As some of you know, there is a very large movement afoot to make the stories that come out of Hollywoodland more interesting. And by more interesting, I mean less reductive of a woman’s existence. Women in films (and most TV) often end up playing “the wife/the mother/the girlfriend” etc… roles limited to extensions of a man’s existence. Either that, or they are roles described as being “empowering” but really only parts where women are yelling a lot, complaining a lot, naked in an embarrassing way, or doing bad things without consequence.
Here’s a terrific example: real casting descriptions of women’s roles, as read for the first time by women. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQNLs94_grk
Now a new film by Terrance Malik is coming out, called “Knight of Cups” and although the trailer is stunning and I’m sure the movie has much to offer, the description of it is just begging for an SNL spoof. I found it in a recent blog on IndieWire that called it “a reminder of all that is wrong in Hollywood.”
“‘Knight of Cups; follows writer Rick (Christian Bale, The Fighter, ‘American Hustle’) on an odyssey through the playgrounds of Los Angeles and Las Vegas as he undertakes a search for love and self. Even as he moves through a desire-laden landscape of mansions, resorts, beaches and clubs, Rick grapples over complicated relationships with his brother (Wes Bentley) and father (Brian Dennehy). His quest to break the spell of his disenchantment takes him on a series of adventures with six alluring women: rebellious Della (Imogen Poots); his physician ex-wife, Nancy (Cate Blanchett); a serene model Helen (Freida Pinto); a woman he wronged in the past Elizabeth (Natalie Portman); a spirited, playful stripper Karen (Teresa Palmer); and an innocent Isabel (Isabel Lucas), who helps him see a way forward.”
Kind of the same old thing, right? I thought it would be fun to take the exact same writing and do a female version, by changing nothing but the pronoun “he” to “she” and the men’s roles to women’s roles. I did not change the descriptions or the grammar. Check it out:
“‘Queen of Cups; follows writer Sarah (Natalie Portman, V for Vendetta, Black Swan, ‘Leon the Professional’) on an odyssey through the playgrounds of Los Angeles and Las Vegas as she undertakes a search for love and self. Even as she moves through a desire-laden landscape of mansions, resorts, beaches and clubs, Sarah grapples over complicated relationships with her sister (Mila Kunis) and her mother (Deborah Messing). Her quest to break the spell of her disenchantment takes her on a series of adventures with six alluring men: rebellious Bill (Liam Hemsworth); her physician ex-husband, Charles (James Franco), a serene model Harry (Robert Pattinson), a man she wronged in the past Anthony (Shia LaBeouf), a spirited, playful stripper Carl (Taylor Lautner), and an innocent Jonathan (Michael Sera), who helps her see a way forward.”
What do you think? Would you go see a film about this woman? I think I would. In fact, I would LOVE to see it. It could be even more interesting with a gay woman or a trans woman in the lead, but even a story about a hetero woman and her quest to be awakened by love would be a big step in a more interesting direction. I am aware that not every film must be a political statement, but we’ve been seeing this story in the film by Malik over and over again, just with a different director. “Successful ‘man versus himself’ tale finds our hero in a big city, detached from caring via over-indulgence. The women he meets are a continued distraction, except for one who acts as his road to reattachment of his Self through love.”
Let’s flip that script, yeah?