There is, for all of us, a singular moment when we must come to terms with our age and therefore our mortality. It may be spotting that first gray hair — and yanking it out in furious alarm. It may be waking one morning (and then the next and the next) feeling as stiff as a plywood board. Or, it may be the time you turn on all the lights and realize the print is still too small. Yikes!
Few of life’s passages are so sobering, few so illuminating. Yet, if you live long enough, if you’re healthy enough, you appreciate arriving at this marker. You might even want to celebrate — and, yes, oh yes, it’s a milestone worth celebrating.
However, you wouldn’t know about this miracle and wonder if you were to measure it in the number of movie roles for older women. Much has been made of the pay disparity between male and female actors lately, but we shouldn’t forget that Hollywood is not exactly flush with roles for middle-aged women either. For years the industry has ignored the possibility that many of us might identify with a little sag and a few wrinkles. And to add insult to injury: Even when the leading man is “mature,” he is paired not with someone his own age, but a twentysomething beauty.
But hold on to your reading glasses. This season Hollywood may be ready to reflect reality. It’s not big, the change, and it may not even be permanent. Still. Still.
Check out the new James Bond movie, “Spectre.” Monica Bellucci is the oldest Bond love interest in the franchise’s history. She was 50 when she was hired, four years older than Daniel Craig. When director Sam Mendes called to tell her, she thought she was replacing Judi Dench, who was killed off in Skyfall. That tells you something about the state of affairs in Tinseltown.
“My first thought was, ‘How can I be a Bond girl at 50?’ ” Bellucci said. “I just blurted out, ‘I’m not a girl. I’m a woman, I’m a mature woman.’ ”
So she immediately changed the terminology when speaking to the media. She was not a Bond girl. She was a Bond woman.
Now granted, the Italian actress doesn’t look like any 50-year-old I know, but neither do the young women in my circle resemble Victoria’s Secret models. Hollywood is in the business of fantasy, after all, but Bellucci’s casting proves, as she so aptly explained (to the silent applause of many a woman): “True sexiness is in the mind, the imagination — not in the age of the body.”
If the new Bond movie were the only divergence from Hollywood’s obsession with the young and the perfect, I would be forced to admit Bellucci’s role as nothing more than a fluke. A pleasant one, to be sure, but a chance occurrence just the same.
Then, Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer was released earlier this month. My heart skipped a beat, and not for Harrison Ford’s Han Solo either. A very brief shot shows Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia looking like she should, like we all would after three decades. She has gray hair, she has wrinkles. How nice.
Oh, and one more thing. She now answers to General Leia.
I don’t mean to sound sanguine, but it’s difficult to contain high expectations. Can these movies represent society’s glimmer of acceptance, Hollywood’s recognition of the most important demographic trend of the coming decades — that is, the graying of the population?