Gravity was the number one movie in the country — actually, in the world — this weekend, and is breaking all kinds of records for non-holiday box office holding power.
Variety notes that thus far, the film has grossed more than $190 million — $68 million of which is from overseas box offices. This success is notable, but even more so because it's earned by a film with a woman in the lead role.
That said: Even though the movie is wildly successful, some of us didn't love it.
Dodai and Madeleine went to separate screenings of Gravity. Below, a discussion. There will be spoilers. You have been warned.
Madeleine: Was the moral of the movie "don't go into space"? Because I already knew that going into space was crazy before I went in.
Dodai: I think it was: If you're a doctor you can fly American, Russian or Chinese rockets.
Madeleine: Right, even if you're a doctor who's failed every spaceship simulation you were ever put in.
Dodai: Also that George Clooney always saves the day. Always.
But! It was the number one movie in the country for two weekends in a row!
Madeleine: And deservedly so. I think I said something like, "What a feat of modern cinema" when I was leaving the cinema. (Side note: don't get too impressed, but Hank Azaria was in my theater.)
Dodai: It's the "best-ever non-weekend" hold on the box office or whatever.
Madeleine: And it starred a lady no less!
Dodai: Yes! And she is a woman over 40. But even though it was a feat of Modern Cinema, I felt strangely disconnected from it. I joked that it didn't have enough teen romance or coke sniffing.
And I was only sort of joking.
Madeleine: Agreed — not about the teen romance/coke sniffing thing (though you're probably right), but about the disconnect. I got really tired of having my anxiety manipulated — especially for the sake of characters I didn't care all that much about.
There was a moment, probably around the 9th terrible thing that happened, when I actively decided to disinvest myself from worrying about anyone's well-being. The fact that I could do that so easily doesn't say a lot for the movie.
Dodai: Right, I mean, I "get" it — I get why it's supposed to be amazing and inspirational. When Clooney's character asks, "Do you have anyone down there looking up at you," her truth is: No. Her kid's dead, and she really could just give up. But she decides to go on. Triumph of the human spirit! But I didn't enjoy it. I didn't enjoy the movie.
Still, considering the fact that movies about women have an audience, as you wrote, and women have fewer speaking roles — female representation in movies is at its lowest in years — I am glad it exists, and is doing big box office numbers.
Madeleine: Yes, I don't begrudge it its success at all, especially after how hard Alfonso Cuarón had to fight to get a woman in that lead role.
What did you think of her friendship with Clooney's character? Specifically, I want to know what you thought about her hallucinated rescue, which you brought up before.
Dodai: I think it made sense that he was the catalyst — his character is very lively, has a certain joie de vivre — so it was logical that her hallucination spurred her on. He literally gave her life, passed on his will to live. That said, it feels pretty typical/traditional? For the man to be this inspirational figure? Although it made perfect sense. And she does save herself. The will to live was inside her all along, etc.
Madeleine: I had to come to terms with that, though. It didn't feel like she saved herself even though she definitely did.
I also had this very negative and surprising reaction to Clooney's joie de vivre and Bullock deciding that she wanted to stay alive. The whole time, I was like "Why are you trying so hard? Take off your helmet! It would be so easy!"
But that says way more about me than it does about the movie.
Dodai: Ha, no, I understand. I had some thoughts about how much the whole thing was costing. Space is expensive and shit was getting very fucked up. Cut your losses.
Here's a question for you: Do you think Gravity will have an impact on greenlighting movies with women? And didn't we have this same conversation last year with Zero Dark Thirty?
Madeleine: I like to think that it will, but Hollywood always fights progress, no matter how logical and lucrative it is. What's silly is that in most people's minds, a female centric movie still equals a chick flick, but both this and ZD30 are about as far away from a rom-coms as you can get. Also interesting to note that both had very close male/female relationships that stayed platonic. (Sandra and Clooney, Chastain and bin Laden)
Melissa Silverstein from Women And Hollywood writes for Forbes:
The film is already a success in my book. The film is transcending the type of commentary that surrounds films that star women. It is not a movie that can be dismissed as “girly” or as a “chick flick” as so many other movies that star women are no matter what their genre. What makes this film unique and special is that it is about a strong character who just happens to be a woman. About time.
And I agree. But. I am still sad that the "chick flick" genre has deteriorated into crappy movies starring women. There are some fantastic, classic romances. Like Moonstruck — that is a true rom com. It was great! Six Oscar noms! I LIKE romcoms. Roman Holiday is a gem. Don't talk crap about rom coms. It's not my fault Hollywood spent a few years churning out shitty ones.
It just sucks that "romcom" has become a dirty word.
Madeleine: Yeah, there's definitely an implication that the romcom is somehow a lesser genre and that's not entirely fair.
Dodai: It's not like I wanted Sandra Bullock to be in love. I just found it a little emotionally bereft.
Madeleine: I agree with you. I really did not care at all about the characters' backgrounds at all. The plot just seemed like an add-on — a frame through which we could witness some amazing visuals and special effects.
But I was glad that Clooney and Bullock didn't fall in love. It would have been a cheap move.
Dodai: No, of course. That would have been terrible. But even though I understand that it's an incredibly well-made movie and a spectacle, I still feel pretty… Meh.
Is that awul? AM I TEARING DOWN WOMEN?
Madeleine: Yes. Dodai Stewart hates women. Now everyone knows.
Dodai: Okay, so be it. All I'm saying is that, in some ways, I liked House Of Versace better. Sue me.
Madeleine: You'll be hearing from my attorney shortly.
In closing, can we take a moment of silence for Astronaut Shariff? He didn't even get to show his face before outer space blew it out of his head.
(Moment of silence over.)