Attack of the 50 Ft Woman

(Christopher Guest, USA, 1993)


Not much going on in Christopher Guest’s Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. And not much attention has been paid to it, because of its humble TV origins (the original ’50s B movie has the frisson of Browning’s The Devil-Doll [1936] in reverse), and because it has little in common with the improv ‘mockumentary’ genre that has so imprisoned this director, both before and after this diversion.

But at a certain, late point, Attack tries to get all up-to-the-minute and ‘topical’, with queasy results.

For the most part, it’s the story of a repressed, victimised, suffering woman (Daryl Hannah) who gets to turn against the sleepy, male, 1950s-style suburban world that imprisons her: she grows big, and doesn’t have to take the shit anymore. It’s simple feminist coming-to-consciousness, revenge-scenario stuff. But then there’s a weird moment where she’s talking to her therapist and says: “I tried to be understanding, sensitive, post feminist“. So her ‘docility’ is not ’50s-style repression, but ’90s-style feminine cool.

Then she goes on her rampage – but rather than rubbing out the ‘other woman’ in her man’s life (perhaps in a kind of Camille Paglia-ish ‘primal woman’ rage) – she just in fact gives her the old ’60s/’70s message of sisterhood.

Then, at the end, we get another shift into the ’90s space, this time from the ‘men’s movement’ angle: the husband is forced, in outer space, into therapy with other men, ‘sensitive confessions’ and so on, watched over this race of giant women: and it seems we end with a grim gag where, once again, the ‘new man’ must be forged via the softening-up coercion of homosexual rape!

MORE Guest: The Big Picture, A Mighty Wind

© Adrian Martin June 1996

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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