Category Archives: Ms. Lonelyhearts

Simply put, these are films that ache in sympathy for the unlucky, lonely women in our midst—or that dramatically spell out what those women may think they already know: that men are untrustworthy, amoral beast-things who treat the female of the species like steak bones. Whichever way works for you.

Friends with Money (2006)

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s film Friends with Money analyzes a very particular dynamic—that of being a luckless and careerless lonely girl (Jennifer Aniston) in an L.A. circle of friends (Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand, and Joan Cusack) who are all married and rich. Seems preposterous, given the casting, but nobody in this country uses as sympathetic a microscope as Holofcener when examining the conundrums of modern women, and Aniston is convincing and sad. With Jason Isaacs.

Friends with Money
Friends with Money (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You Can Count on Me (2000)

A literate, mature indie about a single mom (Laura Linney) who’s stuck in her childhood home after the early death of her parents, saddled with an obnoxious boss and an evasive boyfriend, and raising a son who needs a man around the house. Trouble rolls into town in the form of her screwed-up brother (Mark Ruffalo). Sounds slight, but it adds up—to a portrait not just of a woman’s love life, but of her entire life, and all the emotional complexities it entails. Both stars are remarkable; Ruffalo found himself a career after You Can Count on Me, and Linney was nominated for an Oscar. With Matthew Broderick.

Erin Brockovich (2000)

A film designed to win its star an Oscar if there ever was one, Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich sets up Julia Roberts as a working-class single-mom heroine for the oppressed, legally battling corporate giant Pacific Gas and Electric on behalf of the scores of poor locals who have endured decades of tumors and other illnesses thanks to the illegal use and dumping of poisonous chemicals. Filthy with character details and robust righteousness, the film is also notable for its dismissal of love and even parenthood in favor of doing justice, fighting the good fight, and working your ass off at something you believe in.

Thelma & Louise (1991)

Single, alone, and discouraged? Rather than resume the soul-crushing hunt for a suitable, or even bearable, mate, consider entertaining the notion that’s at the wide-eyed core of this seminal, postfeminist war chant: the solution to your problem is to run. There aren’t many males of the breed worth one of your airborne toenails, and, since males run the world, your best bet is to stick it to the man, grab a gun, climb into a big, brightly painted vintage automobile, and make a break for the frontier. This remarkable movie actually makes this dead-end gambit seem worth the price: Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, both smashing in faded denim and desert-wind-swept hair, revel in all things masculine (cool cars, firearms, the West, teaching lowdown varmints a thing or two about how to talk to a lady), then simply take their own spectacular exit rather than submit to the laws of patriarchal privilege. As a rebel yell,

Thelma & Louise
Thelma & Louise (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thelma and Louise couldn’t be more extreme—or more fun. Anyway, you can’t be blamed for thinking you’d rather drive off a cliff than endure another round of speed dating. Introducing Brad Pitt.

Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974)

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ellen Burstyn snagged an Oscar for Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, an unpredictable, somewhat odd tale, in which the heroine—a single mother who works as a diner waitress and dreams of becoming a club singer—tries to keep the future looking bright in the Arizona flatlands for her smart-mouthed son (Alfred Lutter), even as patient hunk Kris Kristofferson waits out the brawls. Martin Scorsese directed, clearly without having ever met a midwesterner. With Harvey Keitel and Diane Ladd.

Rachel, Rachel (1968)

Rachel, Rachel
Rachel, Rachel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Perhaps the most sensitive portrait of feminine loneliness in the post-Eisenhower period, this Paul Newman–directed drama gets under the epidermis of a wilting-lily, thirtysomething schoolteacher (Joanne Woodward) who hopelessly embarks on an aimless affair as she otherwise faces her grim middle years alone. The profound sympathy brought to the heroine’s plight by all concerned keeps Rachel, Rachel very far from being depressing.

I’m No Angel (1933)

What better company, if you’re without a man and frustrated, than Mae West, a woman’s woman who’s built like a battleship, is in complete control of her sexual identity, and is ready to use up men like tissues, with no more than a smirk and tossed bon mot? In I’m No Angel, West remains an invigorating, optimistic object lesson in how to be comfortable in your own skin, how to love sex for sex’s sake, and why you need never rely on a man.

Screenshot of Mae West from the trailer for th...
Screenshot of Mae West from the trailer for the film I’m No Angel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)