Elusive search for footage of women ageing naturally
As any regular moviegoer could attest, it is a truth regretfully acknowledged that to glimpse an actress with a wrinkled forehead has become a rarer occurrence than a genuine sighting of a UFO.
So perhaps it was inevitable that photographs of the fortysomething stars (indeed fiftysomething, in the case of cast member Kim Cattrall) of the upcoming Sex And The City sequel would unsettle a public unaccustomed to a mature-age woman playing a character outside the confines of mother/grandmother.
Captured on location in New York, the shots reveal Sarah Jessica Parker and her on-screen cohorts in an array of characteristically fashion forward outfits (1980s flashbacks notwithstanding).
So far, so predictable. And yet with the film’s release almost a year away, mutterings have already begun that any high-budget feature relying on a middle-aged female cast must be doomed to fail. No matter that its predecessor netted more than $400 million when it opened last winter – if some of the online sniping is to be believed, the storyline should be set in a Manhattan nursing home.
This week a local gossip magazine reported on the apparent “ageing crisis” confronting Sex And The City 2’s producers. Not only are the allegedly anxious film-makers far from ready for their well-preserved stars having their close-ups, but are said to be concerned that at 44, Parker is too old to continue in her signature role.
Debate over mutton dressed as lamb is one thing – it seems to be a conversation we’re forced to have every time Madonna leaves the house – but to question the capacity of a fictional character to age is nothing short of absurd. As a figment of the screenwriters’ imagination, there’s no reason Carrie Bradshaw cannot physically mature at the same pace as the woman portraying her.
Why presume Bradshaw must remain forever young? It’s not as though they’re shooting a cinematic adaptation of Doogie Howser MD and have cast Warren Beatty in the title role.
Ironically there are legitimate reasons to fear the finished product when the SATC sequel eventually arrives in cinemas. Despite its box-office triumph, the first film fell well below the calibre of script writing that audiences had come to expect from the television series. In the transition to the big screen originality gave way to product placement; wit gave way to contrivance and insight gave way to hype.
And yet, for all its failings, the movie cemented a franchise that unashamedly celebrated female solidarity, and helped a generation of women feel a little bit better about themselves. Which is the very reason it’s so disappointing to see the well-heeled quartet’s next venture subjected to the kind of snide whispers that somehow elude their male peers.
I don’t recall reports of on-set meltdowns on the testosterone centric likes of Ocean’s Thirteen or The Departed. Where was the hysteria over Jack Nicholson’s deep-set lines? Did I miss the speculation as to how Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio felt pressured to cling to their boyish good looks?
It’s a double standard that benefits no-one. So long as it exists, actresses who wish to work beyond their teenage years will resign themselves to spending more time in the presence of Botox practitioners than they do learning their lines.
And the rest of us will be forced to browse the black and white classics in the DVD store when we want to remember what it looked like when a woman’s face actually moved on screen.
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