On Friday night, three exceptionally tired women between the ages of 25 and 31 went to see Ocean’s 8. We bought snacks in Tesco beforehand because, despite the fact that we all worked a 60-hour week, we still can’t afford cinema popcorn. As we collected our tickets, I turned to my friend and said, “God, isn’t it great going to the cinema? No one can reach you, in the cinema. It’s like being on a plane, except without the fear of death.”
Needless to say, what we needed was a holiday. What we got was a cinema trip.
And then Cate Blanchett appeared on screen. Audible gasps. Cate Blanchett in a velvet pantsuit. Cate Blanchett with an ice-blonde fringe shagging into her half-closed eyes. Cate Blanchett reading about motorcycles with her feet on the table. Cate Blanchett in a silk bomber jacket. Cate Blanchett dressed as a kebab-truck owner, wielding an electric knife. Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett, Cate Blanchett.
Everyone in Ocean’s 8 does an excellent job of being in Ocean’s 8, but Cate Blanchett was conjuring something very specific for the mostly female audience at the cinema – something in between “I want to be her” and “I want to be with her”. Part of it was the beautiful, breathy queerness of the character, but part of it was the fact that she was showing us a different way to be a 49-year-old woman. And while the perfectly tailored suits and the script had a lot to do with this, much more had to with the energy Cate Blanchett exudes just by existing. She did it in Carol. She did it when she played Bob Dylan in I’m Not There. Hell, she even did it in Cinderella, in those huge wicked stepmother hats.
Cate Blanchett makes me excited to be a 49-year-old woman. Because you look at Cate Blanchett and think that didn’t happen overnight, all that energy and wit and sex appeal
You look at Cate Blanchett and you see someone who is playing with every crayon in the crayon box: she’s masculine and feminine; she’s the Queen of Hearts and Prince Valiant. She’s subtly understated yet campishly overstated. She’s an arctic fox and a lizard sunning itself on a rock at the exact same time.
But more than anything, Cate Blanchett makes me excited to be a 49-year-old woman. Because you look at Cate Blanchett and think that didn’t happen overnight, all that energy and wit and sex appeal. Cate Blanchett took 49 years to become the Cate Blanchett we know and worship today. I look at her and think, “OK, maybe I can’t quite afford popcorn at the cinema now. Maybe I’m not able to send back a bottle of wine or ride a motorbike or confidently wield an electric knife yet. But when I’m 49, I will be able to, because Cate Blanchett is giving me something to work towards.”
Cate Blanchett isn’t the only person I feel this way about. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I am a woman with an unreasonable attachment to Nigella Lawson and that, for the most part, I don’t really give a shit about her food. I’m sure her food is great, but saying I tune into Nigella for the food is like a 14-year-old boy saying he reads Playboy for the articles or watches porn for the scripted storylines. I am chiefly there to watch Nigella Lawson be a 58-year-old woman, comfortable in the knowledge that if I went back in time and spoke to a 28-year-old Nigella Lawson, I would be talking to a completely different and probably far less interesting person. I would be talking to Nigella Lawson, as opposed to NIGELLA F*CKING LAWSON.
Everyone has different “who I want to be when I’m older” icons. It could be Helen Mirren or Tracee Ellis Ross or Shonda Rhimes. Perhaps it’s a little childish to have heroes so far into your adult life, sure, but when so much of the culture is built around youth being the prime point in any woman’s life, it’s worth remembering that most of our female heroes took the guts of half a century to get where they are. And when you’re 28 and still haven’t figured out how to iron a shirt properly, that’s a good thing to know.