Feminist Bares Soul and Explores State of Sisterhood in Self-Flagellating Bio-Pic
Jennifer Fox repeats the melancholy refrain “I never wanted to be a girl,” throughout this soul-baring bio-pic, but she seems to be doing just fine as a female over the course of the three years that she made Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman. Fox, a 45 year-old filmmaker and teacher, devotes the bulk of this flick to indulging her own Woody Allenesque ruminations about relationships, while wondering whether she’ll ever procreate or marry.
Although suffering from low self-esteem in terms of her looks, and referring to herself as “ugly” and a “tomboy,” endlessly-introspective Jennifer is pleasant enough to watch onscreen, a big factor, given that she’s in virtually every scene of this six-hour gabfest. More importantly, she is intelligent, insightful, likable and brutally honest about the intimate details of her unconventional lifestyle, all of which combine to make her a very worthy and compelling subject for cinematic examination.
Early on, the NYC-based feminist informs us of her ongoing passionate affair with Kye, a 36 year-old, former freedom fighter from South Africa. Since they’re soulmates, she somehow doesn’t let it bother her that the guy happens to have a spouse and kids. And when she later also falls for 43 year-old Patrick, she lets her new Swiss lover know that she can’t commit to monogamy, but plans to enjoy them both.
Designed as a half-dozen hour-long episodes for release as a series on the Sundance Channel, each installment has been cleverly constructed to end on a bit of a cliffhanger. Will she dump her adulterous, absentee beau for patient, present Patrick? Will she opt to overcome her ambivalence about motherhood when she not only hears her biological clock ticking but finds herself unexpectedly pregnant? And who’s the daddy? Will Kye’s wife’s learning of her existence put the kibosh on their lusty liaisons? All intriguing questions, and with some very surprising answers.
Betwixt and between Jennifer’s juicy soap opera, the movie divides its time among interviews with her equally-frank girlfriends and tete-a-tetes with embattled women all over the world: in France, India, England, Somalia, Cambodia, England, Pakistan, Germany, Russia, Bosnia and elsewhere. For example, we learn that L’Dawn left New York for Wyoming after being reduced to living in a car with her two daughters. She had ended-up homeless after landing on the losing end of a seven-year battle over child support with a greedy creep of an ex-husband with a six-figure salary.
As awful as some of the predicaments of the American and European women we hear sound, they’re still like a walk in the park compared to those of their Third World sisters who we find dealing with the fallout from a host of woes ranging from rape to prostitution to female genital mutilation to honor killing to near-absolute subjugation. The movie’s general overall message, if there is one, is that women remain oppressed and at the mercy of the varyingly misogynistic cultures into which they are born.
Curiously, by the film’s end, it is globetrotting Fox who emerges as the most empathetic and elegant figure, in spite of her warts-and-all confessional style. This is ostensibly because she’s afforded herself every opportunity to go to great lengths to rationalize her iconoclastic inclination to be tempted by taboo.
A compelling cross of Annie Hall and Erica Jong.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 5 hours, 53 minutes
Distributor: Artistic License Films