Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Women Wear Pants Too: Jodie Foster

From time to time, I'll highlight a lady that gets to do more in Hollywood than just play the wife/girlfriend/romantic interest.


I know she's a pretty obvious choice, but that doesn't mean she's not worth highlighting. All the writing I've done about The Silence of the Lambs recently got me thinking: When was the last time Foster played a character that was just a romantic interest?

We're talking about a woman who broke into mainstream by playing a child prostitute in Taxi Driver. Her character's only slightly forgettable because she shares the film with one of cinema's greatest creations, Travis Bickle. But when they have scenes together, she completely holds her own with DeNiro. And she was only THIRTEEN when this was filmed. (Funny enough, Taxi Driver and the original Freaky Friday, in which Foster plays the daughter, were released in the same year.)

Admittedly I haven't seen any of her films that she made in the 11 years after this, and it's highly likely that she plays a character with little more to do than be a love interest. But in 1988, she won her first Oscar for The Accused in which she plays a rape victim enraged at the negligible punishment her attackers receive on account of her being a "questionable character."

The sad truth is, this mentality still exists today, though I'd like to think it's not at rampant. The film is still relative now, so I can only imagine the impact it created when it was released 20 years ago.

In 1991, she of course had The Silence of the Lambs. I don't think I need to say anything else about that.

Since that time, she hasn't made many films, but only once has she played a character that could be written off as "love interest," when she appeared in Maverick alongside Mel Gibson. He definitely takes the center stage in that film, but her character was still pretty fun.

But take a look at her other films. Nell. Contact. Panic Room. Flightplan. Inside Man. The Brave One.

While not all of these films are good, they all give her the chance to play tough, out of the ordinary characters. Of particular note is her character in Inside Man, which could just have easily been a man. The fact that it's not automatically makes the part unique, but Foster takes the character to a level even above that.

It should also be noted that Foster has directed two films in this period, one that she appeared in (Little Man Tate) and one that she did not (Home for the Holidays).

The latter film is arguably the most generic in terms of female characters associated with Foster during the past decade and a half. But she didn't appear in it; she directed it. Not to say that a film directed by a woman automatically gets a free pass (It definitely doesn't.), but there aren't enough female directors, let alone actresses that also direct.

Flora Plum, the film Foster has been trying to make for years, sounds more like the kind of material I'd expect her to direct. While the hopes of that ever getting made are slim, I hope she can find something else she's passionate about and bring it to the screen.

I'm sure there's another masterpiece left in her. I just don't know whether it will be a film she directs or a character she plays. Maybe both. Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dr Starling move over - I found Jodie Foster's next movie Oscar-winning role! Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor who wrote ""My Stroke of Insight"" and delivered a talk about it on that will knock your socks off! The video's been seen 5 million times and I understand why.

Taylor was a Harvard trained brain scientist who suffered a massive stroke. I don't think we'll ever hear a story like this - Taylor understands how the brain functions and she was able to observe her mind deteriorating. She writes about the euphoric nirvana and a sense of complete peace and well-being she discovered in her stroke! She talks about this in her incredible (don't miss it) talk on The book is great too - highly recommended. You'll learn how to 'step to the right of their left brain' to uncover a deep internal peace. Sign me up!