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Hollywood And The War On Women

By Prairie Miller

The Case of The Life Before Her Eyes

While war movies with whatever point of view, seem to be invading theaters at a steady rate, and at a parallel pace with the ever increasing heated debates about Iraq, there's been another kind of war film that's opened up on a perhaps more insidious second front at the plexes. Namely, Hollywood's war against women.

Whether originating from a widespread, lingering resentment against the female gender permeating this culture that just won't go away - or more specifically a kind of virtual retaliation in the male dominated film world against ex-wives and the funds they may be draining through substantial alimony settlements from the coffers of these directors and producers to play around with on the big screen - is really beside the point. The latest post-feminist thrust is that a woman's place is back in the kitchen, in the delivery room, in bed, or behind bars.

So in essence, the gains of the women's movement, which emphatically freed females on screen and otherwise back then from the mandate of defining themselves through men - whatever jerks, scoundrels or losers they might be - are now considered so yesterday. Instead, women are increasingly having their essential identity - or woeful lack of it - defined on screen by making, not careers, but babies. Witness incidentally in the real world the transsexual male in the news boasting his hairy baby bump, and the latest celeb consumer craze of acquiring babies from underdeveloped countries like collectors of exotic house pets.

And the orthodox family values cinematic trend in fake free spirit female clothing, whether natural or artificially induced, began last year with movies like Knocked Up and Juno, and now seems to be accelerating at full speed. There's Baby Mama, Then She Found Me, The Life Before Her Eyes, The Other Boleyn Girl, And Then Came Love, Vivere, and to a lesser extent, Turn The River.

And for those not willing to buy into mandatory motherhood, there are still a few roles left for women here and there, as dragons ladies, sluts and psychos. Not to mention demented chicks with menace on their minds who pack recycled semen along with guns, in a bid to frame men by faking rape of themselves (Red Road) or others (88 Minutes). If anyone has ever heard of this sort of crime in real life, please raise your hand.

So move over, Baby Boomers, to make room for the baby makers. And for those unwilling to toe the maternity line, there's apparently a new kind of female road movie out there, called the guilt trip. Last year the ambivalent teen protagonists with child of Juno and Lost In Beijing fled abortion clinics like they had wandered by mistake on to the sets of horror movies in progress. But now director Vadim Perelman (House of sand And Fog) has something far more punitive in mind for his abortion bound, party girl high schooler Diana (Evan Rachel Wood), pregnant by an older sexual predator, in The Life Before Her Eyes.

In the film, Diana is fated to become victim of a copycat Columbine massacre at her school. But she's also made to suffer a bizarre and excruciating kind of collateral damage to her physical wounds, by enduring unrelieved pangs of remorse for her abortion, while writhing in pain. Diana's ordeal is capped off by visions of disapproving nuns and the not unrelated image of an endless field filled with crosses reported to contain the multiple graves of aborted fetuses.

And ironically, such a warped cautionary tale pops up in a society where the rampant hyper-sexualization of female minors on screen is not only condoned and encouraged, but is big business (most recently The Babysitters and Water Lilies). I guess you could label The Life Before her Eyes a product of the school of moviemaking advocating catching more flies with vinegar than honey. Ouch.

What Uma Thurman is doing as the older Diana in this anti-abortion movement propaganda screed masquerading as a teen angst drama, is anybody's guess. All that's missing are the pamphlet tables in the theater lobbies.

The Life Before Her Eyes
Magnolia Pictures
Rated R
0 stars

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