Flashback to Feisty Females in Film: Cathy Palmer / Rebecca Ryan

American Dreamer
Feisty Female: Cathy Palmer aka Rebecca Ryan, flawlessly portrayed by JoBeth Williams

Year we got to know her:  1984

Best known for: Always catching her man, even when he’s a woman.

Why she deserves a second look:

I love this movie.
On the one hand, I love it for being a fantastic 2nd wave narrative: The Feminine Mystique played out on-screen and Hollywood-ized. Cathy Palmer starts out as the unhappily-married housewife who lives vicariously through her Rebecca Ryan novels (the female version of 007). She enters a writing contest and wins a trip to Paris, Rebecca Ryan’s HQ.  She goes sight-seeing, gets her purse snatched and is hit by a car and gets a healthy dose of amnesia. Long story short, she realizes that she’s unhappy, falls in love, and becomes a writer. C’est magnifique!

On the other hand, it’s fantastically absurd!  Cathy’s “amnesia” causes her to wake up in the hospital thinking that she actually is Rebecca Ryan. This alone provides enough comic fodder to last the rest of the film: she goes on a shopping spree–charged to her hotel (where the author’s son currently resides), she attends a ball and out-drinks the Russians, inadvertantly instructs a man to kill himself in German and ends up in a fountain, and she falls in love with “Dmitri” (brilliantly played by Tom Conti).  Unbelievably, and yet predictably, she actually lands herself in the midst of a crime ring.  **Spoiler alert:**  she catches her man.

Do yourself a favor and check it out.   If not for the 80’s fashions (and some of them are terrifyingly fabulous), then for the amusing and entertaining storyline, or for the feisty female! 

The important thing, kid, is that you’re doing something you like to do.


6 responses to “Flashback to Feisty Females in Film: Cathy Palmer / Rebecca Ryan

  1. You know, I’m not really one who enjoys watching older movies – especially those from the era that this one came out in. I love special effects, explosions, and a fast-paced plot. That said, after recently seeing this movie, I can see how it would make this list.

    The movie itself is fun, far-fetched, utterly enjoyable, and it takes place in Paris (no more need be said). The transformation of Cathy Palmer was really fun to see – sort of a small victory in your own head after seeing the way her husband interacted with her back in the USA. He was condescending, demeaning, self-righteous, and a bunch of other terrible things. The foil between him and Tom Conti was pretty dramatic.

    Anyway – good choice.

  2. I haven’t seen this, believe it or not, but it looks like it will change my life. To the Netflix queue!


      well, perhaps stumped isn’t the right word. more like “I’ve seen something a Junkie hasn’t.”
      I hope you like it! It’s 80’s-cheese-du-jour!

  3. This movie is fabulous! Hilarious and intriguing for all genders! Tom Conti is truly a phenomenal actor! JoBeth did an incredible job!!! I also love that she went to Paris despite her husband, and did what’s best for her!! ROCK ON FEISTY FEMALES!!!!

  4. For a look at her in the midst of out drinking the Russians: http://videodetective.com/photos/006/00027109_.jpg

    • why aren’t there more pics of this fabulous flick online??? this grainy pic that you’ve graciously shared is the only one i could find!

      and i reallllllly wanted to find a youtube clip of the kitchen scene in the beginning and was sorely disappointed.

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