At three years old, Geena Davis announced she was going to be in movies. Now, with a slew of iconic roles and awards under her belt, she has surpassed her childhood dream–but the path to finding yourself never did run smoothly. In this simultaneously hilarious and candid memoir, Davis regales us with tales of a career playing everything from an amnesiac assassin to the parent of a rodent, her eccentric childhood, her relationships, and helping lead the way to gender parity in Hollywood–all while learning to be a little more badass, one role at a time. Dying of Politeness is a touching account of one woman’s journey to fight for herself, and ultimately fighting for women all around the globe.
I’m a Geena Davis fan. Not the sort of fan who has to see everything she appears in or read every article about her, but I’ve enjoyed her in the movies, even remembering her early work in TV on the shows Buffalo Bill and Sara. More importantly, I’ve been following the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media for years, which is all about equal representation in the arts, meaning more women directors, more female representation on screen of all ages, more diverse casting, in short, making the big and small screen actually reflect what America looks like.
Geena grew up in a very polite family in New England where she learned how to be a compliant woman when she grew up. But her life experiences slowly but surely made her grow up even more and become a badass, which is what this book is about. It’s interesting to hear/read about the arc of growth in a person, and Davis is finely tuned to her own narrative.
Listening to the audiobook of Dying of Politeness (Audible) (Amazon US) (Amazon UK) (AbeBooks) was a plus, as Davis is a premiere actress and knows how to perform. A lot of times I get sucked into these celebrity memoirs and regret it because the people turn out to be big big jerks, bad writers, or both. But that’s not the case here. Davis does come off as a good person, but that’s also all in what she shared. She glosses over her FOUR husbands, and refuses to talk about her children, which is her right. She also glosses over some of her career choices that don’t fit the narrative of bad-assery that’s she’s trying to project.
I have to say, besides Tootsie, A League of Their Own, Beetlejuice and Thelma and Louise, Davis truly shone in the much too short TV series Commander in Chief (Amazon Prime) (Part One DVD) (Part Two DVD). Way back in 2005, TV imagined a female President of the United States. The writing the first half of the season was as good as Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing, and I hoped for a long run like that show. However, as Davis explains, there was much going on in the background, and the network stupidly put the show on hiatus for three months despite high ratings. I remember that, and then when the show returned, it was put on another night with another time slot. With support like that, it’s no wonder the show only lasted one season.
I found out more about Davis and her archery skills, which led to a tryout for the Olympic games. She accomplished a lot in such a short time, it’s a testament to the fact that she’s a hard worker, intelligent, and can become skilled in something for which she had no previous experience. The same can be said of A League of Their Own. I remember hearing the story from Penny Marshall that she cast the main roles based not only on acting talent, but whether they could realistically throw a baseball. Davis did not grow up playing sports, because that was unladylike, so it’s amazing she practiced enough to be able to convincingly throw and hit a baseball.
I still haven’t seen Davis in his Academy Award-winning performance in The Accidental Tourist, so that will be something to search out in the near future.
If you enjoy Hollywood memoirs, you’ll enjoy Dying of Politeness. And Bill Murray should absolutely positively be cancelled.
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