Forget Thor, Batman and all the rest. Hollywood has definitely cracked the code and figured out what will pack audiences into the theaters. Clearly, the nation is crying out for another movie about a political figure trying to do something political… and failing. Yes, friends, they’re making a movie about former Texas state senator Wendy Davis and they’ve signed on a major star to play the leading role. (Variety)
Sandra Bullock will star in the spec “Let Her Speak” as Texas senator Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster helped stall an anti-abortion bill in the Texas state house.
Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal are on board to produce through their Escape Artists banner.
At the time, Davis was a little known Democratic senator who soon became a national icon on the subject of abortion after filibustering for 11 hours in order to stall a bill, and ultimately delaying its passage beyond the midnight deadline for the end of the legislative session. The bill would have included more restrictive abortion regulations for Texas and would have closed all abortion clinics in the state.
The first thing which leaped to mind when I heard this news last night was that this might be bigger than Miss Sloane. Well… maybe. You’ll recall that the thrilling drama about a lobbyist attempting to get a bill passed managed to rack up a whopping $3.5M domestic box office take, which likely wasn’t even enough to cover Jessica Chastain’s salary for the film. One could see a film about Davis easily doing nearly as well.
I also immediately wondered where they came up with the working title of the movie. “Let her speak?” That’s no doubt designed to tap into the idea that women are being “silenced” by the patriarchy or whatever, but let’s be honest here. In the case of Wendy Davis, “speaking” was the only thing she was famous for. Her eleven hour filibuster, delivered while wearing trademark pink sneakers, was the defining moment of her public life. One might say it was impossible to get her to stop speaking.
And what will the message of the movie be? It’s true that Davis managed to overcome a rough start in life, growing up poor and overcoming two busted marriages and life in a trailer park. She went on to become a lawyer, a city council member and state senator, so that’s clearly admirable, if hardly unique in the story of America. But what accomplishments of hers merit a movie detailing her life story?
That famous filibuster actually changed nothing in the end. The bill she was fighting was kept off the docket for the current term (at the time) but was immediately signed into law the next time the chamber was in session. Her attempt to run for Governor resulted in one of the most embarrassing landslide losses in recent Texas history, even by Democratic standards. It’s also worth noting that after she lost her first run at City Council in Fort Worth, she attempted to sue the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, saying their “biased coverage” had caused her loss. She wound up losing that lawsuit as well.
In fact, the sum total of the impact that Davis has had on politics, both locally and nationally, was to raise her own profile and not much more. I suppose that could make for a passable movie script as some sort of cautionary tale, but is anyone going to actually lay out money to sit through that? Politically themed movies haven’t fared well at the box office for a long time now. Perhaps they’ll wind up proving me wrong, but it’s tough to see this offering breaking that pattern.