Are Hollywood`s male bastions crumbling under the slow but relentless attack from the "chick brigade"?
Maybe. All at once women in Hollywood are more in the limelight. There has been a spate of woman oriented movies (think `Erin Brockovich`, `Joan of Arc`, `Girl, Interrupted`, `Hanging Up` and `The End of the Affair`) which have won critical acclaim, bagged Oscar nominations and been box office successes.
On the production front, famous female stars like Demi Moore, Jodie Foster and Julia Roberts have set up their own production houses and women are clinching high level positions in the big production houses like Columbia, Paramount and Fox 2000.
These `chick flicks` are not mindless action and special effects based movies. They all have a significant amount of human interest. Their box office success could be attributed to the increasing number of women frequenting movie halls and their relative disinterest in the traditional male dominated Hollywood action movie. This factor of bringing in the audience may be the reason for Julia Roberts receiving $20 million, a hitherto unimagined figure for a woman artiste. And, no! Hollywood has not, until now, been an equal opportunity employer.
`Erin Brokovich` is based on real life. The story of a woman who doesn`t give up. A single parent who transforms a dead end job in her lawyer`s firm into a $333 million settlement for a township which has given up on its future. This unconventional person becomes a crusader for a cause and proves that the new woman can win, even with no education, no formal education and indeed not even influence. Julia Roberts picked up a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal as the feisty fighter.
`Girl, Interrupted` is a story that brings out the dark side of growing up in America for people who don`t `conform`. Winona Ryder plays a teen with a personality disorder. She is sent to an asylum, a case of jumping from the frying pan to the fire one would say, when one sees the influence the other inmates have on her.
`Joan of Arc` is undoubtedly familiar territory. It does however project its star with a single mindedness previously reserved for its highest paid male stars.
`Hanging Up` is a film about three sisters who keep in touch at all times, and discuss their work, their lives, their families and especially their father who keeps threatening to die. The comfort, amusement and togetherness that they find in each other strikes a note of empathy with the viewers of this movie.
`The End of the Affair` is a story about marriage, adultery and loneliness played against the backdrop of war time. This Graham Greene story with Julianne Moore as its protagonist has a war raging in her heart too. She contrasts her loving but dull husband with her exciting lover. The movie tracks her progression from a passionate adulteress to a repentant wife. What makes it more polyphonous is the equal import accorded to the reactions of the people around her. The husband does not remain a cardboard cutout and the lover is also fleshed out adequately.
These movies interest viewers who look at movies as more than an escapist release. They deal with issues which have more relevance to people and more importantly make them in a manner that is commercially viable. They also deal primarily with women, the milieu in which they operate, the way they influence and are influenced by social structures and ultimately how they emerge stronger and surer than their male counterparts.
The King is dead, long live the Queen? Well not quite yet perhaps. But then it`s just a matter of time....