THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING: 3 ½ STARS. “fascinating and compelling lesson.”
The statistics are familiar but still astounding. Take for instance the Academy Awards. In the ninety-year history of the Oscars only five women have been nominated in the director category and only one, Kathryn Bigelow, has taken a statue home. 85% of 2018’s Top 100 films were written by men. Women represent only one fourth of lead characters on the big-screen. A new documentary, “This Changes Everything,” showcases the statistics that show the female bias in Hollywood’s old boy network, but the film works best when telling the stories direct from the mouths of the women whose careers have been directly affected.
Using archival footage and interviews with a-listers like Meryl Streep, Natalie Portman, Taraji P. Henson, Reese Witherspoon and Cate Blanchett, people who have been “otherized by men,” plus director Maria Giese, showrunner Shonda Rhimes and producer Lauren Shuler Donner, the film is a first-hand account of decades of discrimination.
Director Tom Donahue uses graphs and pie-charts to present the cold hard data but the movie’s beating heart is in its testimonials.
Tiffany Haddish recalls the sense of empowerment she felt watching a fight scene between “Dynasty’s” Alexis Carrington (Joan Collins) and Dominique Deveraux (Diahann Carroll). “This is the first time I saw a Black woman with money, wearing diamonds. She’s having conversations with white women like she’s not even Black. She slapped this white woman so hard and they wrestled. I was like, ‘What!’ She didn’t even go to jail.
Chloe Grace Moretz looks back at the making movies as a teenager. On one shoot her wardrobe included breast enhancement “chicken cutlets.” At just fourteen she realized that the industry saw her as an “actress” rather than an actor. It was a self-esteem destroying exercise in being regarded as an object of male gaze rather than performer.
Oscar winner Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, discusses her examination into gender inequality in Hollywood and the steps she has taken to generate the data that can affect industry-wide change. “I had been awakened to how women were portrayed in the media,” she says. “I realized we give them so few opportunities to feel inspired by the female characters.”
The presentation of the information is basic, talking heads, title cards and charts, but its retelling of the legal fights by the ACLU and DGA for equality coupled with the women’s personal stories make for a fascinating and compelling lesson.
“This Changes Everything’s” title is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the industry’s mantra that every successful female aimed project will lead to sweeping change. As the film makes perfectly clear that progress is being made, but there is still has a long way to go. “It is time for our business to wake up and realize it is good economics as well as the right thing to do,” says Witherspoon.