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Fifty-ish and Fabulous
Apr. 27, 2022
While Hollywood is not close to 100% evolved when it comes to female roles and casting choices, it’s slowly learning that appealing, interesting and bankable isn’t confined to the under-30s. A round of applause to the screen stars of today.
When it comes to discussing women in TV or film, we’d first like to set the mood by cueing up The Beatles ballad, “The Long and Winding Road.” Why? Because the journey has been just that, and it can feel like one step forward — Frances McDormand snagging the Best Actress Oscar in 2020 for "Nomadland" — and two steps back — Jennifer Lawrence playing a decade-older widow in "Silver Linings Playbook" at the age of 21 (not denying her talent, Oscar win, or performance, it’s just such a dull, well-trodden path at this stage).
What does perk us up are instances of casting directors broadening their view of what is “age appropriate” and studios creating projects that aren’t just a testosterone fest. That women-of-a-certain-age can be sexy, strong, funny, whip-smart, and that there are TV shows, indie films, and action movies with kick-ass female leads. So, let’s switch the soundtrack to Lizzo’s “Good as Hell,” or pretty much anything by Beyoncé, and keep reading.
Bond Girl, uh, Woman
We’ll start when everyone’s favorite womanizer actually took a turn towards evolved when he romanced Monica Bellucci in the 2015, "Spectre". While it’s never entirely clear how old James Bond is, we’re pretty sure this is the first time the female lead was older, with Daniel Craig being 47 at the time, and Bellucci, 51. During the press tour, Craig was often asked what it was like succumbing to the charms of an older woman, and his response was simple. “I think you mean the charms of a woman his own age,” he said. “We’re talking about Monica Bellucci for heaven’s sake. When someone like that wants to be a Bond [woman], you count yourself lucky.”
Hey Mom, You Look Hot
Back in the '70s, '80s and even '90s, most mom roles aligned with a mini-van, a look of constant fatigue, and outfits that still haunt us to this day (we’re guessing this is also when “mom jeans” were invented). Thirty years ago, quintessential mothers were like Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) in "Terms of Endearment" (1983), with a knitted cardigan knotted sensibly around their shoulders. Nowadays? TV moms are finally being portrayed as the complex and still-relevant individuals they are—think: Connie Britton in "Friday Night Lights," Sofia Vergara in "Modern Family," and Tracee Ellis Ross in "Black-ish."
After years of "Superman", "Spiderman", "Batman"....pretty much any man, we are all over the new ripple of female action heroes, and their age is erring on mature, from the 2021 action comedy, "Thunder Force", starring funny-woman Melissa McCarthy and usually-serious-woman Octavia Spencer, to Halle Berry in "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum". Like her co-star, the also-ageless Keanu Reeves, Berry did almost every stunt herself (needless to say, her training schedule was equally eye-watering). Another one to watch? 2021 "Gunpowder Milkshake", where a young assassin Sam (Karen Gillan), gets an education in kick-assery from mentors Scarlet (Lena Headey), Madeleine (Carla Gugino) and Florence (Michelle Yeoh). It’s an over-the-top, crazy blood bath, but these women are F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S. and if it doesn’t make you google martial arts classes, we don’t know what will.
Let’s Dim the Lights
The tally of movies where “female love interest is 15 years younger than male love interest” are too long to list but, fear not, our smart sisters are pressuring Hollywood to wake up to the facts we’ve known for years: You can still be a sexual being in your 50s; A man will still, gasp, fall in love with a woman over 45; Women in midlife, and beyond, can totally turn heads. In the recent rom-com, "Marry Me", Jennifer Lopez, plays a superstar who marries an everyman played by Owen Wilson. Not only are the two peers IRL (52 and 53 respectively) but in true triple-threat form, Lopez sings the theme song, wears a dreamy Zuhair Murad bridal gown in the opening scene (trivia tidbit: the dress weighed 95 pounds) and is also a producer. Other lovers? Sandra Bullock in the new "The Lost City" (2022), Viola Davis as Michelle Obama in "The First Lady" (out April 2022) and Toni Collette in "Nightmare Alley" (2022). Just a handful of women we’d watch in anything, even mom jeans.
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