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After watching "Searching for Debra Winger", I was left with the
feeling that Rosanna Arquette had plenty of good intentions, but was
unable to bring them any further than that. The result is a documentary
that feels a little too long, self-repetitive and, like many commenters
on this section and on the board have pointed out, sometimes offensive
to women who aren't movie stars and have a more modest way of living.
Sure, the offense was completely unintentional, and I believe Arquette
wanted to make a documentary that "normal" women could relate to, but
it just didn't come along too well. Some comments made me cringe, like
Sharon Stone saying "if I'm having a really bad day, I just stay in bed
all day"... No Comment! It ends up being a confuse mish-mash of
interviews or parts of interviews glued all together without an
apparent script or inner logic, where more or less famous actresses
over 30 ponder about what it is like being an artist past a certain
age, how they feel about today's beauty standards, and so on, but often
times they only talk about their profession, and I personally didn't
find that all that interesting, and I couldn't relate to that part in
The movie certainly sets forth some questions of more general interest to women -reflections on aging and not being afraid to show our age, finding pride in being the ones we are, whatever our age and circumstances; motherhood, etc.- but, unfortunately, they're a minority. That's why I can't recommend this movie to people other than those who have a true and strong interest in the movie industry.
This video was one of 12 we just purchased from our local video store. My husband would not watch it after about 10 min, but then came back for final 10 or so. His disinterest was because he considered it a "chick" flick. I did enjoy it very much, because I like that type of a format. Jane Fonda's description of acting the pivotal scenes in any film was engrossing and so informative to those completely outside this industry. I love her voice and thought she was adorable in Barbarella and Klute is one of my all time favorite movies. Although as a woman its interesting that she follows her men so slavishly (have read enough of marriages to Vidam and Hayden to have that opinion) & to give up her career on a second date! Selma Hyack made the most sense in really addressing what the focus of this documentary was. Why whine about what men are willing to give women? Why not go out and create, produce, implement their own projects? Despite what Roger Ebert said there is a huge untapped market of viewers of films starring older actresses. The first baby boomers are reaching 60 and will soon be retired. My husband and I are 10 years ahead of that and would love to go to more movies. . . but so few of them have really decent plots, with realistic characters and a minimum of violence and gratuitous sex. It is ridiculous that women who at one point could play Harrison Ford's wife in a movie would be considered too old now. He looked awful in the preview of the new movie (can't remember the name) where he has a young wife and family. It isn't that its totally unrealistic that a man his age would have a young family, just that from a Hollywood point of view every man his age would have. That is unless he is part of a couple who play unflattering "relative" roles. It was interesting to hear Daryl Hannah say how she was supposed to look as the mother of a 16 yr old. Personally I thought I looked pretty good when my daughter was that age and most women if they ever looked good will then too.
I have been a Chiropractor and Massage Therapist in the movie industry
for 12 years. So I know a lot of people, and have personally worked on
Rosanna Arquette and found her quite nice and charming. She told me
that she gave up acting to be a mother.
I heard that Debra Winger was so nasty that no one would ever work with her again. I heard that after Legal Eagles Robert Redford put the word out that she should never work again.
Apparently NNDB backs up the fact that she didn't seem to get along with men: "Winger has always been blunt and outspoken, and by most accounts is considered difficult to work with. She was critical of co-star Robert Redford during and after filming Legal Eagles. While filming Leap of Faith with Steve Martin, she reportedly feuded with the director, with Martin, and with anyone else who came within earshot. Watching An Officer and A Gentleman, it would never occur to one that she despised Gere from their first day on the set."
So, maybe she didn't quit, as she says, but instead was black-balled from Hollywood, as often occurs with people that are full of themselves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie was insulting. While issues to do with sexism and gender are
very pertinent especially to do with film, this "documentary" addressed
Instead the film operated as a forum for a bunch of over-paid and over-privileged women to sob about aging. It was PAINFUL to have to watch their collagen filled lips and tight stretched faces whine about only being valued for their looks and then being discarded as they aged. What on earth would they expect when they continue to SUPPORT these institutions by playing superficial roles and succumbing to mainstream beauty standards?
Half of them have never had acted a decent role in their lives, yet they mope about wanting to play "REAL" characters, with "REAL" meaning.
The only saving moment was Alfre Woodard gracefully reconciling the struggles she faces as an actress, with the privilege which her profession allows her. She pays much needed respect to women AROUND the world who do NOT make millions of dollars for a few months of work, yet still struggle to be good mothers, wives, and career women.
Moreover the film was not shot documentary style- I am not a film-maker so do not know the logistics of different filming, however Arquette chose a style that was NOT reminiscent of documentaries. Looked more like a thriller DVD. And so the total effect was staged and over-produced.
