Librarian’s Pick of the Week: I Know a Woman Like That

Library patrons are always asking me, “what have you read (or seen) lately that you loved?”  This is what I loved this week.

I Know a Woman Like That directed by Elaine Madsen 

Why: Elaine Madsen, mother of actress Virginia Madsen interviews a variety of influential women spanning the length of the country with daughter in tow.

In this wonderfully touching, honest and heartening documentary, Madsen spotlights a range of women from ages 60-90+ who are powerful, altruistic, driven, spunky, and kind, otherwise known as “women like that.” The interviews include former mayor of Evanston, IL, Lorraine Morton, Gloria Steinem, Eartha Kitt, author Maxine Hong Kingston, and other incredibly strong women of grit.  Madsen’s impressive interview skills warm the interviewee into genuine responses as she asks them where they are now.  What is life like at that current moment, resisting the urge to wax poetic about the subjects’ youth as so many films tend to idealize.  What is so fascinating about those being interviewed is their nearly universal responses about sex, confidence, and wisdom, thereby defying how those of “a certain age” behave behind closed doors, and what they think about their bodies.  All of the participants expressed a feeling of calm, or as Lauren Hutton explains, when you’re younger you have higher highs and lower lows, and it evens out as you age; you get smarter and more comfortable with who you are (paraphrasing).  All expressed, whether in their 70s or 90s, that they feel that they’ve finally gotten to know themselves and are just starting a new, exciting phase in their lives.  Given how the U.S. treats and views senior citizens, this reality defies common conception, bordering on revolutionary.

The Madsen duo have created a piece of art that seems could only have been accomplished by a closely bonded mother/daughter team, relating their personal and familial experiences to their subjects and the screen.  The phrase “youth is wasted on the young” springs to mind as the subjects in the documentary make a compelling case for the vivaciousness and security that often accompany later years, the best kept secret of women like that.

I Know a Woman Like That is currently available on Hoopla through most libraries and on DVD.

Watchalikes: Faces Places (Varda & JR)
Advanced Style (Cohen)
Out Late (Alda & Brooke)
The September Issue (Cutler)