Disillusioned middle-aged women have never been neglected by the film and television industry.
The roles may have gone to younger women – even Bette Davis was a fledgling 42 in Joseph L Mankiewicz’s All About Eve – but there have still been multiple films and series that prioritise the inner lives of women with angst who aren’t ingénues.
To this list comes Alice Ginor, a woman who feels as reduced as Shirley Valentine, but is unfulfilled in a more glamorous world.
As the eponymous protagonist in Sigal Avin’s seven-part series Losing Alice, Ayelet Zurer is losing her grip on the enviable lifestyle she shares with her two children and famous actor husband, David (Gal Toren).
A renowned film director, Alice is almost as venerated as her spouse, but with her focus now on family and producing yoghurt adverts, her best work is behind her.
That is until she meets Sophie (Lihi Kornowski), a racy first-time scriptwriter who has her sights firmly set on another of the protagonists – but to reveal who would be to spoil the outcome in this fiendishly compelling drama from Avin, who also directs.
She also offers rare insight on the film-making process, notably shooting sex scenes, and provides us with one to rival the Julie Christie/Donald Sutherland fumble in Don’t Look Now.
I was keen to hear Zurer’s thoughts about showing such raw female nudity on television in a post #Metoo climate.
The most pressing ask, however, did not involve Alice, but her other role in smash hit drama Shtisel as Elisheva Rotstein and whether she had regrets about abandoning artist Akiva (Michael Aloni).
As the beguiling widow who cooked for her dead husbands in the Israeli series, Zurer caught the imagination of fans globally, although she was already known for roles in Steven Spielberg’s Munich and Ron Howard’s Angels & Demons.
It’s arguable that Zurer, 51, also trounced Gal Gadot in the superhero stakes as Superman’s mum in Man of Steel and with her many nominations and awards, including best actress for Hostages, the Tel Aviv-born star is a prized interviewee ripe for questioning.
But I only have 15 minutes. Long enough for everyone in the world to become famous, according to Andy Warhol, but not to stammer through a Q&A at 12.30am in London/teatime in Los Angeles.
I clock “writer and illustrator” on Zurer’s résumé but I don’t have time to ask about her book, As Of Now, and Apple TV have asked me to turn off my camera as I am not allowed to see the actress, nor her me.
With visions of Lot’s salty wife in my mind, Akiva Shtisel’s lost love suddenly appears on screen ahead of my cue, then the camera’s off and the clock is ticking.
How did you prep to portray unsated director Alice, I ask?
“By reading the little details in Sigal’s script, which was beautiful, profound and filled with a lot of specific descriptions, which helped me understand what was going on in Alice’s mind.”
As Avin was in Israel and Zurer at home in Los Angeles, there were also lots of calls and discussions about the mid-life crisis so many women experience in their forties and beyond.
“There’s a feeling of stagnation,” says Zurer, who has no such issues. “You know, when you have everything you want, a family, husband, mother-in-law, beautiful house and nice career, but you’re not doing what you really want to do and question where you are.
“In Alice’s case, it’s subconscious and the frustration is percolating underneath. And when Alice meets Sophie, it bursts into fire.”
The uber-risqué scenes swathed across this tense thriller are certainly hot and doubtlessly appeal to men who typically avoid the women in crises genre.
“It’s about what keeps you relevant and to do so you need the ability to destroy – and Alice has to destroy everything in order to rebuild it. You have to have a little bit of danger in your life and Alice has forgotten how.”
Happily married in real life to her former surf instructor Gilad Londovski, with whom she has a son, the idea of a celeb coupling with all its incumbent insecurity and jealousy does not appeal to Zurer.
“I have my life, which is full of people who create, and Gilad’s life is very, very different. Sometimes we actually clash because of it, as you want to have someone who understands exactly where you are right now.
“But it’s also extremely boring to be with someone who has exactly the same life, and there’s definitely no jealousy, or competition.
“But I think in any relationship, there’s always negotiation.”
Her fulsome response takes us up to the wire, but I just have to ask, were you glad Elisheva didn’t marry Akiva Shitsel?
“Well, I knew she couldn’t,” she says. “She had to stay away.”
Leaving me dangling on the edge like Losing Alice, I’ll have to keep guessing until next time we can meet …
Losing Alice is released on Apple TV+ from tomorrow (Friday)
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