hair ribbons — though only at home — as she and her close-knit family confront their community’s resistance to her calmly proclaimed identity. From Sasha’s bedroom to scenes of alienation in ballet class and the school principal’s office — and finally to sessions with an empathetic therapist in Paris — the filmmaker captures this child’s poignant emotional shifts, by turns remarkably mature and heartbreakingly anxious. Her strong-willed mother fights tirelessly on Sasha’s behalf, moving through complex stages of guilt, anger, and hope. Despite all the ado made by adults, it is young Sasha who must learn to be at ease in the world.

“Best Sellers” – Directed by Lina Roessler (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

Lucy Standbridge (Aubrey Plaza) has inherited her father’s publishing house, and the ambitious would-be editor has nearly sunk it with failing titles. She discovers she is owed a book by Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), a reclusive, cantankerous, booze-addled author who originally put the company on the map decades earlier. In a last-ditch effort to save the company, Lucy and Harris release his new book and embark on a book tour from hell that changes them both in ways they didn’t expect.

“The Nowhere Inn” – Written by Carrie Brownstein and St. Vincent (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

From real-life friends Annie Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent) and Carrie Brownstein comes the metafictional account of two creative forces banding together to make a documentary about St. Vincent’s music, touring life, and on-stage persona. But they quickly discover unpredictable forces lurking within subject and filmmaker that threaten to derail the friendship, the project, and the duo’s creative lives.

“In Balanchine’s Classroom” (Documentary) – Directed by Connie Hochman (In Theaters)

“In Balanchine’s Classroom” takes us back to the glory years of George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet through the remembrances of his former dancers and their quest to fulfill the vision of a genius. Opening the door to his studio, Balanchine’s private laboratory, they reveal new facets of the groundbreaking choreographer: taskmaster, mad scientist, and spiritual teacher. 

“Lady of the Manor” (In Theaters and Available on VOD)

Stoner-slacker Hannah (Melanie Lynskey) is hired to portray Lady Wadsworth , a Southern belle who died in 1875, in a tour at Wadsworth Manor. Hannah, a hot mess, figures she can fake it —until the ghost of Lady Wadsworth (Judy Greer) appears! Lady Wadsworth tells Hannah it’s time to change her wild ways — and she’ll haunt her until she does.

“The Starling” (In Theaters; Available on Netflix September 24)

A woman (Melissa McCarthy) adjusting to life after a loss contends with a feisty bird that’s taken over her garden — and a husband who’s struggling to find a way forward.

September 20

“Aileen Wuornos: American Boogeywoman” (In Theaters One Night Only; Available on VOD October 8)

Based on Aileen Wuornos’ (Peyton List) early life in 1976, the film follows America’s most notorious female serial killer in Florida when she marries an older wealthy Yacht Club president only to inflict mayhem within her new family and Florida’s high society. 

September 22

“Intrusion” (Available on Netflix)

After a deadly home invasion at a couple’s new dream house, the traumatized wife (Freida Pinto) searches for answers — and learns the real danger is just beginning.

September 24

“I’m Your Man” – Directed by Maria Schrader; Written by Maria Schrader and Jan Schomburg (In Theaters)

In order to obtain funds for her research, Alma (Maren Eggert) is persuaded to participate in an extraordinary study. For three weeks she is required to live with Tom (Dan Stevens), a humanoid robot designed to be the perfect life partner for her, tailored to her character and needs. “I’m Your Man” is a playful romance about relationships, love, and what it means to be human in the modern age.

“Birds of Paradise” – Written and Directed by Sarah Adina Smith (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

Based off the novel “Bright Burning Stars” from author A.K. Small, “Birds of Paradise” is set at a prestigious ballet school in Paris, where the new girl befriends a grieving dance prodigy as the dancers compete for the school’s ultimate prize: to receive a contract to join the Parisian Opera’s ballet company. As the pressure mounts and the girls are pushed to their physical and emotional limits, their bond is tested and they’re forced to ask themselves just how far they are willing to go to win.

“El Planeta” – Written and Directed by Amalia Ulman (In Theaters; Available on VOD October 8)

Amidst the devastation of post-crisis Spain, a mother and daughter bluff and grift to fund their extravagant daily life — with impending eviction never too far from sight.

September 29

“Sounds Like Love” – Directed by Juana Macías; Written by Laura Sarmiento (Available on Netflix)

Fashion assistant Maca (María Valverde) has just about got her life together after a devastating breakup, when Leo (Álex González), the man who broke her heart, returns. Seeking support from best friends Adriana (Susana Abaitua) and Jime (Elisabet Casanovas), all three will learn love can be complicated.

“No One Gets Out Alive” – Written by Fernanda Coppel and Jon Croker (Available on Netflix)

Desperate and without documentation, a woman from Mexico moves into a rundown Cleveland boardinghouse. Then the unsettling cries and eerie visions begin.

September 30

“After We Fell” – Directed by Castille Landon and Written by Sharon Soboil (In Theaters; Available on Netflix October 19)

The third installment of the “After” franchise finds Tessa (Josephine Langford) starting an exciting new chapter of her life. But as she prepares to move to Seattle for her dream job, Hardin’s (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) jealousy and unpredictable behavior reach a fever pitch and threaten to end their intense relationship. Their situation grows more complicated when Tessa’s father returns and shocking revelations about Hardin’s family come to light. Ultimately, Tessa and Hardin must decide if their love is worth fighting for or if it’s time to go their separate ways.

Follow Women and Hollywood on Twitter @WomenaHollywood and Melissa Silverstein @melsil

To contact Women and Hollywood, email