Well, there was Cate Blanchett, who was terrific as a Bob Dylan avatar in I’m Not There. Except why bother, given that Dylan himself was even more terrific when he delivered the same lines via documentary footage in Martin Scorcese’s riveting 2005 No Direction Home. Charlotte Gainsbourgh, as a Dylan’s wife avatar in I’m Not There seemed to me to channel the ’60s hippie chick look and gestures just perfectly (you’d probably laugh to see photos of me — yes, even moi from that era). I wondered how someone so young could get it so spot-on before I remembered, duh, that Gainsbourgh’s mother was ’60s it-girl Jane Birkin (I tried to bring something of that look of vulnerability crossed with adventurousness into my SM heroine Carrie’s voice).
Helena Bonham Carter broke my heart in Sweeney Todd, even if she and Johnny Depp did look a little too much like beautiful Goth twins in their dead-white facepaint. Amy Ryan was scary-good as the neglectful mom in Gone, Baby Gone. And while Tommy Lee Jones was just fine in No Country for Old Men, Kelly McDonald was the true moral center of that dark, dark movie. (And I sure didn’t know — did you? — at least until until I checked her out on the International Movie Data Base, that she’s the same Scottish acress who was so memorable as Mary Macreachan, Maggie Smith’s beleaguered chambermaid in Gosford Park. Acting! as they used to call it on that Saturday Night Live skit.)
We’re saving glorious Amy Adams in Enchanted for an emotional rainy day, I think.
And while I’ve heard that Julie Christie is wonderful as a woman with Alzheimer’s in Away From Her — well, as my mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s advances, it seems that Michael and I have wordlessly passed on that one.
As we passed on all those movies about girls who get pregnant, don’t have abortions, but do manage, as Susie Bright said in a typically bracing blog post, to have one or more of these things happen to them:
Best Sex of your Entire Life with your Gynecologist (Waitress)
Billionaire mentor leaves you all his money on his deathbed (Waitress)
Your first high school lover ends up being the most perfect love you will ever know (Juno)
You really ARE a virgin… the sperm only seeped through your jeans (Quinceanera)
Parents who rejected you take you back into their loving arms at the last moment because they realized they were all wrong (Quinceanera)
Closed adoption, another last minute decision, works out for the best for everybody (Juno)
Raising a child-like boyfriend is a darling substitute for an infant (Juno, Knocked Up)
Your professional entertainment career finally takes off (Knocked Up)
International soccer star and his loving relatives become your surrogate family (Bella)
Guys quit their jobs and give up their best buddy’s approval just to be with you (Knocked Up, Bella)
You see the light and cancel your abortion seconds before the procedure begins (Sex and the City, Juno)
Keeping the baby gets you your boyfriend back and makes you realize you really do want to get married to him, after rejecting him for years (Sex and the City)
Abortion is fine for someone else, but not for someone heroic and plucky like YOU! (ALL)
But read the whole post here. It’s smart, serious, complex writing, about a situation that I’ve thought about too, with some disquiet — which is that it’s almost impossible to mention the word ‘abortion’ out loud in a piece of entertainment fiction (or, in my neck of the woods, to give a romance heroine the power to terminate a pregnancy).
Vis-a-vis movies, Susie talks about this conundrum with the brilliant culture critic Laura Miller (who once upon a time edited a few of my essays on Salon.com, and by whose fine hand I would pay to be edited, rather than vice versa). As Laura points out, it’s hard to end a pregnancy in a narrative that wants to move forward by means of generating a positive story. ‘Generating’ is my paraphrase (apt enough, I think). But as I’ve already said, do read the whole post, including Laura’s comments — and as always, Katha Pollitt’s take on life on and off-screen is well worth reading.
Sometimes I really love the web, for make it so easy to share what’s important to me — just a link, just a click… Even if I don’t have the time or the smarts to go to these movies and try to think my way through these important issues about women and the stories that are closest to us, I’m glad of what opportunity I have to keep the discussion bouncing. Because, as I said, I’ve wrestled with the sex-babies-and-narrative problem myself, and not completely successfully. At least in my next novel there will be no baby, ‘miracle’ or otherwise.
But meanwhile, if the issue of narrative and pregnancy in the movies continues to haunt you, rent the DVD of the thought-provoking 2005 Happy Endings, with Lisa Kudrow and Maggie Gyllenhaal (if you need any more reason to see it). You can check out the trailer here. And Michael and I are very much looking forward to the Rumanian movie, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and Two Days.
And if in general, you’re as likely to lose it at the movies as I am, you should know about the International Movie Data Base, source of hours and days of glazed-eyed websurfing madness (and trailers! and finding out every TV movies a bright new actor was ever in). And Metacritic.com, an awesome portal of info from a wide range of movie critics, about what’s playing now and what’s on DVD.
And/or — just to bring it all back home, please do click on this link to my friend Jeff Weinstein’s wonderful blog post today about the war, the movies, and Joan Blondell.