Midway through the 11th week of 2016, a growing movement to watch 52 female-directed films in a year has proven itself a strong instrument in highlighting the often under seen (and criminally under discussed) segment of the film world. A marginalized group in Hollywood, women have and continue to face countless challenges behind and in front of the camera, and it is Women in Film’s goal to begin a dialogue to promote real change.
Zoe Cassavetes’ latest film draws upon the experiences of a lifetime spent inside the unscrupulous “bubble” of Hollywood, taking shots at the rigid patriarchal system and the self-serving narcissists who enable the cyclical oppression to continue. A nomadic digression through the modern dystopia of Tinseltown, Day Out of Days exposes the fraudulence of fame as seen through the eyes of a woman cast aside for a hoard of youthful newcomers, eager to get in on the action.
Mia Roarke (Alexia Landeau) was a rising star who had everything she wanted — an actor fiancé, a stable career and the celebrity that comes with starring in big-budget features — until the dream faded. Like many actresses in their 40s, Mia’s options became far more scarce with age, and as her relevance diminished, so too did her confidence and sense of identity. Ten years after her idyllic rise to the top, Mia has lost her husband, her looks (according to Hollywood) and any chance at revamping her flailing career. Cassavetes’ camera follows intently as Roarke clings desperately to her sanity in a world built upon the exact opposite.
Working alongside her lead actress, Cassavetes’ ability to lend authenticity to such an ostentatious narrative becomes a compelling emotional link to Hollywood’s unreachable remoteness. From the point of view of an outsider, the story could easily drift into jargon-heavy executive meetings and vapid conversations between botoxed has-beens, but the writing duo manage to portray Roarke as a subtly human character. The initial shock of being considered for a role as the “kooky mother” (of an actress little more than 10 years her junior) melts into an ego-humbling exercise in “playing the game” to survive in a cutthroat business wallowing in superficiality. Mia has seemingly built her life out of nothing, and this papier-mâché reality begins to show its fragility as it caves into its hollow core.
The powerful men who inhabit the “fictionalized” world of Day Out of Days would be almost comical if their real-life counterparts were not so ubiquitously similar; a PA-turned-showrunner gloating about his new hit television series, an ex-husband basking in his out-of-nowhere fame and a cruel European director (whose definition of “sexual assault” and “casting call” intersect at a creepy middle) are larger-than-life personas brought down to earth via Cassavetes and Landeau’s devastating script. Succeeding not because of a preternatural talent or ability, these men have made it to the top through the exploitation of a system designed to hinder the upward mobility of women, using their gender as an undeniable steppingstone toward advancement. Day Out of Days‘ women are treated as disposable commodities — their shelf life lasts only as long as their youthful exuberance. Sucked in as impressionable girls, the Hollywood system prays on female looks only to spit them out as emotionally-crippled adults unable to understand where they went wrong and grasping at any means (cosmetic surgery, prescription drugs, sex) to claw their way back in.
Zoe Cassavetes drapes her film in the neon lit, concrete expanses of Los Angeles, pitting the vastness of urban sprawl against the crushing claustrophobia of life just outside of the spotlight. An unquestionably personal work, Day Out of Days exposes the inequity of Hollywood’s interior while highlighting just how important female voices are in telling the story of human existence.
Jordan Brooks (@viewtoaqueue) is an increasingly-snobby cinefile based out of London, England. As a contributor to several online publications, including his own blog, he has succeeded in fulfilling his life long dream of imposing strong opinions on others.