"She seems exhausted, cosmically so, her speech slowed," Abramowitz writes. "Her patter has been described in countless interviews as turbopitched comedic spew. . . . Yet now, while the wit continues unabated, the fizz is absent, almost as if a 45 record is being played at 33."
The book repeatedly asks whether women in Hollywood help other women to rise and cites several examples in which the answer--particularly among the most ambitious--has been no. Steel is said to have never cultivated a female friend until the age of 26. And though Lansing is called a humane boss who encourages underlings of both genders, she's not portrayed as a particular champion of women's projects.
Abramowitz rightly questions Lansing's assertion that "Fatal Attraction" is a feminist movie and tells a revealing story from 1981 when Streisand, the biggest female star in the world, pitched Lansing the movie "Yentl," about a rabbi's teenage daughter who masquerades as a boy in order to study the Torah. Lansing, like many male studio executives before her, turned Streisand down. "I left the office in tears," Streisand recalls in the book. "I couldn't believe that a woman wouldn't understand how universal this story was."
The message is clear. As Ephron says at one point, women haven't helped her more than men in Hollywood, and it would be foolish to think that they could. Though Steel suggested that Ephron direct, it was Joe Roth (then head of 20th Century Fox) who green-lighted her directorial debut, "This Is My Life." Ephron's conclusion: "If you're not helped by men, you don't get anywhere in this business, because they run it, women don't."