All women are faced with the inevitable stereotypes that plague the process of reaching middle age, and even top Hollywood actresses are forced to contend with the loss of innovative work to younger women. Not only do women have to struggle with the reality of losing potential work, due to the natural process of aging, but also must face the truth that the public can also judge them when they’re faced with the life-altering actualities of illness. The difficulty in overcoming age stereotypes is prevalent not only for the well-known lead actresses in the new independent comedy, ‘The Hot Flashes,’ who are rightfully fighting to obtain meaningful roles again, but also for their struggles characters in director Susan Seidelman’s latest female empowerment-driven film.
‘The Hot Flashes’ follows middle-aged mother and wife, Beth Humphrey (Brooke Shields), as she learns that a beloved local breast-cancer clinic has lost its major funder and is in danger of closing. In an effort to keep the clinic open, she rallies a group of her friends and former high school basketball teammates to the rescue. Together with Clementine Winks (Virginia Madsen), Ginger Peabody (Daryl Hannah), Florine Clarkston (Wanda Sykes) and Roxie Rosales (Camryn Manheim), Beth forms a basketball team and challenges the current Texas State High School Girls Champions to a series of games that will raise money to save the breast-cancer clinic. The middle-age women end up becoming national media sensations, and make a true difference to middle-aged women and cancer survivors across the country.
Seidelman, who rose to fame in the 1980s after directing such female-driven comedies as ‘Desperately Seeking Susan’ and ‘She-Devil,’ created another entertaining and amusing female empowerment movie that focuses on the extreme actions women take in order to stand up for what they believe in. Shields leads an all-star female comedic cast of middle-aged actresses who prove that they don’t need to serve as supporting characters to their characters’ children and husbands. Beth realizes the importance of the clinic for the community, and refuses to allow her peers’ initial resistance of forming the basketball team stop her in her mission. Shields perfectly balances her character’s emotional desire to help serve the women in her town with fast wit at anyone who questions her team’s motives and abilities.
Madsen, Hannah, Sykes and Manheim all comically infuse their characters’ with their own personal and unique humor that highlights the fact that while their characters have different goals and ideals, they do support Beth’s decision to raise money for the clinic. From Clementine continuously emphasizing her sexual appeal to Ginger being secretive about her own love life to Florine making jokes about the duties of being the mayor of a small town to Roxie still enjoying her daily use of marijuana, the characters put aside the comical jokes they make at each other’s expense to finally take responsibility. The message that even the most diverse people can bond and become friends, despite their obvious differences, is just as well-received as the theme that making personal sacrifices to help others is rewarding.
Costume designer Caroline B. Marx creatively emphasized the distinct personalities of the women’s basketball team by creating unique outfits for each woman. Beth was regularly outfitted in conservative shirts and pants while trying to garner support and approval from the school board to host the games. But she effortlessly made the switch to wearing the team’s jersey, which was brightly embroidered with the group’s title name, while playing, in order to show her support. Florine, meanwhile, showcased the rest of the team’s initial reluctance to play by arriving to practice in high heels and the skirt and blouse she wore while working. Clementine regularly sported intensely patterned pants and revealing shirts to showcase that she doesn’t mind being single after several divorces. Roxie routinely dressed in baggy jeans and t-shirts that represent her continued love of the hippie lifestyle, while Ginger showed her Texas pride by wearing cowboy hats.
While the plot of ‘The Hot Flashes’ does give way to some cliches that women are forced to overcome, such as not being taken seriously when they want to fight for a worthy cause and being completely unaware of the downfall of their relationships, Seidelman did create an entertaining and amusing female empowerment movie that focuses on women’s independence. Shields leads an outstanding comedic female cast of middle-aged women who don’t merely stand in to support their husbands and young children, who come together to support a worthy cause. With the help of Marx’s creative emphasis on the distinct personalities of the women’s basketball team with unique outfits, the comedy shows that despite their obvious differences, diverse women can make personal sacrifices, and overcome any obstacle, to help others.