March 3, 2011

"i wish someone would tell me about me."

one of my favorite movies, All About Eve, was on tv last night, so i had to stay up and watch it. soooo good. one of Bette Davis's best roles, i think. it's so perfect for her, especially at that point in her career. and it's so well-written, the dialogue just grabs you by the throat and won't let go. it's kind of considered hokey or whatever now i guess, but there aren't many (if any) movies nowadays that have such sharp, self-aware dialogue, and executed so perfectly.

for those unfamiliar, the movie centers around famous but aging Broadway actress Margo Channing, whose fairly perfect life is infiltrated by a seemingly wide-eyed, star-struck ingenue, Eve, who is her biggest fan and quickly endears herself to Margo and everyone around her with her apparent unparalleled devotion and becomes Margo's assistant. But over time Margo begins feeling insecure next to the younger, pretty aspiring actress whom everyone is constantly praising, and it even begins to drive a wedge between her, her friends and her much younger boyfriend. Slowly though, everyone begins to realize that Eve isn't as innocent as everyone perceives her to be, and that she's willing to do literally anything to reach her goal of being the new Margo Channing.

this movie kind of amazes me because it's kind of sensitive and forward-thinking in dealing with these raw, female emotions in relation to gender roles and expectations. it's still a totally 50's handling of these subjects, of course...."Funny business, a woman's career - the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster. You forget you'll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That's one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman. Sooner or later, we've got to work at it, no matter how many other careers we've had or wanted. And in the last analysis, nothing's any good unless you can look up just before dinner or turn around in bed, and there he is. Without that, you're not a woman. You're something with a French provincial office or a book full of clippings, but you're not a woman. Slow curtain, the end." i admire the admittance of how tough balancing gender expectations and having a successful career, even if it does still concede to the "unbreakable" tropes of society...but, i guess, that's still pretty radical stuff for 1950.

probably my most favorite scene of all is of course the party scene, which is Margo's boyfriend's coming home party, and a major turning point where earlier in the day she's beginning to get fed up with Eve, and that night finds her boyfriend unexpectedly home already and chatting with Eve before seeing her, which sets up the ultimate argument scene, haha.

another thing that i suddenly noticed was that there are a lot of parallels between All About Eve and Black Swan, i guess because they deal with sort of the same subjects, but go in completely different directions with it. pretty cool.


ross said...

great post!! one thing i really like about the stuff you post here, aside from the artwork of course, is that you always seem to write about things that you like and you have a lot to say about them. i could stand to learn from you!

i soured a bit on Black Swan, myself, after a friend brought up how the movie kind of uses sex and gender in stereotypical ways, and then has to have a girl-on-girl scene to keep things "hot," and that it brings up the pressures women face in society to be "perfect" (which was one of the things i liked about it) but doesn't do anything with it. i guess i can see that but i still think it's a really good movie, and i can't think of many others that even sort of highlight the extreme anxiety some women go into because of societal pressures and rigid, constricting concepts of femininity.

i'm curious about your thoughts, i can't remember if we really talked about the movie.

Kaylie said...

aww, thanks! glad you like my blog. :)

i can see why someone wouldn't like Black Swan for those reasons, but just from my point of view, i had to think about it for a long time because when i first saw it, it hit me at a place so close to home i felt like i'd had the wind knocked out of me, heh. i think the typical treatment of sex and gender roles is kind of the entire point of the movie. just from my point of view, the movie seemed to be about how fucked-up current and accepted gender roles are, and especially focuses on the effect it has on women, struggling for perfection in the eyes of a white, male patriarchy that is ever-lusting after the newest "it" girl, and the impossibility of grabbing and holding the patriarchy's attention.

the part i found most compelling was how this struggle for the male approval turns women against each other, even mothers against daughters, and i like how the movie addresses that, how the roots of classic female "jealousy" and rivalry with one another is based in this patriarchal idea of perfection.

but yeah, there are things about it i didn't like too; i really don't get the lesbian sex scene everyone's always talking about. i mean, i guess it could be seen as the main character letting her guard down and realizing that she actually wants to BE more like mila kunis's character or that there's aspects of her that she's attracted to, so therefore she has sex with her, but it didn't seem to really serve any purpose to me, other than keeping the audience not-bored, like you said, heh. and i also kind of hate the whole "sweet girl" "bad girl" thing that plays out through the rest of the movie. it just backs up the whole patriarchal virgin/slut ideas that are applied to women which seems counter-intuitive to what the movie's trying to say, but maybe it's also supposed to be a reinforcement of it, i don't know.

sorry i wrote so much. -_-;

ross said...

yeah, you make great points, i think you're spot-on with the patriarchal perfection stuff.

i thought the bad girl/good girl thing would end up ruining the movie for me, i hate that stuff too, and it's kind of a good/evil thing, too, like light = good/dark = bad, and purity = good/sexuality = bad, but i thought it ended up being way more complex. it was interesting to me because Mila Kunis, who was the overtly sexual one, actually never really did anything that sexual at all except in Natalie Portman's hallucination. Natalie's character totally subscribed to the virgin/slut dichotomy that everyone else does, so only in her mind was Mila this ravenous lesbian sex creature. Natalie put unfounded and false perceptions on everyone else just like they put them on her.

Mila felt like she was the only well-adjusted, likeable character in the movie despite being the "bad/dark" girl, while Natalie was trying for this illusion of perfection, the illusion of control over her own body and how she's perceived, that it drives her into extreme anxiety and neurosis even though she's supposed to be the "pure" one. like the false virginal perfection idea is what makes her so obsessive. so i liked that there were both aspects in both girls, even though Mila's character didn't really get fleshed out that much, but both girls had light/dark, subjectively/socially speaking, in them and neither side was necessarily bad or good, it's just who they are and who people are and that society has ascribed good/bad values to these otherwise neutral, natural things.

and yeah, i still think it was an attack on the patriarchal perfection idea, like how crazy it ends up making Natalie and how twisted up it made her mom.

Mila actually seems like the only female character who doesn't seem affected by the perfection stuff; she still gets dolled up to flirt with dudes and she's still in ballet which is a really patriarchal, twisted-up artform centered around control and which has been passed down through centuries and which nobody even questions why it's artful anymore, but she seems so much more natural about it. like her choices are coming from "within" rather than trying to please the men around her. on the other hand maybe that means she's just blind to it because it's so entrenched in everyone, i don't know.

Kaylie said...

yeah, you pretty much said it perfectly, what i was trying to say. :)