By Maria Giese | Women and Hollywood July 10, 2013 at 11:20AM
The best surprise of this summer is Susan Seidelman's new film The Hot Flashes, opening in selected theaters on July 12 and starring Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen, Wanda Sykes and Camryn Manheim. This film is a hilarious comedy with moments of truth that make it more than just a feel-good summer movie.
The Hot Flashes is the poignant story of a down-to-earth, small town Texas mom (Shields) who, after 30 years, re-unites her high school basketball team to challenge the current high school girls' team to raise money to save their town's bankrupt mobile mammogram bus. Of course, the "older" women want to prove that they still have what it takes, both on and off the court-- but the film is actually about a lot more than that.
Academy Award-nominated director, Susan Seidelman has been building a body of work (19 titles including 10 feature films) over the past 30 years that, as a whole, creates a portrait of "American women" throughout their many stages of life. And few directors understand women as Seidelman does; she has directed some of the most extraordinary women of our generation: Meryl Streep, Sally Field, Madonna, Rosanna Arquette, Judy Davis, Roseanne Barr, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marcia Gay Harden and Juliette Lewis, among others.
This joyful new film may be one of Seidelman's best and most crowd-pleasing yet. She spent 6 years working with screenwriter Brad Hennig to get The Hot Flashes to the big screen. She loved the script's concept immediately. "The best comedies, in my view, are those that carry an undercurrent of more serious issues," she says. "This one talks about that transitional period in women's lives when they often experience a kind of invisibility." To be able to talk and laugh about such things is transcendent-- it's what laughter is for.
The screenwriter, Brad Hennig, a former high school basketball player, beautifully drew the film's characters and captured the voices of these women so accurately because he knew them. The inspiration for the story was his mother's battle with breast cancer and the film is dedicated to her.
Daryl Hannah recently said on Entertainment Tonight that working on The Hot Flashes was her best acting experience since Steel Magnolias. One reason may be because of how comfortable Seidelman made the experience for the cast. As she describes it, "the cast got to know each other before we started filming because they all had to learn how to play basketball. We had a week-long intensive basketball camp and it was very challenging and humbling. These women had to really run and sweat. There was no faking it. They had to work together as a team, and in the process they bonded both on screen and off. Of course, it didn't hurt that we were shooting in New Orleans, which has some of the best bars in America," says Seidelman with a laugh.
Like the many great films of this genre, in which a group of underdogs band together for a greater cause, The Hot Flashes features an ensemble cast; every character has an arc, overcomes something personal, and realizes something important. That said, Brooke Shields' character is at the story's core; she's the character who spearheads the team effort and holds the group together.
Seidelman speaks of the whole cast with admiration: "It was inspiring to see these actors play their real age when women actors over 40 are often encouraged to deny or disguise the aging process." For a female audience member, this is truly one of the joys of watching the film. No one is trying to be anything they are not. It's fun watching these actors having fun and playing characters who embrace their age.
It's been everywhere in the news this summer that there are almost no films about or directed by women. Even as broadly appealing as The Hot Flashes is, it only received a fraction of the theatres and advertising money so essential to a film's success, and typically enjoyed by male-themed films of a similar budget. "I hope men will like the film, too, but we know who our target audience is." Seidelman has a lovely sense of humility, but she is clearly aware of her own importance to women and girls as a positive role model. As she gently puts it, "When people we respect are doing well, we benefit too."
As Seidelman says: "I'd love to prove to the Hollywood studio decision-makers that there really is an audience for this demographic (meaning adult women). I'm hoping The Hot Flashes will be a fun summer movie alternative to those big, over-blown special effects, 3D, action hero sequels, prequels and remakes that are coming out."
This July 12th, make a statement while having a fantastic "girls night out" at the movies, watching one of this summer's most enjoyable films. The Hot Flashes, opens in selected cities across America and will also be available on VOD. Just try to keep from jumping out of your seat and cheering along, while appreciating what great, powerful, American women are made of: grit, grace, passion--and sometimes with a pretty awesome slam dunk.
Info on where the film will be playing on July 12 here.
Maria Giese is an American feature film director, a member of the Directors Guild of America, and an activist for parity for women directors in Hollywood. She writes and lectures about the under-representation of women filmmakers in the United States.