The Velvet Café

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Female superheroes of a different kind

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How often do you see women on the movie screen who actually look like women look for real and not as something that has been twisted in a photoshop session? It can’t be often, judging my initial reaction to Melissa Leo‘s appearance in Frozen River.

Here she was, a middle aged woman with a swollen face, with lines and eyes that carried the burden of a life time, her hair in a mess, trying to pull herself together because she had to, if not for herself, for her children’s sake. Her whole appearance screamed to me: “white trash”.

The first thought that crossed my mind: “Why, I didn’t know the film industry even allowed actresses to look like that. This is pretty awesome!” The second: “she is so beautiful, in the way that only a real, grown-up woman can be”.

But then I dropped the nonsense issue about her looks altogether, letting myself getting pulled into this woman’s efforts to survive in this harsh world in a small town close to the border to Canada.

I wasn’t hard to convince. For sure the pieces of action are fairly modest compared to other movies. The closest you get to violence is a couple of guns being fired, but mostly with the aim to frighten and make a point. And yet there was a tension going on all the time. It didn’t lose my attention for a moment. I wanted to know how things would end for her and her partner in crime, Lily, also a struggling mother, who makes some extra money smuggling immigrants hidden in her car trunk across the border.

True superheroes
There’s a lot of talk about superheroes these days. But Black Widow and her fellow ladies don’t stand a chance against Melissa Leo’s character in terms of resilience and stamina and pure determination to fight for her own and her children’s survival.

The only one who can match her in terms of heroism is the creator of this movie, Courtney Hunt. It took her ten years to finally get the finances to make it possible to make the movie, and she didn’t get it from the industry, but from sponsors that she and her husband found on their own. It was still a low budget movie, a project no one believed in, but which eventually turned up with the the grand jury prize at the Sundance festival as well as two Oscar nominations.

That is no small achievement for a truly independent movie like this.

According to IMDb, Courtney Hunt has directed a few episodes of the TV series In Treatment after this movie came out, but I can’t see that she has another film project going on. I hope the data-base just isn’t up-to-date and that we won’t have to wait another ten years before she can make her next film. There’s so much promise in this film, so much talent that it would be a shame to waste it.

Frozen River (Courtney Hunt, US, 2008) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

May 4, 2012 at 1:00 am

Posted in Frozen River