JANE FONDA IN FIVE ACTS – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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“What in the world is wrong with Jane Fonda?” is the opening question of Jane Fonda in Five Acts, an extraordinarily intimate and perceptive new HBO biography of the legendary actress and activist. Astonishingly, this question is posed by President Richard Nixon in 1971 on one of those notorious secret tapes from inside his White House, in the wake of her anti–Vietnam War protests that led to her being snidely labeled “Hanoi Jane” and tarnished as a traitor.

It’s a cleverly ironic way for director Susan Lacy to begin framing her portrait of Fonda: the film is structured around extensive interviews with its subject in which the 80-year-old two-time Oscar winner examines her own life story as one in which, she now understands in retrospect, she had allowed herself to be defined by men, to her detriment. In the case of Nixon’s query, of course, she could not have been aware of it at the time, but Lacy sets it up as a smart underscoring of Fonda’s grasp today of herself, one that is illustrative of the larger context in which Fonda and all women exist. Even as we may assert our independence and self-determination on a personal level, it is impossible to escape the cultural patriarchal pressure that is constantly pushing back, trying to mold us into something smaller and narrower than we should and can be. Continue reading…

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her AWFJ.org archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).