ONE never hears of Julia Gillard going to the movies, but I’ve made a list of what I imagine are her favourite films: My Fair Lady, Unbreakable, September, The Great Escape and the Annette Bening period piece Being Julia (‘‘Acclaimed, adored and still radiantly beautiful in the right light’’ — I quote from one of my guides —‘‘Julia is surrounded by fans and flatterers, but painfully aware . . . that her days are numbered’’). Two of this week’s films deal with one of her favourite subjects — sexism and misogyny — and she’d probably hate them both. Fatal Attraction (Friday, 8.30pm, M Thriller/Crime), a box-office smash and cultural phenomenon in its day, stars Michael Douglas as Dan Gallagher, a Manhattan lawyer whose extramarital fling with Alex (Glenn Close) turns into a nightmare when she becomes obsessed with their relationship and refuses to let go. Slick and manipulative, it’s a terrific thriller on its own terms, though feminists disliked the way Douglas’s character was portrayed as the innocent victim and Alex as a predatory monster.
Douglas has a similar problem in Disclosure (Saturday, 8.30pm, M Thriller/Crime). This time he’s Tom Sanders, business exec beaten for promotion by an old flame, Meredith Johnson (Demi Moore), who tries to seduce him in his office, and when her advances are spurned accuses him of sexual harassment. The script plays skilfully on what is assumed to be the latent sexism of male audiences, even though Sanders is clearly the wronged party. Co-produced by Michael Crichton and directed by Barry Levinson, this is a thoroughly absorbing drama, with some excellent performances and a score by Ennio Morricone.
There were similar concerns expressed about Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (Friday, 8.30pm, M Masterpiece) when it was released a few weeks before his death in 1999. Many critics felt that Tom Cruise’s character, New York doctor Bill Harwood, got far too much attention at the expense of Nicole Kidman, who played his wife Alice and gave much the better performance. This haunting film about sexual obsession was adapted by Frederic Raphael from Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella Traumnovelle.
The Help (Saturday, 8.30pm, Showcase) is about the lives of affluent Mississippi housewives and their black maids in the 1960s. It was the fag-end of the US segregation era and black domestic workers were still paid a pittance. The film’s narrator is Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis), whose duties as a maid included those of nanny and wet nurse. She has many stories to tell about hardship and injustice. When Minny (Octavia Spencer) is arrested for theft and bashed by a white racist cop, Minny agrees to tell her story to a young journalism graduate (Emma Stone), who wants to write a book about the maids’ experiences.
(M) ★★★ ✩ Saturday, 8.30pm, M Thriller/Crime
(MA15+) ★★★★ Friday, 8.30pm, M Masterpiece
(M) ★★★ ✩ Saturday, 8.30pm, Showcase
Viola Davis in