Monday, July 7, 2014

The Baby Jane of Our Times

I was watching Notes on a Scandal (2006) again the other day with a friend. We were both enjoying the performances, the highly quotable dialogue and of course the marvelous actresses. When it occurred to me, this movie is the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) of our times. It is destined to be a "hagxploitation" or "Grande Dame/Guignol" classic. Baby gays everywhere will discover it, fall in love with the "over the top" aspects and start quoting in their everyday lives. Oh how glorious.

If we look closely there are similarities between both movies. Both are about a complex lonely woman who is presented as a villain (Barbara in Notes played by Judi Dench and Jane in Baby Jane played by Bette Davis). However as we get to know this villain we find ourselves empathetic to her plight and understanding of how she got to where she did. Both movies' other woman (Sheba in Notes played by Cate Blanchett and Blanche in Baby Jane played by Joan Crawford) is presented as a victim of our villain but as we get to know her she shows herself as selfish and someone who is willing to let others suffer for her desires.

There is also the dodgy politics. Yes both movies present women front and center but they are about a predatory Lesbian and a delusional crazy has-been. A stereotype and a cliche. While a lot of good dramas are about anti-heroes, the tone of both these movies is not flattering to their protagonists. But they are still fun to watch.

Another major similarity comes in terms of Oscar. Both Davis as Jane and Dench as Barbara were nominated for Best Actress. They lost to Anne Bancroft in The Miracle Worker and Helen Mirren in The Queen respectively. But they should've won. Both performances are classics. And of course all 4 fantastic actresses are Oscar Winners with careers that will stand the test of time.

Let's relive some of the most delicious moments from both classics.

"You are not young. I say this to help you"

"But you are, Blanche. You are in that chair"

"I gave you EXACTLY what you wanted"

"I didn't bring you breakfast, because you didn't eat your din-din!"

You think this is a love affair? A relationship? What, sticky gold stars, and - and a strand of my hair? A sticker from Pizza Express? It's a flat in the Archway Road and you think you're Virginia frigging Woolf!"

"Oh really, did she like it." "Oh really did she like it"

" Do you want to fuck me, Barbara".

"Here come the local pubescent proles. The future plumbers, shop assistants, and doubtless the odd terrorist too. In the old days, we confiscated cigarettes and wank mags. Now it's knives and crack cocaine. And they call it progress".

"People like Sheba think they know what it is to be lonely. But of the drip, drip of the long-haul, no-end-in-sight solitude, they know nothing. What it's like to construct an entire weekend around a visit to the launderette. Or to be so chronically untouched that the accidental brush of a bus conductor's hand sends a jolt of longing straight to your groin. Of this, Sheba and her like have no clue"

"You could've been better than all of 'em. But they didn't want that. They just didn't love you enough. Do you know that? They just didn't love you enough"

I'll leave you with a couple of indelible images from both movies. Sheba's memorable "Here I am" outburst and Jane slapping Blanche. Of course there is a corresponding slap in Notes (Sheba slaps Barbara to start their big climactic confrontation) but couldn't find a picture of it.

What are some of your favorite quotes? Did I miss any? What other "hagxploitation" classics do you like?

1 comment:

Candice Frederick said...

Good point! I never thought of these films' similarities before. And I love them both. They also both deal with aging and female competition.