In A.O. Scott's review of There Will Be Blood, he mentions, parenthetically, "Like most of the finest American directors working now, Mr. Anderson makes little on-screen time for women." I love P.T. Anderson. I love the Coen brothers. Most of the directors, in fact, that Tony's talking about are men I hold near and dear to my heart. But it's indisputable that they forget Abigail Adams's famous injunction: "...remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation."
It's possible only the beginning of the quote applies to this particular cinematic situation.
Still, it bothers me. Last night, Mr. Ben and I watched Waitress, which meant that I have now completed 2007's Fertility Trifecta (the other two being, of course, Knocked Up and Juno). The movie had some entertaining moments and some good lines. Mostly, though, it felt like it was trying too hard to yank on the Steel Magnolias chain, and it lacked the credibility: there's something odd about watching Felicity and Jeremy Sisto, the creepy brother from Six Feet Under, affect Southern accents. At the end, the quirky-sweetness falls away from the movie's tone and it becomes a kind of Herstory uptopia, a You Go Girl!, Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle pastel fantasy.
Despite the movie's flaws, it's one of the few 2007 films that pass the Ms. test. Juno and the the Savages also do, bless their indie little hearts, and I'm sure Persepolis will. But I'm sure it's not a coincidence that all of those films come from source material written by women -- and, in the case of the Savages, a female director too. Why are women fundamentally uninteresting to otherwise edgy, intelligent, creative, broad-minded men?
Whatever the reason for the blind spot, I do think it's funny that directors will make exceptions for their wives: Frances McDormand is a Mrs. Coen and has played their most memorably vivid and interesting female character; Helena Bonham Carter, Burton's girlfriend and baby momma, serves the same function. Expand, fellas! Does Patricia Clarkson need to hook up with someone to get a real role?