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Sunday, July 03, 2016

Women in Film

Bruce Wagner is known for his caustic novels about Hollywood. He's also written some screenplays, and directed Women in Film, a 2001 film that intertwines three monologues by women connected to the film business. There's Phyllis (Beverly D'Angelo), a producer who is trying to make a remake of a Pasolini film; Sara (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), a casting director with a blind baby; and Gina (Portia De Rossi), a masseuse who is a little lax with the law.

This is the kind of project you might expect to see in an off-Broadway theater, or better yet, a theater in Los Angeles. The monologue structure is natural for that medium, but does not work well on celluloid. The monologues are very erudite--De Rossi's character seems to have swallowed a thesaurus--and very wordy. The old maxim about a great movie being great even if it's silent doesn't work here.

Wagner tries to use images to make things more interesting, and at times the orange sunsets and blue swimming pools are lovely, but it can't overcome the stage-iness of the set-up. It also doesn't help that these women, except for Sara, aren't particularly interesting. She narrates her story to both her baby and to Holly Hunter, who is the child's godmother. That is just one of the many real-life stars whose names are dropped. A fun drinking game might be to take a swig every time a real person is mentioned. You'd get blotto just on the Jodie Foster references.

De Rossi and D'Angelo are more stereotypical, the kind who use their vaginas to get what they want. They are fluid in their sexuality, and there's a lot of flippant talk about lesbians, as if they were a plague on the industry. I have no doubt that Wagner has his ear to the ground and much of this is true--D'Angelo's struggles to get the movie of her dreams made is probably very authentic--but at long last I just didn't care.

The women never meet each other but are connected to each other by a "starfucker" pyschoanalyst. This analyst dumps the less famous of her clients on to her husband, who has an office in the guest house. That I can really believe.

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