Anna Kendrick’s directorial debut examines uncomfortable gender dynamics with the stranger-than-fiction story of Rodney Alcala’s appearance on The Dating Game in the middle of his 1970s murder spree.
Woman of the Hour
In the 1970s Rodney Alcala went on a murder spree, luring women by posing as a photographer looking for models. Though already a registered sex offender and recently released from prison, he infamously appeared on The Dating Game, a show that introduced a set of three new bachelors each week, hidden from view as a woman asked them amusing questions before choosing a winner to go on an all-expenses-paid trip with her.
Anna Kendrick’s directorial debut uses this stranger-than-fiction story to examine the distressing dynamics of gender. In addition to directing, Kendrick also plays Sheryl, the struggling actor who decided to book an appearance on the show where she would have a chilling run-in with Alcala. While this confrontation serves as the spine of the film, we’re taken backward and forward through time, exploring Alcala’s murders, with a performance by Daniel Zovatto that captures the disquieting hubris of a man who knows he’s operating in a world too skewed to catch him.
Instead of dwelling on the gruesome details that often preoccupy true-crime tales, Kendrick uses the case to make an incisive statement on the way women are forced to navigate their encounters with men. In addition to being an intelligent metaphor for those uncomfortable nuances, Woman of the Hour also harbours a dark truth: when you’re confronted by the rage of men, the only way to make it out alive is to play the game.
Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival
Content advisory: sexual violence, violence, mature themes, sexually suggestive scenes