Ethics & Public Policy Center

The 24-Hour Woman

Published in EPPC Online on January 1, 1999



The 24 Hour Woman by Nancy Savoca stars Rosie Perez as Grace, the producer of a local daytime show TV show in New York called “The 24 Hour Woman.” The movie begins with Grace’s discovery that she is pregnant. Grace, her husband, Eddie (Diego Serrano), one of the on-air stars of the show and their tyrant of a boss, Joan (Patty LuPone) — the kind of woman who says: “Pray to God the kid gets here in time for the November sweeps” — decide to make the pregnancy a bit in the show, following Grace with the cameras throughout. At the same time, as Grace is now planning to take some maternity leave, she hires as her new assistant, Madeleine (Marianne Jean- Baptiste), a woman who has to work even though she has three young kids at home because her husband (Wendell Pierce) is out of a job.

There are possibilities here. Not only women’s TV but also a lot of talk of “women’s issues” as they usually appear in the media is curiously divorced from women’s real-life concerns, and Madeleine and her struggling little family ought to serve as reminders of the grim reality that so often lies behind the blather of yuppie debate over career versus motherhood. That, at least, is the natural set-up here, but Miss Savoca quickly loses any interest in the potentially serious side of her material. Madeleine pretty much drops out of the picture as a significant parallel with Grace, and the movie becomes nothing but a less-than-hilarious comic romp with Miss Perez as a dizzy dame trying to balance the competing claims of work and family.

Someone presumably noticed that this actress’s comedic energy expresses itself charmingly in anger and exasperation (though with, as it seems to me, an excess of obscene language), but her turning into a hot-blooded little Latin firecracker in the end also dissipates any lingering connection the film has with ordinary life. There are a few good jokes, mainly to do with the by-now pretty familiar absurdities of daytime TV. Various “experts” appear from the pop psych world, including an “anger expert whose book is called I Know You’re Angry — And So Am I! Other features include one on gun chic, “Ladies with Lugers, and a “pantyhose victim” who claims that she was “strangled” by her hosiery.

But the most prominent guest is a Dr. Laura Schlessinger type named Suzanne Pincus (Melissa Leo) who has written a book called Grow Up: Kicking your Inner Child’s Butt into Adulthood. She says to Grace: “You have a kid, you raise that kid, lady!” For a moment, Grace is impressed. In fact, she all but decides to stay home with her daughter, who is in effect being raised by the nanny. But then, feeling unappreciated by the boss and by Eddie, she goes berserk on the air, and the next thing we know the conflict within her has been miraculously resolved, as if it never existed, by a new TV show that the neglected babies of both Grace and Madeleine supposedly won’t mind. Well, that’s OK then.

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