If you’re going to rehash an old argument, at least pick good examples

Hadley Freeman, writing in the Guardian today, tries out a variation on the classic “Isn’t Hollywood misogynistic for pairing older men with younger women?” routine, although she steers clear of the ‘mismatched love interest’ angle – at least for the first two-thirds of the piece. 

This time, she targets onscreen mothers who are in reality only a few years older than the actors playing their sons.  The classic example is Alexander; Angelina Jolie, playing the mother, is just one year older than Colin Farrell, her ‘son’, but others include The Graduate (OK, not his mother exactly) and North by Northwest (strangely overlooked in the article).

However, sadly Hadley sticks a pin in her argument when she cites Back to the Future (Lea Thompson/Michael J Fox) and Forrest Gump (Sally Field/Tom Hanks); two terrible examples.  In both films, the actresses are required to play younger women for a period, during which time their sons (if they have any) are played by children.

It has apparently not occurred to Hadley that if the film covers an extended period of time (say, 30+ years) you’ll need an actress who can convincingly play young as well as old.  Since it’s much easier to age an actor using makeup than it is to reverse the effect, a younger actress was always going to be the way to go.  

With her argument deflating like a faulty lifejacket, Hadley starts thrashing around in a sea of tired ideas, eventually returning to the familar love-interest angle: “Isn’t it a bit creepy how some actors date much younger women?  Jack Nicholson and Woody Allen, I’m looking at you.”  Apparently Jack Nicholson’s average age gap with his onscreen lovers is 16.7 years – although given that he is pushing 72, this is not so vast in percentage terms (like a 36 year old guy dating 28 year old girl).

The problem with this argument is that last year a number of films started to turn the tide, from blockbusters like Mamma Mia! (starring a 59-year-old Meryl Streep and her three younger lovers – Colin Firth is 11 years her junior) to heavyweight fare like The Reader, dealing with a relationship across a 15 year age gap, where Kate Winslet is the elder party.

Sadly, instead of hailing these brave, yet sensible, casting choices, Hadley ignores them in favour of slating films from previous decades.  She’s the master when it comes to fashion journalism, but I think her film-related commentary desperately needs a makeover.  Ba-boom tish!

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009 Film Club

2 Comments to If you’re going to rehash an old argument, at least pick good examples

  1. Now EVERYONE knows you watch Mama Mia.

  2. Angie on March 26th, 2009
  3. Now EVERYONE knows you read my blog.

  4. Iain on March 27th, 2009

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