Film director Susan Seidelman, never shy about mining unglamorous, underdog subcultures to tell a good story, says her new movie celebrates another under-appreciated demographic: middle-age women like herself.
“The Hot Flashes,” which opens at the Movies of Delray and other select theaters nationwide this weekend, follows a group of small-town women, friends since their high-school basketball days decades earlier, who challenge the current girls state champs (an arrogant bunch of teens, of course) to raise money for a mobile mammogram unit that has run out of funding. Stars include Brooke Shields, Wanda Sykes, Daryl Hannah, Camryn Manheim and Virginia Madsen.
The movie’s message is to challenge assumptions made about women at midlife and encourage mammograms for early breast-cancer detection, but Seidelman’s primary goal is laughs.
“It’s definitely not a depressing or woe-is-me kind of story,” she says.
The balancing act is illustrated in a public-service announcement created with the American Cancer Society in which stars of “The Hot Flashes” suggest that mammograms might be more popular if they had a more desirable name. “Puppy,” says Shields. “Fireside massage,” says Madsen.
“Clooney. I will be looking forward to that allllll year,” Manheim says into the camera. Then, grabbing her breasts, she says: “I can’t wait to pull out the girls on Monday morning for my Clooney!”
Seidelman began her career with the acclaimed punk-rock adventures “Smithereens” and “Desperately Seeking Susan,” and more recently changed gears with the South Florida-set 2006 golden-years comedy “The Boynton Beach Club” and last year’s “Musical Chairs,” about wheelchair-bound ballroom dancers.
She says there were personal reasons to like “The Hot Flashes.”
“There were two things that attracted me initially. One, I was intrigued by the title, ‘The Hot Flashes.’ Being a middle-aged woman myself, I am really aware of this period of life. There aren’t that many mainstream, accessible movies, certainly not made by a major studio, that are made for women over 35 or 40,” says Seidelman, 60.
The other reason was about righting another wrong.
“I came of age in the movie business in the mid ‘80s, and there are lots of wonderful actresses from that generation who are being under-used,” she says. “So it was a combination of telling a story that was fun about being middled-aged … and working with these great actresses on a movie for an under-served audience.”
In case you were wondering, Shields, Sykes and the rest – who went through weeks of workouts led by former player and WNBA president Donna Orender -- do all their own scenes on the court.
Adding more veracity was Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America,” playing herself in “The Hot Flashes.” Roberts, a former college hoops star and member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, has been engaged in her own high-profile battle with cancer.
“She was a natural,” Seidelman says. “It was wonderful to have her support.”
As she did with “The Boynton Beach Club,” Seidelman’s octogenarian mother, Florence, of Boytnton Beach, is helping out with the local opening of “The Hot Flashes.” Florence has helped to rally local cancer organizations to provide information and speakers at opening-weekend screenings of “The Hot Flashes” at Movies of Delray (7421 W. Atlantic Ave.). They include representatives from The Pap Corps, Delray Medical and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
A mobile mammogram unit will be at the theater on Saturday from 3 to 7:30 p.m. with information on screening mammograms and other services available at the Lynn Women’s Institute.
For show times go to MoviesofDelray.com, or call 561-638-0020.