Joyce at 34 (1972) Directed by Joyce Chopra and Claudia Weill
A friend recommended this documentary to me after I wrote about Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends in my monthly newsletter. Joyce at 34 is a short film, a little over a half-hour, about director Joyce Chopra’s transition to new motherhood as she tries to balance her professional and home life. She began filming when she was eight months pregnant at the suggestion of a friend, who said she was in a unique position to make a documentary about her life. Chopra at first thought the movie would be about her mother, and how her relationship with her mother might change after having a baby, but the documentary turned into an inter-generational story about how difficult it is for women to balance work and childcare. Chopra is about the same age as my parents, and her struggle to continue working after having a baby is all too familiar to women in my late Gen X/early millennial cohort. Even as Chopra is shown to have a supportive partner with a flexible work schedule, the burden of childcare falls on her and her mother. I left this movie feeling as if nothing has really changed for women, and nothing will until there is some kind of universal childcare in place, although this isn’t something that anyone in the documentary suggests. It’s not prescriptive or overtly political in its tone. Instead, its power comes in its straightforward depiction of a woman who continues to work after having a baby.
I recently read critic A.S. Hamrah’s latest dispatch on n+1. I’ve always liked that he writes about the experience of going to the movies as well as the movies themselves. Last month, he wrote about the trend of reserved seating, which he finds undemocratic:
Reserved seats are antithetical to moviegoing, which traditionally and democratically has been first come, first served. You could move to a different seat if a weirdo (or anybody) was sitting too close. This new nonegalitarian system is fancy and inappropriate. It takes too long and it huddles people together.
I had a weirdly personal and defensive reaction to this statement, because I am a parent of two young children, and reserved seating has made it a lot easier for me to see movies. I rely on it to get seats (two seats together) to popular movies or special screenings. It would be my pleasure to arrive early for one of these movies and wait in line with a book or a podcast, but I can’t, because I have to give my kids dinner and get them ready for bed before I can go out. Without reserved seating, my husband and I have to plan for an extra 45 minutes of waiting, which is basically an hour of babysitting time, or $15-20. (Also, a lot of weeknight sitters have day jobs or nannying gigs and they can’t get to our place until 6:30 at the earliest.) So, a theater that allows us to reserve two seats together is a major convenience. We go to more movies than we used to because of reserved seating.