Let me preface this by saying that I am not casting aspersions on actress Mira Sorvino, any other actress who might have suffered any form of sexual harassment from former Miramax honcho Harvey Weinstein, or by extension, any woman who has found the nerve to speak for herself in light of the #MeToo movement. It’s a badly kept secret that women have suffered such harassment in the workplace, including Hollywood, for far too long, and I’m truly glad for any woman who finds her voice in this matter.
However, there is something that has puzzled me ever since I saw Woody Allen’s comedy Mighty Aphrodite (1995, and produced by Miramax when Weinstein headed it), in which Sorvino co-starred and for which she won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress.
(SPOILER paragraph follows.)
The movie’s premise that sports writer Lenny Weinrib (Allen) and his wife adopt a child, whom they name Max. Max eventually reveals himself to be a very gifted boy, and Lenny becomes obsessed with finding out whom Max’s birth mother is. To Lenny’s surprise, he discovers that the woman is a porn star and prostitute named Linda Ash (Sorvino). (The scene where the two first meet is embedded below.)
Throughout the years, I have enjoyed Allen’s wide range of movies — from his “early funny films” (as one of Allen’s own movie characters derisively calls them) to his thoughtful dramas and “dramadies.” But when Linda Ash appeared on the scene in Mighty Aphrodite, my enjoyment of the movie dribbled away.
The general consensus is that actresses love appearing in Allen’s movies because he writes well-rounded female characters (a prime example being one of my favorite “Woodys,” Hannah and Her Sisters). But by contrast, Linda Ash is a grating stereotype. She speaks in a high-pitched voice that’s enough to shatter brass, and her idea of humor is a wall clock whose pendulum shows a pig fornicating another pig from behind.
As previously noted, Sorvino won an Academy Award for this role. In her acceptance speech, she thanked Allen for writing such a “beautiful character” for her.
Did this all occur in some alternate universe? Allen writes a tone-deaf dumb-blonde part, and not only does Sorvino play it to the rafters, but she even regards it as a gift?
Again, I don’t mean at all to belittle Sorvino’s suffering at the hands of a sexual predator. But did she not know what she was getting into going in?
When the allegations against Weinstein first came out, Allen said that he hoped Hollywood would avoid “a witch hunt atmosphere” where “every guy in an office who winks at a woman is suddenly having to call a lawyer to defend himself.” When those remarks were roundly treated by the press and the public as less than sympathetic to female victims, Allen walked back his comments and said, “When I said I felt sad for Harvey Weinstein, I thought it was clear the meaning was because he is a sad, sick man.”
Maybe part of the problem is that most of the movie-making industry is self-delusional. An acclaimed comedy giant writes a very demeaning female role. An actress accepts the role and later acknowledges it as “beautiful.”
No wonder everyone in Hollywood is so shocked — SHOCKED!! — at all of the recent harassment allegations. They’ve been saying Up Is Down and Wrong Is Right for so long, they’re knocked sideways when someone actually tries to right the course of the ship.