Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Book Review: Girls on Film: Lessons From a Life of Watching Women in Movies

Thanks to multiple film festivals and trips in the last few weeks, I currently have reviews of a few very interesting books pending.

The back cover blurb describes the book, in part, as "a personal exploration of what it means to be a woman who loves classic film, and what life lessons have been taken from these movies of the past."

Other than that, I really had no idea what to expect when I began the book. What I found was a read which is simultaneously breezy, thoughtful, and engaging.

Those of us who grew up, like Alicia, as girls who love classic movies will relate to much of her book; though Alicia lived in Australia, rather than the U.S., many of her experiences are universal, including not having many peers sharing the same interest.

What I found unique about the book is the way it melds personal memoir with film criticism; woven throughout her life experiences are looks at key movies in her life, including WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942), NATIONAL VELVET (1944), THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (1952), and GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (1953). I found her insightful comments on the films and the way she relates them to her own life quite compelling.

Malone weaves comments on the films alongside her memories of being a child devouring classic movies; she later worked toward a film-related career and ultimately took the risk of pulling up stakes and moving from Australia to Los Angeles, where after several years she achieved her long-range goal of being a host on Turner Classic Movies.

A coda describes her recent decision to make another lifestyle change and move from California to a small town in Maine, where a new life goal is to open a movie theater.

One of the sections which particularly resonated with me was when she described branching out and trying more types of movies, including foreign films; she quotes Roger Ebert as saying "movies were like a machine that generates empathy." What an interesting thought!

She goes on to describe the wonder she felt seeing the French film AMELIE (2001) for the first time: "My brain buzzed with the joy that comes from feeling 'seen'...Amelie...was a dreamer, just like me. She was as quiet and shy as I was..."

As a fellow introvert, I particularly admire Malone's gumption in forging such a "public-facing" life, driven by her love for movies. I've had the pleasure of meeting her, and she is as personable and friendly as one might hope having seen her on TCM.

GIRLS ON FILM was published by Mango Publishing. It's a 224-page paperback, including a bibliography. There are no photographs other than on the "About the Author" page, but other than thinking it might have been fun to see some photos of the author in her early years, their absence is not an issue.

I found GIRLS ON FILM a page-turning read simply because it's so well-written and enjoyable; the only reason I haven't reviewed it sooner was that my copy arrived just before the start of the back-to-back Noir City Hollywood and TCM Classic Film Festivals. Given our shared passion for classic movies, I'm certain Alicia would understand!


Thanks to TCM and Mango Publishing for providing a review copy of this book.


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