Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Stand Up and Be Counted (1972)

          In what should be a standout moment during the feminism-themed comedy Stand Up and Be Counted, ladies meet for a rap session about their encounters with sexism. Participants include Dr. Joyce Brothers (as herself), future Jeffersons star Isabel Sanford, and a nun. Alas, comedic sparks never fly, because like the rest of this flat-footed studio picture written and directed by men, the scene devolves into oversimplifications and slogans. Progressive-minded producer Mike Frankovich and his collaborators, director Jackie Cooper and screenwriter Bernard Slade, seem as if they perceived the women’s-lib movement as a whimsical fad. To a one, the feminists in this movie are portrayed as shrill whiners whose only real accomplishment is alienating the men in their lives. The picture ends on a fairly hip note, so it’s not quite as dunderheaded an affair as the preceding remarks might suggest. Nonetheless, there’s a reason Stand Up and Be Counted is not remembered as a milestone in Equal Rights Amendment-era propaganda.
          Jacqueline Bisset stars as Sheila, a fashion reporter assigned to do a magazine story on the burgeoning women’s movement. To do so, she flies to her hometown of Denver. (The script pathetically explains Bisset’s English accent by saying she spent time in London.) During the flight, Sheila rekindles her romance with an ex, Elliot (Gary Lockwood). In Denver, Sheila discovers that her mother is part of a “Senior Women’s Liberation” organization, and that her ultra-feminist younger sister, Karen (Lee Purcell), wants to hire a man to impregnate her. Torn between new and old ideas about gender roles, Sheila moves in with Elliot, only to discover he’s a patronizing chauvinist. Other threads involve a housewife rebelling against her domineering husband, and a trophy wife demanding respect for the work she does at her husband’s bra factory.
          Stand Up and Be Counted is one of those bad movies that isn’t really a bad movie. In its clumsy way, the film means well, but problems compound problems. Sheila is a hopelessly passive character, thus draining the movie of momentum, and supporting players deliver livelier work than Bisset, causing her presence to seem ornamental. (She’s simultaneously breathtaking and uninteresting.) Lockwood’s performance is lifeless, Purcell is feisty but underused, and minor turns by comic pros including Hector Elizondo, Steve Lawrence, Loretta Swit, and Nancy Walker offer only fleeting relief from the overall mediocrity. FYI, although Helen Reddy’s anthem “I Am Woman” plays during the closing credits, it was not composed for the picture. After releasing the tune a year before, Reddy re-recorded “I Am Woman” for Stand Up and Be Counted, and the second version became a hit.

Stand Up and Be Counted: FUNKY


Cindylover1969 said...

The movie's bookends (where a woman gives birth to a girl at the beginning is a bit disappointed, and at the end gives birth to a girl and is delighted) are kind of hamfisted - although considering that are places even today where girls are discouraged it's a good message that could have been put over a lot better. (Speaking of which, "I Am Woman" is a much better slogan than song...)

Guy Callaway said...

This sounds more suited to a TV-movie than a major release.
If you check the internets, there's some hysterical promo pics.