Search This Blog

Monday, September 5, 2016

Thoughts on An Unmarried Woman

I watched An Unmarried Woman on Netflix, a classic movie from 1978 directed by Paul Mazursky, and starring Jill Clayburgh as a divorcee learning to navigate life as her own woman. I had seen the film before and liked it, but when I watched it again, I noticed a lot of sexism that was of its time, especially from a male director of a woman's story.

Clayburgh was great in playing a charming and likable upper-class Manhattan woman whose life has been upended by her husband's affair, and she plays the stages of grief over the end of her marriage in a magnificent way, like the emotions of shock, anger, disbelief, sadness, and frustration play out one after another. Though sometimes Clayburgh was acting like Diane Keaton, and I wanted her to be more individual and not adopting Keaton's voice or mannerisms of quirky and hip 70's feminist, especially from Annie Hall.

The sexism was outstanding. Clayburgh's character is sexually harassed at work, as this sleazy guy keeps asking about her sex life and telling her to see a variety of men, and she just laughs it off. There are gratuitous shots of her topless or in her underwear that wasn't necessary, and she gets a boyfriend at the end, undercutting the message that it is ok for her to be single and to be her own woman (even if she does refuse to go with him when he goes away for the summer to Vermont). A woman director would have focused on her more emotionally, more her thought process, and not featuring her in nude shots or sleeping with men consecutively.

I have seen good films about women directed by men (Waiting to Exhale, Mother and Child, Living Out Loud) that excelled at showing a woman's emotional journey, as a multifaceted person outside of love and sex. This film was definitely a product of its time, and while it was good in showing a changing landscape of love, sex, and relationships in the 1970s, and women becoming more feminist, more independent, and more sexually free, especially compared to romantic idealism in the 1960s, it still was stuck in showing a man's view of a divorcee, seen through the lens of her being sexually liberated as her method of feminism and independence. It is a good movie, just flawed by its outdated depictions of feminism, marriage, and sexuality.

No comments:

Post a Comment