Documentary Review: Searching for Debra Winger (2002) by Rosanna Arquette
This documentary is referenced in several books on women and career. I finally requested a copy from my library. When people talk about this documentary, they often sum it up as a film about how aging female actors survive in Hollywood. I think this grossly underestimates the applicability for those of us outside of Hollywood. This film is sensitive, personal, and brave. I am delighted that Arquette took the time to interview a few dozen successful women who demonstrate that there are still struggles in managing their career even if they are super-stars.
Arquette interviews many successful actors including: Meg Ryan, Vanessa Redgrave, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jane Fonda, Sharon Stone and finally Debra Winger. Her interviews focus on what matters most for many women "How can you achieve balance in your life?" "Can we have it all?" She nearly asks. "How do we balance career and family?" "How can you live with the sacrifices you’ve made?" "How can you find quality, fulfilling work when people only objectify you as a sex symbol?" These are essence of her questions.
Arquette's premise is why did Debra Winger leave the movie business when her career was so hot? Was this a decision she regretted? Did Debra Winger know something Arquette didn't?
A Hollywood career is very demanding, so everyone in the business will tell us but for the other women in the world, I believe that they find themselves in equally demanding positions. They have their own questions like "Why am I getting passed up for promotions?" "How can I justify networking with co-workers outside of work hours while my six year old is at home waiting for me to help her with a school project?" "Should I accept a job that requires travel? If I do, what will my kids think?" "Can I return to the workforce at the same pay-grade after I took time off to raise my kids?"
Questions swirl in women's minds in endless turbulence. We often second guess ourselves and wonder if there is a better way to do things. After listening to Arquette ask the actors question after question, I realized something critical. Many people use questions as a way to delay action. If you have so many questions about something then it stands to reason that you should wait to act until you can investigate further. So we wait. We get answers. These answers prompt more questions. We wait some more. The next thing you know, either the opportunity has passed or we find time flying by.
Debra Winger decided that for herself, it was best to leave the industry. She looked happy, healthy, and gorgeous. It seemed that her choice agreed well with her. Some women fair well to take their ball and go home. They can leave the usual career rat race and make their way through non-traditional means. I don't know what projects, if any Debra Winger is working on but she seems satisfied. For Arquette, however, it seems like she still wants to stay in the movie/tv business even though it requires sacrifice and hard work.
I can relate well and appreciate all of Arquette's questions. I have been doing the same thing for several years and yet I am no closer to a truth that satisfies me. Motivational speaker Tony Robbins warns about using "Endless Loop" questions. These are questions that you ask yourself that keep your head spinning. They are not questions like a journalist would use to ferret out tangible answers such as "Who, What, Why, Where, and When." Endless loop questions, while important, don’t encourage ourselves to move forward.
I was amazed that so many very successful women like Vanessa Redgrave, Jane Fonda, and Sharon Stone asked themselves similar questions like Arquette asked or I even ask myself but there was a difference between them and myself.
They asked the questions but that didn’t prevent them from acting (pun intended).
They had questions about how to balance career and family but they kept on moving forward towards their career goals and raising their families. They were the first to admit that they didn’t do everything perfectly. Meg Ryan said "as a mom and as an artist, you compartmentalize…"
Whoopi Goldberg and Jane Fonda both spoke about the sacrifices their children faced because of their choices to pursue Hollywood careers. But as Goldberg said, if she decided to forgo her Hollywood career and stayed home to be with her kid, she would’ve been around more but she wouldn't have been as good a mother.
Questions are a powerful tool. They can help us avoid disasters and engage with the world with more depth but they can also immobilize ourselves. Keep questioning, but like the actors featured in this interesting documentary, don’t let the questions keep you for pursuing your dreams.
Allison Frederick believes that Role Modeling is one of
the most effective ways to launch a program, improve a product, and personally
achieve a higher level of success and goals. www.AllisonFrederick.com.