Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Midlife Women Go To The Movies

It isn’t too often you find a movie produced by youth-worshipping Hollywood that is an intelligent portrayal about women in the middle of their lives. There are some to be sure, Something’s Gotta Give with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson comes to mind. Love Actually’s vignette with Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman struck a poignant chord of realism.

And who can forget Calendar Girls with the tremendous Helen Mirren? The story of a group of women in Yorkshire, England who pose nude, in all their middle aged glory, to raise money for their local hospital certainly helps break the ‘invisible at 50’ stereotype. It was the line from that movie “"the flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire… the last phase…is always the most glorious” that helped inspire the ‘blooming’ theme for WomenBloom.

I was very excited when Melissa Silverstein contacted me to let me know about a new movie about midlife relationships and love called A Previous Engagement. Melissa’s blog, Women and Hollywood, covers films about women as well as accomplishments of women directors, producers, etc.

The movie stars Juliet Stevenson. She is a terrific actress who starred in one of my favorite quirky movies of all time, Truly Madly Deeply. In A Previous Engagement, Ms. Stevenson is playing a woman who, decades earlier, had made a mutual promise with her then French lover to rendezvous in Malta years hence. With 25 years having passed, and with her husband and his girlfriend in tow, they keep their promise to each other. Having seen several of Juliet’s movies, I expect this to be a strong, intense performance.

Hmmm, I’m realizing that 3 of the 4 movies here are English. Maybe the English really buy into that ‘most glorious last phase’ business. And why not, makes perfect sense! I’m not sure Hollywood could say the same thing.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Hollywood as The Boomers settle squarely into their 50s. We have plenty of money to spend, and we are redefining so many things about what it means to be ‘middle aged’. You would think it would be inevitable that we would see these changes reflected in the movie theaters. But maybe not. Hollywood’s twin, the music industry, has fought digital music and new models of delivering it every step of the way.

Can Hollywood afford to ‘keep on keepin’ on’ the way they are, or will they incorporate the changing demographics into their line up? Only time will tell.


Melissa Silverstein said...


Thanks for writing about A Previous Engagement. As a person who writes about Hollywood on her blog Women & Hollywood ( and helps get the word out about films by and about women to people across the country, I am very aware of the lack of films starring women over 40.

The problem is that all women are disappearing from the film screens as Hollywood becomes more and more fixated on the opening weekend which is pretty much made up of young people both men and women.

Hollywood ignores the older person market (and by older I mean over 30) to its peril.

ByJane said...

There are so many incredible actresses who are midlife women. And they are always being quoted on the finding or not finding of parts. I bow to Melissa's finger on the pulse of Hollywood, but the situation just doesn't seem as dire to this moviegoer.

Allison said...

Thanks ladies for the comments.

I think Hollywood is going the route of the music industry. There is now so much access to indie films and documentaries, in part because they can be effectively marketed on the web, that I can't help but think we will be seeing changes.

Midlife women are finding their voice and redefining what it means to be 'middle-aged'. I think we will be seeing more from us, maybe not through Hollywood's route if they continue to be focused on blockbusting opening weekend kinds of movies.

But maybe through smaller, independent channels. Or English channels :)

Thanks again!

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