We Really Like Her! is a Toronto-based monthly screening series at the Revue Cinema. It is co-programmed and hosted by Emily Gagne and Danita Steinberg and aims to celebrate and highlight women in film. Our column, coinciding with our monthly screening, will give That Shelf readers a little insight into the thought process behind our film choices — from their cultural significance to why we love them.
This month, we are bringing Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact (1998) back to the big screen.
A few people have expressed surprise at our choice for August. I get it ⸺ on the surface, Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact does feel a little off-brand for us. But if you’re a fan of our regular programming, I promise that we aren’t really straying too far from our usual fare. Plus, what could possibly be better than an unconventional summer blockbuster with plenty of large-scale action and high stakes melodrama?
We both love genre films so when we discover one directed by a woman, we jump at the chance to show it, especially because it probably didn’t get its due upon release. I don’t usually watch action movies, but the most frequent exception is disaster flicks. Look, I’m bored by guns, cars, and explosions (unless it’s Thelma and Louise we’re talking about), but a comet hurtling towards earth? COUNT. ME. IN.
In 1998, Deep Impact was definitely overshadowed by the massive hit Armageddon, which admittedly, I’ve never seen. Still, I’m willing to bet that Deep Impact takes on the end of the world in a much more bleak, realistic, and complex way. It’s also fronted by a woman journalist, played by the great Téa Leoni. In an era where trustworthy journalism is on its way to becoming extinct, I love seeing her character, Jenny, play a pivotal role in the story.
This film feels like a precursor to another disaster movie I quite like, Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. These movies aren’t about stroking the male hero’s ego. They aren’t about reassuring everyone that things will be fine. It’s about real people reacting in all different ways to a very real threat. At its best, Deep Impact sits with the uncomfortable possibility of a mass extinction event, which feels more relevant than ever.
Every July, Danita and I take a trip to Niagara, where her dad, Brian, lives. And every year we find ourselves in Brian’s basement planning an impromptu movie marathon, which we program by the very scientific process of pulling paper out of a hat. Last year one of our picks was Deep Impact, a film that I hadn’t seen in years, but remember vaguely liking.
Much to my delight, Deep Impact turned out to be even better than my memory served, offering a strangely comforting mix of astronomy and empathy by way of its star-studded (no pun intended) cast and half-decent special effects. I’m not joking when I say it had me on the edge of my seat. In fact, I got so lost in the over-the-top plot that I sobbed like a baby during most of its climax.
Unlike Danita, I have seen Armageddon. And as a self-proclaimed disaster movie freak (see also: our August 2018 screening of Twister), I can assure you that Deep Impact, with its thoughtful direction by Mimi Leder (who also did The Peacemaker, Pay It Forward and On the Basis of Sex), is the best movie about a comet coming for earth released 25 years ago.
Not only does Deep Impact feature multiple women in leading roles (see also: Vanessa Redgrave as Téa’s mom and Mary McCormack, the pilot of the spaceship sent up to save the world), it also takes the time to explore how such an earth shattering incident would affect all walks of life. Yes, we spend time with the President of the United States (Morgan Freeman) as he navigates the public response to what might be the end of the times, but we also get to see what happens to the amateur astronomer (cue baby Elijah Wood) who accidentally discovered the comet in the first place.
Mimi Leder isn’t a household name like, say, Michael Bay. But I truly believe she deserves more credit than she gets with the action-loving set. Sure, Armageddon made more money than Deep Impact at the time and featured a hit song by Aerosmith. But Mimi’s movie has aged way better, its unflinching look at the various ways humans cope with crises allowing it to defy space and time.
Deep Impact screens at Toronto’s Revue Cinema August 16 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are available here.
Follow We Really Like Her! on Twitter. They’re taking a break in September but stay tuned for a look at their October screening pick! Check out the archive of their screening posts now.