Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story takes us behind the scenes to give stunt performers their due in this action documentary.
If you don’t pay attention to the credits, there’s a good chance you don’t know their names. It’s more than a good chance, honestly, because let’s face it–you’re already rushing out of the theater when the credits roll. Unless it’s Marvel or DC so that you can see the post-credits scene. But these are the people who risk their lives to take a hit or whatnot while the major talent aren’t on camera. To put it this way: stunt performers are athletes. They run this risk of getting injured in the name of the scene. Talent do not necessary get to meet their stunt doubles on set. Narrator Michelle Rodriguez gets the chance to meet one of her doubles during the documentary.
April Wright has taken us to the drive-in and inside the great movie palaces. This time around, the filmmaker takes us on set and behind the scenes to explore the history of stuntwomen. There are as many as seven cameras being used at times. If you appreciate Hollywood history, this will be a film for you. Wright’s documentary takes inspiration from Mollie Gregory’s book of the same name published by the University Press of Kentucky in 2015. Where the book ends, Wright takes things forward by showcasing stuntwomen from fan favorite films and series today.
The film offers a nice mix of everything: interviews, archival footage, and most importantly, visits to the set. We see a stunt driver repeatedly practicing until she gets it right. Practice makes perfect, am I right? The interviews are where Wright is really able to tell the story. Wright doesn’t just limit interviews to just performers but there’s a few directors and producers with a story to tell. When it comes to the early stunt performances from Classic Hollywood, film historian Ben Mankiewicz serves as a guide.
Women have so much history in Classic Hollywood. But over time, men really began to take over the scene. Unless you study film history, you would not know that women wrote, directed, and did their own stunt work. Wright makes sure to get on-screen interviews with stuntwomen pioneers such as Jeannie Epper, Julie Ann Johnson, and Jadie David. Almost a century after the silent era gave way to sound, there’s still more work to be done.
One of the things that really hits home in watching the film is that there is sexism in stunt performing. Men get more pads to protect their body than women! This obviously isn’t the meat of the film but it’s just one part of it. It certainly leaves one feeling a bit uneasy.
By my count, the film gives Diane Warren another chance at Oscar by way of “Without a Net.” Mickey Guyton performs the tune during the credits. This is the composer’s third song since August.
In a way, Stuntwomen also makes the case for a stunt ensemble Oscar even if the film doesn’t outright say it. It is long overdue for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give these performers their due. I can make a similar argument for a Best Comedy category but this isn’t the time for that discussion.
Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story is long-overdue documentary in bringing part of Hollywood history to the screen.
DIRECTOR: April Wright
NARRATOR: Michelle Rodriguez
NARRATION BY: Nell Scovell
FEATURING: Ben Mankiewicz, Paul Verhoeven, Paul Feig, Anne Fletcher, Al Ruddy, Jeannie Epper, Julie Ann Johnson, Jadie David, Donna Evans, Debbie Evans, Donna Keegan, Amy Johnston, Alyma Dorsey, Heidi Moneymaker, Renae Moneymaker, Keisha Tucker, Jessie Graff, Angela Meryl, Cheryl Lewis, Jennifer Caputo, Kelly Roisin, Deven McNair
Shout! Studios will release Stuntwomen: The Untold Hollywood Story on Digital/VOD on September 22, 2020. Grade: 4/5