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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 »
Arquette's Personal Quest Turns Into a Meandering, Self-Indulgent Look at Hollywood Sexism
In 1996's "The First Wives Club", Goldie Hawn, as an aging actress, has a piercingly perceptive line courtesy of screenwriter Robert Harling, "In Hollywood, women only have three ages: babe, district attorney, and 'Driving Miss Daisy'". Actress Rosanna Arquette has decided to explore this unfortunately true perspective in her 2002 documentary where she speaks with thirty-five renowned actresses of varying ages. Even though it's doubtful any of them are facing economic hardship, their dilemmas would still make a worthy subject for a film, but she makes it such an overly personalized odyssey over her own tenuous success as a 43-year old actress and mother that she is unable to provide anything significantly insightful on the topic.
Instead, we are left with a film with some revealing moments but more commonly, a haphazard structure of interview snippets that seem to make the same set of points over and over again - the incessant struggle to find good roles for women past forty, the precarious balance between managing a career and raising a family, and the myopia of profit-minded studio executives interested in what teenage males want to see (at least according to film critic Roger Ebert, the only male interviewed). The problem is that Arquette, as a documentarian, cannot provide much-needed objectivity to her subject, as she repeatedly interjects with her personal experiences when she is not fawning over her subjects. Her lack of discipline extends into her editing as there is no sense of organization to her narrative other than how she came upon the actresses, whether proactively seeking them out individually, organizing lunches (like what Jon Favreau does with his TV series, "Dinner for Five") or happening upon them at Cannes (like surprising a thankfully good-humored Frances McDormand in the ladies room). Truth be told, some come off quite badly as they express unformed thoughts with mind-numbing analogies. Meg Ryan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Emmanuelle Béart come to mind.
Some like Robin Wright Penn and Charlotte Rampling reveal so little about themselves that their inclusion provides questionable value, and a self-consciously glamorous Sharon Stone comes across as rather disingenuous when she talks about her abandonment of vanity. But others provide nuggets of wisdom like Holly Hunter, Diane Lane, Salma Hayek, Martha Plimpton (who has forsaken movies for the stage) and a predictably funny Whoopi Goldberg. Leave it to veterans Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda to offer the film's most honest, insightful comments, the latter especially revealing in how former husband Ted Turner encouraged her retirement and then sharing how she feels when she nails a pivotal scene in a movie. Fortunately, Debra Winger, whose self-imposed (and ultimately short-lived) retirement inspired the film's eponymous title, shows herself to be the trenchantly sardonic, perceptive non-conformist she obviously is. The film really contains very little when it comes to revelations about the inherent sexism of the film industry, and Arquette's personal catharsis frankly does not resonate enough to make the film worthwhile. Other than some trailers, the DVD has no extras.
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