Otherwise known as: Man writes separate film just to explore the possibility that his character's female love interest is maybe a person. Instead of, like, just making her a person in the original move.
I'm exaggerating of course. There's nothing wrong with writing a character piece and very deeply examining one character while not really fleshing out others. But this made me laugh in light of how much we discuss MPDG's and the fact that female characters are so often portrayed as events that happen to male protags, rather than fully fleshed or even realistically behaving characters.
The story goes that Benson showed the original script to his girlfriend at the time (who happened to be Jessica Chastain), and she was like, "Um, what's this girl's story?" Tale as old as time: dude was so far up his male protagonist's ass and trying to portray his feelings about a woman, that he sorta forgot to tell us much about the woman at all. But then! Eureka! He decided to write a separate film which shows the woman's side of the breakup. And then Jessica Chastain "sort of looked at [him] and she was like, 'Yeah.'*" The dual films feature the same scenes shot twice with subtle, nuanced differences. It's a pretty cool concept, and I love the idea of a writer having to deconstruct a breakup in such a way that the two viewpoints are not too cartoonish or clear cut in their differences. I'm down, I'll watch it. Two things, though:
1. The She movie is filmed with a "warmer palette" and a "looser camera" effect, because women and their feely emotions, ya'll.
2. He's a restaurant owner, she's an "arrestingly beautiful, red-haired grad student".
I just . . . [insert all of the eye-roll gifs). Can intellectual films please be done already with the "beautiful young female student full of hope and smarts and feminine mystique" trope? Please? Can't you just portray the beautiful, intelligent love interest as a had-it-up-to-here middle school principal or a surprisingly upbeat cancer researcher or—fucking anything but another boring, doe-eyed grad student?
Anyway, on the off chance that this gets mainpaged or whatever, I stress again that I'm exaggerating. It sounds like the writer intended from the get-go to have this film be all about character exploration, so it's totally reasonable that Eleanor didn't have a lot going on. The film focuses on the protag's feelings about her disappearance, after all—she's supposed to be a mystery. Cool beans. I just think that the whole origin conversation is hilarious when treatment of female characters overall is considered.
"Check out my film idea, babe."
"I like it! But you don't say much about the girlfriend. Who is she? What does she do?"
"Hmmm . . . well, I guess I could write a separate movie about her?"
And this begs the question: What if writers of more story-driven films had dated Jessica Chastain? What if we existed in a world where all movies had an accompanying film that Mists of Avalon'd the shit out of the original?
You'd have three super long movies about women in the kitchen making canolis and pretending their husbands aren't out killing their friends' husbands. We'd have literally hundreds of movies that feature a woman tied to a chair in a dark room for days, waiting for Jason Bourne or whoever to bust in and save her. Think of how many chances you'd have to go use the bathroom without missing anything. But then you'd have really fun stuff, like middle aged ladies having a great time and doing all kinds of awesome shit while their husbands are off on Australian walkabouts or wherever their midlife crises have taken them. You'd have Angelica Huston just chilling on Jeff Goldblum's boat during the first half of The Life Aquatic. The possibilities! What are some movies you'd like to see spliced to show the lady's side?
* "and then she sort of looked at me and she was like 'Yeah'." That is an actual quote from the article and I DIED. I am still laughing over it.