Barbarella 1968 Based on the comic series by Jean Claude Forest. Directed by Roger Vadim, starring his then wife at her juiciest. Space representative of the United Earth government Barbarella is sent to find scientist Durand Durand (David Hemmings) who has created a dangerous weapon called the positronic ray. Crashing on another planet she’s rescued from robot children with teeth by a “Catchman.” In gratitude, she offers sex, something done on earth with pills. Her Lochinvar likes it the old way. Surprise, she enjoys it!
Crashing again, she’s pulled out by blind angel, Pygar (John Phillip Law), who has lost the will to fly. Sex restores it. The two are captured by the Black Queen, shown the planet’s molten power source, tortured, rescued by the Underground, captured again. Barbarella is placed in – you’re going to love this – an excessive-pleasure machine, which induces fatal sexual overload. She outlasts it. There are chases, revelations, betrayals, and escapes.
Terry Southern, who wrote the fourteenth and last screenplay, said “Vadim was a lot of fun, with a discerning eye for the erotic, grotesque, and the absurd.” The director stated he saw his heroine as “just a lovely, average girl with a terrific space record and a lovely body.” Right. Mime Marcel Marceau had his first speaking role as Professor Ping. Free with Amazon Prime.
Julia 1977 Based on a chapter from the Lillian Hellman book Pentimento. Directed by Fred Zinnemann. Lillian and the very rich Julia are close friends as children and adolescents. Hellman becomes a struggling writer while her friend studies at Oxford and the University of Vienna. Involved in a violent altercation with Nazis (just prior to WWII), Julia disappears. Years pass.
Now a successful playwright, Lillian is invited to a conference in Moscow. Julia suddenly contacts and enlists her to carry money to anti-Nazi forces in Germany on her way east. The old friends are able to meet only briefly at a café in Berlin. After that, Lillian is watched over by operatives. She successfully completes the dangerous mission.
The women’s relationship is never fleshed out, narrative padded by Lillian’s life outside the incident. Both actresses are excellent. Hellman insisted the story was actual, while the director believed it to be fiction. Zinnemann said: “Lillian Hellman would portray herself in situations that were not true. An extremely talented, brilliant writer, but she was a phony character, I’m sorry to say. My relations with her were very guarded and ended in pure hatred.” Free with Netflix.
The China Syndrome 1979 Directed by James Bridges. A prescient thriller. During routine coverage, television newswoman Kimberly Wells (Jane Fonda) and her cameraman Richard Adams (Michael Douglas) are overlooking the control room of nuclear power plant Ventana when something goes amiss. Richard surreptitiously films the incident. Footage is shown to experts who determine the plant came close to meltdown.
Shift Supervisor Jack Godell (Jack Lemon) checks things out internally and discovers a leak. He wants to delay restart, but the superintendent insists. Further investigation reveals the plant falsified safety records. Jack threatens his superiors with exposure. Kimberly and Richard visit him at home, cars are followed, an innocent messenger run off the road. Realizing the danger, Jack locks himself in the control room demanding a live television interview. The reporter and cameraman go back. Management has no intention of giving in.
A tense thriller, much too close for comfort. The title describes a fictional result of a nuclear meltdown, where reactor components melt through their containment structures and into the underlying earth, “all the way to China.” The nuclear power industry claimed the film was “character assassination of an entire industry.” Twelve days later, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident occurred. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Nine to Five 1980 Directed by Colin Higgins. One of the first women’s lib/buddy movies. Innocent Judy Bernly whose husband just left her (Jane Fonda), Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin), an extremely smart widow belittled at work for 12 years, and Doralee Rhodes (Dolly Parton), who, as secretary to their egotistical, sexist boss Franklin Hart Jr. (Dabney Coleman) daily evades his demeaning advances, all work at Consolidated Companies. One afternoon, all three storm out of the office and across the street to a neighborhood bar. They meet, commiserate, bond, and talk of vengeance.
