Those who bristle at the term “feminist,” which inexplicably has fallen out of fashion among many young adults, might find a vibrant new documentary enlightening and inspiring.
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”, director Mary Dore’s incisive portrait of so-called second-wave feminism of the late 1960s, is an exceptional chronicle, its mix of archival material and new interviews bristling with the energy and insight of one of the most important social movements of the 20th century. As the film makes clear, that movement changed the world, and the fight it ignited for pay equality, reproductive rights and childcare rages on.
Dore spoke with more than two dozen women who were in the vanguard of women’s liberation, among them Susan Brownmiller, Kate Millett, Eleanor Holmes Norton and the late Ellen Willis. It’s a testament to her talent that “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” never feels choppy or simplistic, given the complexities of the subject and the wealth of material — enough, surely, for a series of documentaries.
The nimble, sharply edited film explores the galvanizing effect of Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique,” the formative years of the National Organization of Women and the collective brainstorm that produced the groundbreaking book “Our Bodies, Ourselves.” Dore zeroes in on the oppressive conventions her subjects questioned and defied. She examines infighting factions within the movement and the issues of race, sexual orientation and class that challenged and transformed it.
Beyond the healthy outrage, “She’s Beautiful” shines a light on the intellectual rigor and sly humor of activists who got the word out via pamphlets, street theater and the occasional wider platform, however condescending. In a clip from “The David Frost Show,” the host announces that “the feminists are here” before asking his first tone-deaf question.
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.
Playing: Landmark’s Nuart, West Los Angeles.