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Sickbed Movie Review #2: Dreamlife Of Angels

My book suddenly turned epistolary halfway through and my interest has ground to a halt. Plus it’s starting to feel like it’s romanticizing depression and mental illness (oh and the Holocaust too), which irritates me. So I put it down and watched The Dreamlife of Angels. It was even better than I remember it being. And for awhile I was amazed that it was written by a man–it’s about a female friendship and it’s spot-on–but the more I think about it, I’m not so amazed. So many movies about women written by women turn into Beaches or Boys on the Side, but this one is nothing like that. And I think it may be because the writer has the advantage of not being a woman, of seeing women from the outside, in an environment that includes men and everything else. So many films by women assume a certain secret bond between women, which may or may not be real but which men have no access to regardless, and I think that outsider status in some ways helps a person to observe behavior better. Sometimes you’re too close to your own gender. Especially in film, which is a visual medium that necessarily stays on the surface of characters (unless you want some lame voiceover of a character’s throughts), someone with skill at looking from the outside rather than from within might create a better film character. Also, a man may be less concerned with creating “empowered representations of women”, which of course can lead to very problematic representations of women, but I think also might in some cases, such as this one, lead to more real characters. All too often in films about women you sense political agenda at work, and the characters aren’t allowed to just be characters. It can be oppressive. I’m trying to think of films written by women that don’t fall into this trap…the only one I can think of is the truly harrowing Hysterical Blindness. There must be more, but I’m drawing a blank.

This is not to say that all men write women better than women do, of course. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary all over Hollywood (and indie film too). Shitty stereotypes certainly still exist. But a good writer who is a man may have an edge. And likewise, women may have an edge in writing about men. I know that when I showed a male friend a rough draft of the novel I wrote, he said it was very hard to read because he saw himself in the male characters, and that the novel sees through all of the self-protective behaviors that he and most men engage in. Which could not have been a better compliment. But the female characters in the novel–a mess. I’m way too close to them, and it’s a shitty novel for that reason. I had to put it away (a year ago) and will get back to it eventually once I have more distance.

3 Responses to “Sickbed Movie Review #2: Dreamlife Of Angels”

  1. Mika Cooper
    May 28th, 2005 | 6:39 pm

    get well soon!

    yr fan,

  2. snjoseph
    May 28th, 2005 | 7:40 pm

    This is an insightful point. On the flip side and to confirm your thesis, men’s films “on men” are usually ridiculous, like Fight Club, a movie undergirded by an almost unbelievably dumb theory of what motivates the fellas. Men are, unlike women, not socialized or encouraged to think about their relationships with other men, so I’d bet men’s films “on men” are, in the mean, much much worse than women’s films “on women.”

  3. cynthia rockwell
    May 29th, 2005 | 11:27 am

    i guess you’re right, movies written by men about men suffer the same problems. fight club is a good example.