The film was just plain rubbish. And though I would usually like to be less one-sided, i find it absolutely impossible to see this film any other way.
I am a theatre actress and a writer who struggles with the passion to create and the realities that I have had to pursue other roads for financial stability. I am a teacher, yet I pursue my passion on the stage and have the desire to continue to write and move from theatre to film. Being a teacher is in itself rewarding and creative, but the two lives are seperate. I am moving to branch out of my town and the theatre i am comfortable with to the pursue theatre/writing/acting on a different level; while teaching. I am filled with fears and worries and nerves about my decisions all the time. This film was a mirror of the levels of all the emotions that I feel in pursuit of independence as a woman and an artist. I felt that each woman that spoke had their independent qualities that makes them seperate, but at the same time; all were empathetic and very aware of the fears of relationships, independence, choice, family,work and growing older as a whole. I am inspired and comforted at the same time by this film because of the honesty and the diversity of thought and truth. To pursue a life of substance takes courage no matter what level of success a person is at. The film takes those levels and breaks them down into the organic humanness that we all are. Jane Fonda's explanation of nerves and moments had such truth and passion in it, I felt understood in so many aspects of my pursuit of a life of quality. I think that any woman who has ever felt afraid to be the person she knows she can be should take notice of this very passionate and wonderful piece of film work.
I recently viewed "Searching for Debra Winger" on DVD, and thought it looked
pretty interesting. But, having read the other posts, I have to agree that
Rosanna Arquette "experienced" a very scattered project.
I also find it a little "woe is me" for a group of actresses to sit around a dinner table, drinking wine, smoking cigarettes, and lamenting how tough it is to be an actress/movie star in Hollywood. Particularly annoying was Melanie Griffith. I've never really cared for her, and seeing her, warts and all, my opinion hasn't really changed. Complete with swollen lips and her Antonio heart tattoo on her shoulder, she's as tacky as ever. Listening to her talk about how rough it is, while sitting in a mansion and going to bed with Banderas, makes it hard to feel to bad for her. I think the fact that they felt like talking to her at all should be a little encouraging to her. She and Kelly Lynch aren't in the same league as the other actresses, and honestly didn't add much to the discussion.
I thought Patricia Arquette was featured way too much. It's understandable, given Rosanna is filming, but, it seemed a little gratuitous to me. I mean, she never really said all that much, other than smiling, blushing, and looking away as her sister complimented her. I did enjoy listening to Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. Alfre Woodard, Sharon Stone, and Selma Hayek gave intelligent response to what they were asked. Martha Plimpton has always struck me as an actress rather than a movie star, and given her take on many of the challenges she faces, I think she'd like that categorization. Holly Hunter had an interesting take on longevity, and, when they cornered Frances McDormand in a bathroom in France, she sort of agreed with what Holly said while some no name assistant nodded her head in agreement. Whoopi Goldberg was another high point interview.
The entire film builds until Arquette tracks down Debra Winger. I guess that's the concept that flawed the movie for me. It was my understanding that Winger didn't "walk away" as much as she was sort of shut out by Hollywood. Rumor has it that she was always hard to work with, battled a drug problem, and wasn't a favorite costar to many. She and Shirley McClaine never got along on the set of "Terms of Endearment"--to the point where there was an actual pushing match. She was tapped to star in "A League of Their Own," but immediately quit when Madonna was cast. I also heard that she was cast in a more recent project, but, was fired for her weird behavior. She had her own personal demons, I guess, and you could feel sorry for that, but, the documentary sort of made it seem as though she became disillusioned and bored with movies. I don't think they were being 100% honest.
But, even with all that, I thought the film would end after the Winger segment--but, went on for another 20 minutes or so. It just seemed to fill the screen with stars who asked more questions than they answered, and I walked away from it sort of puzzled as to the purpose. They jumped around topics (like lack of roles and motherhood) and never really stuck to one issue. The actresses were always quick to say that other actresses make it work--like Susan Sarandan, Jessica Lange, Meryl Streep, Sally Field--yet, these actresses aren't interviewed.
It was nice to see some actresses aspect on the business and the craft of movie making, but, all in all, it did drag and at times bored me.
Debra Winger left the Hollywood scene back in 1995, after receiving
three Oscar nominations and only in her early thirties. This is nearly
unheard of in Hollywood as budding actresses remain in the spotlight,
perhaps not always making the best film choices. Rosanna wants to find
an answer to the question as to why Winger left the glamour of
Hollywood. She was a powerhouse in Hollywood, and just suddenly left
the scene. Why? This should have been the focus of the documentary, but
instead what happens is that we end up with several interviews with
Hollywood heavyweights as they talk about the trials and tribulations
of what it is like to be a mother, actress, and a multi-millionaire all
at the same time. We hear words from the likes of Meg Ryan, Whoopi
Goldberg, Melanie Griffith, Daryl Hannah, Salma Hayek, Holly Hunter,
Diane Lane, Samantha Mathis, Frances McDormand, Gwyneth Paltrow, Martha
Plimpton, Sharon Stone, Tracey Ullman, and Robin Wright Penn.
