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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 »
Roseanne Arquette's personal documentary has a really great idea: several dozen top Hollywood actresses from the 70's, 80's and 90's discuss the difficulties facing women in Hollywood, particularly women over the age of forty. Interviewing them one-on-one or gathering them together in discussion groups, Arquette elicits refreshingly frank, unsanitized criticisms and confessions from some of Hollywood's outstanding actresses and beauties: Jane Fonda, Holly Hunter, Daryl Hannah, Salma Hayak, Angelica Huston, Meg Ryan, Sharon Stone, and many others including Debra Winger (who looks fabulous). The title takes its name from the idea that Winger chose to leave Hollywood at the height of her career in the 80's (though a quick check on IMDb.com shows that the actress has actually worked continuously since then.)
Roger Ebert provides a plausible - though unchallenged - explanation for the lack of good roles for women in their 40's. The audience, he explains, is thought to be comprised of young men 14-24 years old who are disinterested in films about women who might be the age of their mothers. Salma Hayak proposes a solution: she suggests that it will take powerful Hollywood women - like the ones interviewed in this documentary - to create more interesting opportunities for mature women in film.
The lack of meaningful roles for women, particularly mature women is a worthwhile subject and naturally has implications far beyond Hollywood; but Arquette's inquiry is disappointingly shallow. The documentary neglects the broader issues of our obsession with youth and beauty and women's role in society focusing exclusively on the impact of aging on Hollywood stars. (The choppy, MTV editing style and amateurish camera-work don't do a lot to elevate the topic either. But those are minor annoyances.)
At its worst, the film disintegrates into a kind of group kvetch for the over privileged. And watching these beautiful, wealthy women preen in front of paparazzi, compare jewellery, schedule dinner dates and party plans then complain that they don't have enough time to spend with their kids, well, it's kinda hard to feel a ton of sympathy....unless you, too, just happen to be a gorgeous, wealthy forty year old movie star. The irony is there for all to see but is never acknowledged: most of these actresses have clearly benefitted from the system they're now deploring; in their twenties, weren't these actresses eclipsing the previous, aging generation? So the laments come off as self-serving.
Despite these disappointments, SFDW is worth a look for its candid interviews. Debra Winger, Whoopi Goldberg and Jane Fonda are particularly good. Recommend.
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