A mishap with rat poison enables the trio to kidnap Hart and hold him prisoner at his house (in glorious fashion) while the Mrs. is away on vacation. Making positive changes at the workplace in his absence, they discover he’s embezzled a fortune. Hart gets away and whitewashes his sins, but that’s not the end of it. A hoot. The idea came from Fonda whose old friend started an organization in Boston called “Nine To Five” which was an association of women office workers. Rent on Amazon Prime.
On Golden Pond 1981 Adapted from the play by Ernest Thompson. Directed by Mark Rydell. Elderly Ethel and Norman Thayer (Katharine Hepburn and Henry Fonda) have settled in to their traditional summer on “Golden Pond.” Norman is having memory problems and often talks about death, while Ethel endeavors to appreciate every day. Aware there’s little time left, their only child Chelsea (Jane Fonda) arrives for a visit with fiancé Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his son Billy (Doug McKeon). Despite her best efforts Norman remains critical and distanced.
Chelsea and Bill leave Billy with his grandparents while they vacation abroad. The boy begins resentful but develops a relationship with the old man. When his daughter returns, she observes the change in Norman and again tries to connect.
The play was purchased by Jane Fonda specifically for her father. This would be his last on screen role. As it mirrored their actual estranged father/daughter relationship, the shoot was often highly fraught. Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn had not only never worked together but had never met prior to filming. Hepburn gifted him Spencer Tracy’s “lucky hat” which he wore on camera throughout. Rent on Amazon Prime or Free with HBO Trial.
Old Gringo 1989 can be found in Stream Leading Men of a Certain Era at a Certain Age
Our Souls at Night 2017 Based on the novel by Kent Haruf. Directed by Ritesh Batra. This understated romantic drama features Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in their fourth on screen collaboration. Long time neighbors in the small town of Holt, Colorado, widower Louis Waters (Redford) and widow Addie Moore (Fonda) barely know one another. Out of the blue, Addie knocks on Louis’ door and suggests they spend the night together, platonically side by side in bed to alleviate loneliness. At first hesitant, Louis then agrees. Compatible evenings before bed, then afternoon outings ensue.
Newly divorced, Addie’s son Gene (Matthias Shoenaerts) drops off his son for the summer. She, Louis and Jamie become a family. Gene disapproves. Beginning with Addie’s minor fall, circumstances shift. Her son wants Addie to movie in with him. Mothers may sympathize with what follows. I did not. Free with Netflix.
Jane Fonda in Five Acts 2018 Documentary. Directed by Susan Lacy. A good look at the disparate lives of Jane Fonda. Born to Hollywood royalty, Jane weathered a cold, distant father, the suicide of her mother, and public scrutiny before becoming mature enough to cope. Until recently, the actress says, she never believed herself lovable. Fonda’s own commentary, weaving through abundant footage, seems fairly close to the bone.
Acts one through four are named for men she was trying to please: Henry (Fonda), (Roger) Vadim, Tom (Hayden) and Ted (Turner). The fifth act is Jane herself. She was a dutiful daughter, a libertarian sex kitten (fraternizing with the beautiful and louche of Europe), a controversial political activist (living in a tiny house, driving a station wagon to the Oscars, starting an exercise empire to support causes), and a high profile western wife until apparently suffocated by her last husband’s demands (and politics). Two out of her three children appear, the third is estranged. “Trying to be perfect is a toxic journey …Good enough is good enough.” Jane Fonda. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Grace and Frankie The 7 season series. When the husbands of cosmetics executive Grace Hanson (Jane Fonda) and hippie artist Frances “Frankie” Bergstein decide to formalize their longtime affair by getting divorced and married to each other, the ex-wives become unlikely friends and eventually housemates. Opposite characters are at constant amusing odds, but affection and respect grow over time. Successful divorce lawyers Robert Hanson (Martin Sheen) and Saul Bergstein (Sam Waterston) marry, move in together, and create a life in the gay community.
Grace’s grown daughters Mallory and Brianna Hanson (Brooklyn Decker and June Diane Raphael) and Saul’s adult sons Coyote and Nwabudike “Bud” Bergstein- a hippie mother, remember? (Ethan Embry and Baron Vaughn) participate/interfere in their parents’ lives. There are businesses, boyfriends/lovers, and adjustments on both sides. Wry and contemporary. Never panders. Free with Netflix.
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