Throughout the film, these women guide us through a very chauvinistic Hollywood. We learn that Hollywood is not the place for an aging woman with desires to have a family. Continually torn between two classic Hollywood roles, the girlfriend or the old maid mother, these woman ravishly fight over anything fresh and new that comes to the table. The constantly endure the painful eye of the producer and director that grade them on the size of their breasts instead of the knowledge of their mind. Proving that a glass ceiling does exist, even in the most magical of places, just like in the real world. As these women talk and discuss life, we are continually getting closer and closer to our 'hero' of the story, Debra Winger.
Overall, the fact that we 'found' Winger within the first hour was the biggest let down of the film. On the other end of the spectrum, the high point is when Arquette comes clean and actually says that she has made some films 'just to pay the bills'. Always good to hear that the leader of this documentary possibly could be making this very film just to 'pay the bills'.
I lost a lot of credibility to Rosanna after she said this. The better title for this film should have been, Searching for Jane Fonda. The fact that she is in this movie longer than Debra Winger only proves that Rosanna had no clue what she was doing. She led us on a very curvy road with several bumps that eventually placed us in the middle of nowhere. There was no direction and no point behind this movie. Within the first twenty minutes I was tired of the only words coming out of Rosanna's mouth being, 'You were brilliant' or 'You look amazing'. She, perhaps not consciously, contributes to this stigma surrounding the women of Hollywood. Her filler spots where she talks to her child and travels the world seemed forced and unoriginal. The only point that this film proved was that Rosanna Arquette knows some very famous people in Hollywood, and have ultimately done much better than her. This was one of those films that high school nerds would make with aspiration to show women how popular they were. Arquette basically uses this documentary to boost herself up on a pedestal that she does not deserve to be anywhere near. Avoid this film at all costs, especially if you are a woman interested in the Hollywood scene. Searching for Debra Winger will only prove that documentaries can be scripted.
Now, I must go sign my name with lipstick to my bathroom mirror. Don't ask just do the same.
Grade: * out of *****
i am writing because this was far more than i expected. the film starts honestly, and feels from the heart of the director, as a quest. the questions are answered by those who participate in such a genuine commitment that i felt moved several times. the landmark quality is getting such clarity from a range of actresses, many great performers, but rarely so well expressed in roles they have been given. that there is a hunger for relevance in film, and the articulation will strike some fear into the controlled studio pretensions. i am not surprised that many men disliked the film enough to give it a lower score. why shouldn't they keep the truth in a box? it has served them so well. this has a the plastic surgery comments next to the plastic surgery, the victim profile next to the search for wholeness, the epiphanies and pitfalls all encapsulated in a thoroughly compelling film.
The film opens with Arquette telling the audience that the first movie
she ever saw was The Red Shoes, a movie about a neurotic ballet dancer
so torn between her career and family that she throws herself in front
of a train. Later in the film we learn that it was her own mother who
took her to see this movie (no Disney for that family, it seems) when
she was only four years old. Her mother died at 57 of cancer, but it is
Arquette's opinion that what really killed her was the inability to
express her art. It is unkind, but irresistible, to note that
Arquette's mother's tombstone bears a Star of David, which explains why
the entire documentary is one incredible guilt trip, that contrary to
Arquette's belief that her mother never expressed her art, she in fact
mastered the art of Jewish Motherhood. (Did she ghost write the book by
Dan Greenberg, I wonder?) Giving credit where it is due, she did her
job well; it seems they are all over-achievers.
Anyway, Arquette decides to probe the depths of this guilt over how she and her siblings' demands led to their mother's untimely demise, by interviewing every actress willing to talk to her. What is notable about this is finding out that if you take the scripts away from actresses they turn into inarticulate potty-mouths. What is even more surprising is seeing them having lunch in a fancy restaurant, screaming the f-word back and forth at each other, and the management never asks them to leave. Memo to all: don't go to lunch there, the patrons will make you vomit.
"Searching for Debra Winger" is a pet project of Rosanna Arquette which purports to examine the role of the maturing actress in today's film industry and the sacrifices which come with balancing career and family in the face of a diminishing number of roles. As documentaries go, this film is ill focused, wandering, and takes the form of informal conversational coffee-klatsches with occasional peeks into the personal life of Arquette. However, it does offer a look at a slew of familiar faces (out of makeup) and the ideas, opinions, and world-views rolling around behind many pairs of beautiful eyes. Recommended more for fans than for those seeking revelations about the clockworks of the film industry or those interested in what it's like to be an actress. (C+)
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