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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Reel Love Notes: An Open Love Letter to Actresses Over 40

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 2:46 PM

I didn't care much for athletes or rock stars as a kid. I didn't look up to politicians or comic book figures neither. No, my otherworldly, superpower, superhuman, superhero was Dame Judi Dench.

That's right. She of the 5-foot-one-inch frame, shock of glorious white hair and British accent who last year, at the age of 77, became an unlikely box office sensation as the romantic lead in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the no-nonsense M in Skyfall -- the highest grossing entry to date in the James Bond series.

However, when I came of age and discovered film in the late 90s and early to mid aughts, Dench was a constant figure in cinema and starred in some of my favorite movies, from Chocolat to Notes on a Scandal.

Quentin Tarantino agrees with me when I say that most film lovers were first enamored by the actors and actresses on screen well before we knew what directors, screenwriters, editors, producers and cinematographers did.

I heart Daniel Day-Lewis. Fact. But I can't ignore the work of Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, Glenn Close. Viola Davis, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Isabelle Huppert, Naomi Watts, Tilda Swinton, Joan Allen, Ellen Burstyn, Patricia Clarkson, Diane Keaton, Marcia Gay Harden, Frances McDormand, Annette Bening, Sigourney Weaver -- the list goes on and on. I probably heart them a little more than Mr. Day-Lewis.

What do they all have in common aside from enormous talent and depth: They're all 40+ years old.

These actresses are delivering the most interesting and complex work of their careers in film, stage and television and yet it's still common knowledge that for whatever reason there just aren't enough roles for women of a certain age.

That bit of information is more frustrating when one considers that actresses like Sandra Bullock, who at 49, is the most bankable she's ever been and currently at the top of the box office two weeks in a row with Gravity.

Fact. Movies headlined by muscleheads like Sylvester Stallone, Dwayne Johnson, and Mark Wahlberg, to name a few, have been stinking up the box office left and right all year long and yet they still earn bigger paychecks and more roles than say the women from Bridesmaids or The Help who turned those female-driven vehicles with modest budgets into highly profitable films.

In addition to Bullock, you have Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren and Melissa McCarthy constantly churning out hits. Betty White at 91 remains Hollywood's it-girl and let's not forget the reigning queen of all media, Oprah Winfrey. Julia Louis-Dreyfus at 52 is heating up the specialty box office as the romantic lead in Enough Said. Jessica Chastain, at 36, currently owns the market on tough, complicated female leads who can also turn a buck in movies like Zero Dark Thirty and Mama shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. And of course Cate Blanchett at 44 fearlessly spearheaded Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine into one of his most successful.

Once again, the list goes and on.

So what gives? Theater has always been a friend to the ladies and allows actresses like Cicely Tyson to deliver Tony-winning lead performances well into their twilight. However, it's television that seems to clearly lead the way. Look no further than American Horror Story: Coven which gainfully employs Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett and Frances Conroy.

Okay, I'm sure you get the bigger picture now. This is supposed to be a love letter and so here it goes.

I've noticed a certain glow and self-assurance in my mother at 48 and grandmother at 72, that goes beyond husbands, children and grandchildren. They are fully themselves and infinitely more interesting than most people. They're their own sitcom and we'd be lucky to watch their stories unfold on screen.

To Dame Judi and all those other actresses over 40 out there, just know that this dude will always cough up the dough and watch in delight. No jackass here.

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Jonathan Ramos


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