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Rosanna Arquette informally interviews several contrasting actresses about how they cope with being a woman in the entertainment industry. The chauvenism of male crew is discussed, the pretentiousness / stereotyping of female characters in American film now. Interviews include those with Alley Sheedy, Martha Plimpton, Debra Winger, Emmanual Beart, and Rosanna's sister, Patricia Arquette -among others. Although a documentary this film seems affected, Arquette never has an argument, never says anything bad about another actress, in fact, complimenting just about everyone of them as being her favourite actress. Written by
Screened as one of "out-of-competition" films at the Cannes Film Festival, May 2002. Director Rosanna Arquette says she made the documentary when she was struck by the fact that Debra Winger, who earned three Oscar nominations, had left the profession in her 30s. See more »
Unscripted artists more compelling than their roles
I just want to thank Rosanna Arquette for what was one of the most intriguing documentaries about Hollywood I've seen. Although I live in Los Angeles, I do not work in the film industry, and in general tend to feel as though we, the citizens of the Movie Capital of the World, are frequently over-inundated with media about actors and their films.
But SEARCHING FOR DEBRA WINGER is different. Despite what the reader may feel about Hollywood, the actresses interviewed are some of the most influential performing artists of our era. Through Arquette, we get an opportunity to sit down and have a frank chat about their art, their insights, their ambivalence. The doc is not like a Barbara Walters interview: predictable and formatted and PR-mediated. Interviewed by Arquette, a fellow actress with similar sympathies, over little dinner parties, in restaurants, on lawn chairs -- even in the ladies room (a goofy, then serious Frances McDormand) -- the actresses managed to be more frank, more casual, unguarded with their opinions. Some seemed suspicious that the little documentary would ever be aired at all -- inadvertently freeing them up to be even more honest.
Famous for their beauty, their talent and their projects, you get to see that they are intelligent, clever, funny, angry, uptight, resentful, self-conscious, generous, insightful, even visionary in ways that are only hinted at in their films. The dialogue in SEARCHING FOR DEBRA WINGER is all in the actresses own words: no scripts, no acting, no roles. Its an opportunity to see who they are, in all their brilliance, artistry, egotism and folly. Diane Lane is sharp as a tack. Alfre Woodard deeply reflective, eloquent and mature. My suspicion that Holly Hunter is a genius is confirmed. Theresa Russell cuts loose with quite a bit of rage. Whoopi Goldberg is the antidote to glamour-poisoning. Sharon Stone is at least as ballsy as her onscreen persona. Jane Fonda comes over as a wise and deeply generous doyenne. And Debra Winger is more compelling than she's been in any of her movie roles.
Perhaps the biggest revelation was Rosanna Arquette herself. She really puts herself out there, expressing her own insights, risking the exposure of her doubts, in a way that encourages the other actresses to feel comfortable, to open up, to speak frankly. Arquette gamely drops a lot of the pretensions of the industry to tell her story, and to get the other actresses to tell theirs, and as a result manages to reveal unexpected truths about the people behind the profession.
Because of all the big names, the documentary has star power, glamour, and charm in spades. But it has much more. With the lighting, hair and makeup aspect de-emphasized, one gets a glimpse of the real people underneath the monolithic illusion we know as Hollywood, and I found these people, these artists more fascinating than any scripted characters I've seen in quite some time. Underneath all the glittering surfaces, one discovers a deep, and untapped reservoir of artistic -- and human -- potential.
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