14 Women
Universal // Unrated // $24.98 // September 9, 2008
Review by Preston Jones | posted September 10, 2008
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The Movie

With Hillary Rodham Clinton's groundbreaking presidential bid and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin making headlines as the Republican vice presidential nominee, director Mary Lambert's 14 Women, a look at a handful of female senators, is nothing if not timely. Clinton is among those featured, which functions as a kind of loose overview of these various leaders and their respective career paths. It's far from definitive, but the film has admirable aims and will probably play well with schoolkids.

Lambert (yes, the woman who helmed Pet Sematary and The In Crowd) focuses on senators Elizabeth Dole, Barbara Boxer, Maria Cantwell, Susan Collins, Dianne Feinstein, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Barbara Mikulski, Lisa Murkowski, Patty Murray, Olympia Snowe, Debbie Stabenow and Clinton. Narrated by Annette Bening, 14 Women is framed with questions aimed at schoolchildren about the American government and moves briskly between vignettes from the various senators.

While it's clear that Lambert has a surfeit of material, one wonders why she elected to keep the documentary to its incredibly lean running time of 70 minutes. As soon as the film's gaining momentum, it's over. You're left feeling as though you've only scratched the surface of these remarkable women's lives. By combining sit-down interviews with fly-on-the-wall footage, Lambert (and editors Michelle Harrison and Stephen Kanter) sketches engaging portraits of life in the Senate and the rigors of being a female in a male-dominated hierarchy. Lambert also takes pains to try and include senators' family members, such as children and husbands, to paint a slightly more rounded portrait of the effects the office can have on those not in power.

As the 2008 presidential election heats up and the rhetoric begins to fly thick and fast, particularly where Palin is concerned, 14 Women is at once sobering and instructive. None of the women featured in the documentary harbor any illusions about the challenges female politicians face -- whether it's being away from home frequently or running for office in the first place -- or the difference they make on the legislative floor. There are no hysterics, no quickly flung accusations of sexism here. Rather, these 14 women simply dig in and get the job done, something persons of either gender should celebrate.

The DVD

The Video:

Presented in a 1.78:1 non-anamorphic widescreen transfer, 14 Women appears fairly clear and clean, but a full assessment of the image quality is impossible, owing to Universal supplying a screener disc rather than final product. Plenty of smearing and pixelation are evident throughout the entire film, as well as a generic "screening copy only" watermark obscuring portions of the image. Should final product be provided to DVD Talk, this rating will be revised to reflect the quality of the image.

The Audio:

The film's Dolby 2.0 stereo track doesn't have many opportunities to sparkle (although Bening's narration sounds lovely and warm), as 14 Women is primarily driven by dialogue, but an accurate review cannot be made, owing to the fact that Universal supplied a screener, rather than final product. There are no optional subtitles. Should a retail version be provided for consideration, this rating will be revised to reflect the quality of the soundtrack.

The Extras:

The screener's "bonus features" menu says additional footage will be available on the final version, so should a retail version be provided for consideration, this will be confirmed and the rating will be revised to reflect the quality of the supplements.

Final Thoughts:

With Hillary Rodham Clinton's groundbreaking presidential bid and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin making headlines as the Republican vice presidential nominee, director Mary Lambert's 14 Women, a look at a handful of female senators, is nothing if not timely. Clinton is among those featured, which functions as a kind of loose overview of these various leaders and their respective career paths. It's far from definitive, but the film has admirable aims and will probably play well with schoolkids. Rent it.



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