Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Women

I just finished watching the 2008 remake of The Women. It was a nice little movie. I'm glad I waited until it hit DVD, but I did enjoy it. With Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Deborah Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith and Cloris Leachman (among others), I had concerns. Usually when I see a cast that great, I worry. It seems that the more really good actors you put in a movie, the worse the movie can be. The original 1939 version was filled with the stars of the day, and it was a damn good movie, so I wanted to give this one a chance.

The original movie celebrated women at their bitchy, snarky worst (best?). When it comes to verbal cruelty and same sex backstabbing, women have developed that into an art form. It can be fun. I admit it. I know that there's an angry part inside of me that plain enjoys lashing out to show my wit or insight just way too much. That bitch doesn't get to play very often, but when she does, she uses laser precision and hurts like hell. Thus I keep that part of me very tightly reined in. The fun isn't worth the pain it causes. It's like people who don't cuss much. When they do, it has serious impact. That makes watching harmless, smart bitchery that doesn't really hurt anyone so much fun, and that's why I liked the 1939 version of The Women so much. Not to mention all those glamorous old movie clothes and stupid hats.

The newer version is a girlfriend movie with fun clothes and stupid sunglasses. It celebrates the closeness women share even when they have tremendous differences in personality, style and choices. It's also about women coming into their own, following their hearts and getting what they want from life. That's what got to me. I've become a freaking cliche. Does simply everyone know a middle aged woman who has to rediscover her life?

There's a good scene where Meg Ryan and Bette Midler are at a healing retreat. They individually snuck into the kitchen to raid the fridge and found it chained and padlocked. Bette Midler's character has snuck a joint into this place dedicated to emotional and physical health, detox and purity, and together they get stoned and dream of bacon cheeseburgers. As they talk, Midler asks Ryan, "Who are you Mary? What do you want?"

Meg Ryan of course goes on to have an epiphany and through a montage sequence works out what she wants. In the middle of this process, she goes to see her mother (played by Candice Bergen), and her mother asks what happened to her to make seem so strong and happy. She replies, "I hit bottom. I had nothing left to lose. I highly recommend it."

That's where the movie lost me. All I could think was here she is, living in a huge, beautiful Connecticut house, has a husband who's dying to reconcile, a daughter who would actually like to communicate but doesn't know how, her health, hired help to cook, clean and help with her daughter, beautiful, successful friends, a supportive mother, access to enough money to start her own fashion design business in New York, and talent. Yeah, she really hit bottom and lost everything.

Now, I know that everybody has a different level for what they consider bottom, but I started getting mildly pissed off in that it's-only-a-movie sort of way. Unappreciative, spoiled brat were the words coming to mind, no matter how charming her character was. Then my own self-pity kicked in. "Let's see how you do when you're really starting over from scratch," whispered that ugly, little voice in my brain, momentarily forgetting how much I still had even after losing husband, job, car and having a still mending major fall out with my daughter all within a few months.

Real life doesn't give you quick montage sequences where dreams, goals, plans and strategies just fall into place, but I was reminded of good advice I've been given from friends and have read in books I respect. Theresa and Paula have long recommended that I make collages. I haven't tried, because I'm just not a visually oriented person. I generally don't have enough magazines, postcards or books I wouldn't mind cutting up to put together a collage. (Not to mention, you can fake a loud cough while tearing a page out of a magazine in a doctor's office only so many times.) Shifting my thoughts to a less linear visual format just might be thing to help me refocus. In The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron recommends keeping a file folder of images that appeal to you as a tool to re-energize your creativity. It could be a thing you'd like own or just something that you like. I've read the book several times, worked through many of the exercises and gotten a lot from it. Maybe it's time to try this one as well. (Looks like I'll keep on coughing in the doctor's office.)

I don't care where good ideas come from. It can be something as lofty as prayer and meditation, as mundane as taking a shower or a walk, or watching a semi-cheesy chick flick. A good idea is a good idea, and this idea of using images has now come to me three times. Maybe it's time to put it in practice.


Blogger Theresa Williams said...

Absolutely! Movies are a great source of image-ideas. John Gardner said that a story should be a "vivid and continuous dream." I'm glad to see you thinking about these things!

January 21, 2009 11:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

Moat people I know who write are artistically gifted in other areas as well. I personally love photography and music... For someone else, it might be collage or some other visual art. Look at Gigi--she is an artist/painter AND she can write a beautiful essay. Creativity can be expressed in so many different ways.

Don't forget's definitely an art. I'm not sure if you need to do collages...but there are so many creative avenues that you probably aren't aware of how many you embrace every day.

January 22, 2009 6:18 PM  
Blogger Indigo said...

Imagery is the strongest voice out there. When I first went through AA I couldn't accept the aspect of God as the higher instead I saw myself, sober, healthier, happier in my mind. That became my focus, that image of a sober me.

I would of felt the same thing about Meg Ryan's character, lady you don't know what bottom is. As you said, I think we all have our own version of what bottom is. (Hugs)Indigo

January 23, 2009 9:58 AM  
Blogger gigi said...

Hey ~ I want some of that montage and epiphany-inducing ganja!

On second thought, maybe not; I haven't hit Meg's loving friends and family, luxury and talent-filled rock bottom yet. But I do aspire to it.

I suspect you're a much more visually oriented person than you think you are; you're just not accustomed to thinking of yourself as such. But if you are capable of experiencing things visually then you're capable of creating them as well. The collage thing is wonderful because it enables you to use all the materials at your disposal ~ not just magazine images, but anything visually appealing or emotionally meaningful to you: ticket stubs, stamps, shoppings lists, ribbons, buttons, personal photos (now so easily replicated and transformed.) I was reading of one novelist who creates assemblages to help her develop character and plot lines in her books, which I found startling. And very cool. Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words. ;)

If you're looking for ideas, my sidebar has a number of links to sites dedicated to various types of mixed-media journaling. Some of this work is stunning in it's creativity, and a great source of inspiration.

January 26, 2009 6:06 PM  

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