“Three words on my tombstone. “Woman.” I’ve loved being a woman. “Grandmother.” I’ve loved being a grandmother. And “mother.” I have loved being a mother. That’s what I’d like to be remembered for most. That’s what I’d like it to say on my tombstone, but… being who I am, I’m not expecting I’ll be having a goddamn tombstone.”
Rating: ★★★ 1/2
Before watching The Most Hated Woman In America, I had absolutely no idea who Madalyn Murray O’Hair was, what she stood for or why she was so hated. By the time the film was over, O’Hair had quickly become someone I admired. In short, she was an activist hugely passionate about religious freedom and separating church from state, a view that many people strongly disagreed with, particularly in the state of Texas where she was residing. In 1963, she set up a non-profit organisation called American Atheists which soon caused her to become a controversial figure.
As for the film itself, it did feel incredibly low budget and like a “TV movie” as many others have already criticised, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment too much. If you’re looking for a blockbuster masterpiece, this definitely isn’t the film for you. But if you’re looking for a gritty, real story about an important American figure, then I would certainly recommend it. It is a very intense film with some disturbing moments, particularly surrounding her eventual murder, and seems to blend thriller and biopic together. I do wish the film had been a bit longer or had trimmed scenes down as it felt rushed in places, but I appreciate it’s hard to visually show the entirety of someone’s life in a short space of time.
Melissa Leo did an incredible job at portraying Madalyn, to the point where she almost convinces you that you’re watching the real person. I feel like the film gives you a well rounded view of who she was. She spent every waking moment chasing her cause, one could argue to the point of obsession, but because of this she eventually did enact change in the law. She was brash, outspoken, and fiercely passionate about what she believed in. On top of this, Leo also expertly portrays Madalyn at various points in her life, young and old, and how she changed over the years. I haven’t seen anything else she’s been in but I’m certainly going to keep an eye out for her.
Whilst I don’t believe this film is going to win any prestigious awards, I do believe it’s a very important watch for those of you interested in learning more about American history. As stated above, I had no idea who she was until I watched this film and I’m so glad I did. I learned a lot about her life, and will be reading more about her in the future. From an educational perspective, it’s a must-watch in my eyes.