For the first time in a long, long time I walked out of the movie theater thinking: “Thank God this movie was not directed by a woman.”
Those who know me, or read what I’ve been writing, know I am all for women directors. Trying to rekindle my own career after years of stagnation proved to be harder than anything I’ve done in my life. I gave it all: all my time, all my attention, all my money, and ended up at the footsteps of the ACLU. So, saying I’m glad it wasn’t directed by a woman but a 78-year-old Dutch male is way out of my reality.
Here’s why: —
It is a movie about her (Elle). It’s a movie about a woman, but actually about many women. It’s a movie about not being a victim, it’s a movie about being strong and getting what you want.
Michele didn’t have a happy childhood, she didn’t have a happy marriage, she didn’t have a supportive mother, and yet, she runs a successful video game company.
She faces things that many woman face in the workplace, like talking down to even though she is the owner, or getting sexually aggressive animation with her face on it, that was sent to all her employees. She deals with it in a quiet, muted way without resorting to screaming or name calling.
And she has enough money to support others. She is calm, composed, and does what the fuck she wants.
The other women in the movie; her mother, her best friend/partner at work, and even the son’s fiancé and all strong women. The mother in her 70-80’s has a very young and handsome boyfriend that caters to her every will. Her son’s fiancé has him wrapped around her finger and she continues with her plans even though she gave birth to a baby that is clearly not his.
They are not necessarily what we would call good women, but they are strong, determined and achieve their goals.
The movie takes place over a few months around Christmas when seemingly everything Michele has built is falling apart. Her father is up for parole and it makes the news. Even after 40 years, she is still recognised as his daughter. Her mother wants to marry her boyfriend, who is clearly after her money. Her son needs money for rent, choosing a big apartment now that he has a baby on the way. As the movie progresses her mother dies (before getting married), her father dies (hangs himself) and she is violently raped by a masked man.
Enough to derail any woman, but not Elle.
And the men?
The father did something horrible, we find little by little, and he is serving life in prison.
Her ex-husband is a penniless novelist, dating a 20 some year-old woman who hasn’t read his books.
Her partner’s husband is there for a pleasure ride. He doesn’t do much but lunches and dines, drinks a lot of wine and chases other women, Michele included.
Her son is being taken advantage off and he refuses to see it. He is completely inept, makes stupid decisions and runs to her for more money.
And her neighbour? With a devout Catholic wife, he is a rapist and a stalker.
People were saying this is a post-feminist movie. I see it as a feminist movie that shows a slice of life where women are not victims, not afraid to do and say what they want (When her mother asks her what will you do if I told you I want to marry him? She answers “I’ll have to kill you”…) and can run things just as good or even better than men.
Had it been directed by a woman, I have the feeling it would not have seen the light of a projection booth. But because it was directed by a well-known male director, it got to be mentioned at the Oscars. If it was directed by a woman it would be called disgusting… exploitive, sexually promiscuous, and manipulative.
Thank you, Paul Verhoeven. Thank you for showing women as they sometimes are.