Doc of the Day: Double Dare Review - Dan Schindel

Doc of the Day: Double Dare

Posted in Days of Docs by - May 03, 2012

They are some of the most neglected workers in Hollywood. They are the stuntwomen. These are their stories.

Dir. Amanda Micheli, 2004, 81 min

The movie industry is full of people who do important work that goes completely overlooked in popular consciousness (it may in fact be everyone who isn’t a director or actor, with maybe a few writers thrown in). But even by that measure, stuntwomen get the short shrift in Hollywood. How under-appreciated are they? According to my computer, “stuntwoman” isn’t even a word (and it’s not an issue of running words together; “stuntman” is accurate).

Double Dare aims to remedy that by following the ups and downs of two stuntwomen. One, Jeannie Epper, is a veteran. She’s been doing this for over forty years, and was Lynda Carter’s stunt double on the Wonder Woman TV show. She’s struggling to stay relevant in a business that usually has no use for you once you’ve aged. The other, New Zealander Zoe Bell, is a relative newcomer. As the film begins, the shooting has just wrapped for the final episode of Xena: Warrior Princess, for which she¬†doubled for Lucy Lawless. Now, Zoe is looking to break into Hollywood, and Jeannie has taken her on as a protege.

Unless you’re a dedicated film enthusiast (like me), you probably don’t know where this story is going. But even knowing where Bell and Epper would end up, I was plenty entertained by this movie. Both women are fun and engaging and completely root-forable (I’m trying to make this into a word). It’s appropriate that they both worked on major girl power shows, because they are essentially living out their own girl power stories.

While the personal side of the film is fully developed, the professional side is oddly lacking. This is not a complaint I usually have about a documentary. I was interested in learning more about what goes into doing stunt work, but the film left me unsatisfied in that department. What we do see amounts to little more than standard behind-the-scenes footage. I want to learn about how all this stuff is conceptualized, and how they figure out the logistics of making it work. And such content would be completely relevant to the characters. We need to better understand the world these women work in, but I feel like I only got a half-vision of it.

But while it might not be as good as it could have been, Double Dare is still a great portrait of women working to break the glass ceiling (or tumble through it onto an air cushion). I’d rather have this film as it is than a version that gives a more informative look at the art of stunts but neglects its characters. The heart is more important than the muscle, after all (wait… the heart is kind of a muscle… never mind).

This post was written by
Dan Schindel is a writer and editor. He lives and works in Los Angeles.
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