“I want to go back and find something decent.”
Women nurture and build. They give too much away and they often have problems practicing self-love. I know because I’m one of these women. So after watching Kusama’s latest film Destroyer, I realized why this quote from the movie epitomizes the strangely dark yet wonderfully complex story of a woman who is totally destructive.
Nicole Kidman portrays Los Angeles detective Erin Bell, the central character in Destroyer. Her character is emotionally barren and unkempt physically, as she turns expectations and stereotypes for women on their head. This is apparent from the beginning when we first see Detective Bell sitting in a car under a highway overpass.
The normally rapturous-looking Nicole Kidman is unrecognizable. As the story unfolds, we experience Bell’s tragically flawed decisions in life as a series of flashbacks. But full disclosure: after seeing fourteen films at Toronto’s International Film Festival (TIFF) in just under a week, I realized why I am so drawn to Detective Erin Bell’s words and destructive character. While there other destructive women in featured at TIFF, Vox Luxe, American Woman, Her Smell and Widows fall short of the richly nuanced protagonist in Kusama’s movie. See a quick recap at the end of this article for more details.
So what does Detective Bell’s quote really mean?
Detective Bell caved to the temptations of easy money and wanting to “live on the other side of life.”. Broken and battered by her now desperate situation, I imagined Bell might want, like anyone who has ever messed up, to go back and salvage something good from her disastrous life. Yet how do we understand Bell’s conscious since there wasn’t any intention to be better. At best, finding something decent seemed futile if not narcissistic.
Maybe Bell’s words are a desperate attempt to rationalize her reckless and selfish behavior? I can only imagine, but her tragic failings make her my favorite “destructive” leading lady for several reasons. It’s refreshing to see a female cop screw up as badly as a man, but Bell’s morally bereft and desperate character is also the kind of villain we love to hate.
Throughout Destroyer, Bell never plays the apologetic and supportive police partner; Bell is a solo act and seems at odds with the other officers. During one of the bank robbery scenes, Kusama drives this point home – quite literally, when Bell drives away from a bank shootout and leaves her police partner and lover behind when he tries to do the right thing.
I can’t honestly think of another female protagonist or screenplay at TIFF that so desperately conveys the failings of a mother, wife, person and cop as Bell. In fact, Nicole is so good at being bad that I’ve already heard Oscar whispers.
The “Other” Destructive Women at TIFF
In Vox Lux, Natalie Portman survives a high school shooting only to become a catatonic slave to drugs and emptiness. Unfortunately, the character development is too implausible with fatal holes in the plot. Widows fairs no better, despite A-listers like Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez. Sadly, the characters lack dimension and their implausible story-lines kills any attempt to bring us truly villainous women.
The last two comparative movies were well done but failed to challenge Detective Bell’s destructive greatness. American Woman is a fantastic film all round, but Sienna Miller’s behavior is more of a commentary about our moral decay and the saving graces of family. Her Smell delivered a wonderful, drug frenzied character named Betsy (played by the electrifying Elizabeth Moss). Betsey, is the closest runner up to Kusama’s destructive woman but her transformative redemption at the end gives her a clean bill.
More Exciting and Destructive Women
Building connections on WomanScape, especially around new ideas and unusual comparisons, furthers the conversation about women making history. To this end, we thought we’d have a little fun by sharing “a few destructive women.” It a great play on the a favorite Nicholson movie, A Few Good Men, and sheds light on a few of our curated photographs of iconic women in Hollywood.
Hope you enjoy these creative connections to “destructive women.”. Here’s a few fun ones to get us started. We’d love to know what you think about these photos so drop us a line.
Brigitte Bardot – as one of the sex symbols of the 1960, Brigitte was French born. After retiring from film, she made saving the ocean a priority by using her voice to advocate for stopping the “destruction” of our oceanic wildlife.
Audrey Hepburn – was one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood during the 1950’s. Brothers Holden and Humphrey Bogart competed for her love, despite Holden’s existing marriage. The love triangle was destructive from the start.
Marilyn Monroe – a blonde bombshell of the 1960’s, Marilyn suffered destructive bouts of depression and alcohol abuse. Some of her destructive behaviors got her into trouble but made her an incredibly compelling person.
Faye Dunaway -a celebrated actress and screen legend, Faye’s most infamous role was as a destructive movie mom in Mommy Dearest.