Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette…Finally Actresses Get to Act Their Age

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Meryl Streep in Into the Woods. Courtesy of Disney

Russell Crowe recently pronounced that actresses in Hollywood need to “act their age.” The actor told an Australian women’s magazine that there are plenty of roles for older women. “To be honest, I think you’ll find that the woman who is saying that [the roles have dried up] is the woman who at 40, 45, 48, still wants to play the ingénue, and can’t understand why she’s not being cast as the 21-year-old,” Crowe said, citing Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren as examples of actresses who find parts.

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But both Streep, who was nominated at the Golden Globes on Sunday for playing a witch in Into The Woods, (she also got her 19th Oscar nomination for it today) and Mirren have largely been relegated to specific types of roles. Not to mention that women overall have to work much harder to find and develop good roles, whereas they exist for men without question.

Julianne Moore in Still Alice. Photo: Everett Collection

Thankfully, the Golden Globes on Sunday and the 2015 Oscar nominations do show some of the possibilities for actresses over the age of 40, offering a glimpse of what Hollywood should ideally look like. At the Globes, Julianne Moore, 53, took home the Best Actress statue for her work in Still Alice, a film about a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s, which also gained her an Oscar nomination this morning. In her acceptance speech, Moore, who is the front runner to win the Oscar, noted that “when Lisa Genova wrote this book, she told me that no one wanted to make it into a movie because she said no one wanted to see a movie about a middle-aged woman.”

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Certainly no one has ever been concerned that moviegoers might not want to see a movie about a middle-aged man. Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Clint Eastwood, who are still working in their seventies, continue to be cast as love interests and action stars, which is something 50-year-old Crowe has to look forward to.

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood. Photo: Everett Collection

Still, Patricia Arquette earned both a Globe statue and an Oscar nomination for her unvarnished work on Boyhood, which reveals her aging over the twelve years it was shot. Her role felt real and untethered to any specific age limitations, which should be gratifying for her peers.

As everyone knows, television has offered a recent uptick in better roles for women, especially those with long, established careers. The nominees for Best Actress In Television Series, Drama included 49-year-old Viola Davis, 48-year-old Robin Wright, and 48-year-old Julianna Margulies. Where the film industry may still represent a struggle – 15 percent of the top movies in 2013 featured women in leading roles – TV offers a possibility for more.

Viola David in How to Get Away with Murder. Courtesy of ABC

“I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about the wealth of roles for powerful women in television lately,” noted Maggie Gyllenhaal during her acceptance speech for her performance in The Honorable Woman.

“When I look around the room at the women who are in here I think about the performances that I’ve watched this year, what I see actually are women who are sometimes powerful and sometimes not, sometimes sexy, sometimes not, sometimes honorable, sometimes not. What I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual woman in television and in film. That’s what I think is revolutionary and evolutionary, and it’s what’s turning me on.”

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Of course this should turn on all woman, but there’s still that annoying age issue that only seems to come up when talking about actresses. Crowe’s age has rarely been mentioned in articles about his comments, and similarly, male Globe winners like Kevin Spacey, 55, and Billy Bob Thornton, 59, have simply been praised for their good work.

Amy Poehler took the issue to task while co-hosting the Globes with Tina Fey, summing it up perfectly when she joked that Arquette’s work in Boyhood “proves that there are still great roles for women over 40 as long as you get hired when you’re under 40.”