Ellen Burstyn's career has been dominated by the independent life of mothers. Hers are the most rewarding portraits of mothers, because not only are they driven by what's good for their children -- be that good schools or removing Satan from their body -- they also have secret desires and lofty aspirations of their own.
There's definitely two halves to Ellen's maternal instinct, and she mines so much truth, ache and beauty from women's dual worlds. Challenged by lowlife men, painful memories and the Catholic church, Ellen's roles showcase the rare reality of mothers whose lives extend beyond their children. Being a mother is all about balance.
Hollywood on the other hand is about selling people short and banking on cultural ignorance, so balance there is hard to find. Somehow Ellen's still managed quite masterfully in her career, though it couldn't have been easy. She says women's roles were once sparingly as dense as that of her titular role in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, "(Women) were either victims, dutiful wives or prostitutes, or... well, that was pretty much it. I wanted to make a different kind of film. A film from a woman's point of view, but a woman that I recognised, that I knew."
And just like a mother we all know, Ellen's the absolute best at a guilt trip...
"What have I got, Harry? Why should I even make the bed or wash the dishes? I do them... but why should I? I'm alone. Your father's gone, you're gone. I've got no one to care for. What have I got, Harry? I'm lonely, I'd old..."
Ellen would want you to call your mother, even if she has a life of her own.