Never had I ever seen a movie so complex at age 16 than the movie "All About Eve," and never had I been so enraptured and impassioned by a movie at that point either. Every now and then a movie comes around that makes you think and this was the first movie, for me to do so.
In black and white, at first I thought the movie wasn't for me. Soon, I became entranced by these characters and the depth that the women were portrayed with more than I was the lack of color (race and literal wise). Never had I seen women portrayed with such wit, cunning and ambition before.
We'll start with Margo Channing, the aging, beautiful and insecure stage actress. She's got a man who loves her, fans who adore her, but she knows the end is near, and she knows she wants something more. Enter Eve, a young fan who's willing to look after and adore Margo in a way she hadn't been before, up close and personal. But soon, Eve's scrutiny becomes blindingly obvious to the women in the movie (Karen, a good friend to Margo, Margo herself, and even the maid) to be a front for what becomes known as Eve's true agenda, and at that point everyone is entangled in her web and are powerless to stop her.
What I loved most about the movie is that the women aren't played as the one dimensional props who's main objective is to land a man. Rather, the women are shown as these creatures who have thoughts (!!!) and objectives beyond the men in their lives; instead, the men are used as vehicles, as representatives of all the things the women really want. These women have ambitions, loyalties, lives and admittedly loves to protect and they protect them, go after them, ferociously at that.
The men, for their part, seem to not know the underlying drama and grab for power that is going on with the women. No, instead, as in life (as I've found) they believe it's all about them, all about our emotions as women and things they've no interest in understanding. The director, Joseph Mankiewicz, had an interest in portraying the truth of women, and I think in "Eve" he tapped into the truth of it all; we women set the men up in our lives as the holders of all our joys and triumphs, when in actuality (if we're lucky or self-aware enough) we realize that the men are just men, the desires we have are our own, and the men are just a physical representation.
For example, Margo is in love with Bill Sampson. Bill is less than a decade younger than and doesn't take any sh*t from Margo, but for his part loves her just as much as she loves him. When Eve enters, all of a sudden Margo is faced with a younger woman in the vicinity of her (younger) man, and has to face not only her age but also a threat to her vanity and her belief that Bill only has eyes for her. Bill is a component of the issue, but Bill is not the issue, you see? Throughout the movie you'll see power plays for the men in main characters' lives, not for who the men are per se, but for what they symbolize, what they can do, and the perceived power they give the other women.
In the end what I learned from the movie was that these seemingly stupid power struggles I was going through in high school were A) never going to end and B) would form the basis for who I would be as a woman. For my part, I mostly stayed out of them, but when I did become involved... Sometimes I was an Eve, sometimes a Margo or a Karen, but in all those times I was aware of the truth of what I was doing, of the meat of the stew I was stirring or brewing and for that, this movie has been an immeasurable help to my realization of myself, and an illumination of to who I would or would not want to be.
I've added this to the list of movies Tarzan and I should watch together; if he were to watch it alone, I don't know if he'd get all the juicy, relevant subtext that's been missed by so many when viewing the film. Maybe it'll help him understand the world of women around him which he seems so naievely, believably oblivious to. Or maybe it will just facilitate him learning who I am, why I think the way I do and how and why I see the world the way I do. In any case, I can't wait to share one of my favorite movies with one of my favorite people.