I’ll never forget that night in 1993 when “teenage me” was sitting with my girlfriend at the midnight show of a flick written by the guy who did Reservoir Dogs. It was called True Romance. We swallowed whole a film about two adventure junkies on a road trip to Hollywood involving a suitcase full of coke, the Detroit mob, a dreadlocked Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt with a honey-bear bong, and young lovers. One was Ms. Alabama Worley, played by Patricia Arquette, and by the time the film finished, I was good and smitten. Maybe it was the scene where she used a Swiss army knife to take out a hulking sadistic mob hitman played by a young unknown named James Gandolfini. Maybe it was writing “youre so cool” (no apostrophe) on a napkin for her true love, Clarence. Maybe it was the look on her face in the final scene, no makeup, smiling on the beach. Whatever it was, Patricia Arquette immediately became someone whose career I never stopped tracking.
Over the last twenty years that career has included one of the most under-rated comedies ever made, Flirting with Disaster, amidst a series of clearly dwindling opportunities. She was looking like one of the subjects of her sister Rosanna’s searing documentary Searching for Debra Winger, about Hollywood actresses becoming expendable after the criminally young age of 40. That’s what made her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win last night for Boyhood so satisfying. Famously filmed over twelve years, it is really a film about her character as much as it is about her son. The film captures Ms. Arquette aging in real time, her body and face subtly altering like that of a normal human being. Maybe I was projecting, but it felt that the Richard Linklater film, as much as anything else, was about how cruel we are to see the wisdom and character earned through time as some sort of deficit.
It has been a joy to see Patricia Arquette get her due this award season, culminating with her Oscar. I had been playing a drinking game last night where I took a sip every time Neil Patrick Harris didn’t make me laugh so I was nice and toasty by the time her name was called. I have a friend who did some of the makeup for Boyhood, and she told me stories about Ms. Arquette talking to cast and crew about equal pay for women. I knew this was an issue close to her heart and when she spoke about it, I raised my glass, cheered and took a drink.
In other words, as soon as I heard, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America” I whooped and tweeted the following in a state of Arquette euphoria.
Ms. Arquette’s message to every Fox News fetishizing anti-feminist asshole: pic.twitter.com/TpzCnW60dq
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) February 23, 2015
But later that night, when she was asked to expand on her views backstage, the problems began. Ms Arquette said:
Equal means equal. The truth of it is the older an actress gets, the less money she makes. It’s inexcusable that we talk about equal rights for women in other countries and yet…we don’t have equal rights for women in America. It’s time for all the women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve fought for, to fight for us now. (Emphasis mine.)