Maya Dardel

Nov 7, 2017

She may seem like a cougar, but she's really a viper.

Maya Dardel

Grade: B

Directors: Zachary Colter (When I am a Moth), Magdalena Zyzak

Screenplay: Colter, Zyzak

Cast: Lena Olin, Rosanna Arquette

Runtime: 1 h 44 min

by John DeSando

An attractive, middle aged writer at the end of her life advertises for young male writers to compete to be heir and executor of her estate.  The intriguing Maya Dardel is an art-film setup almost too precious for its own good. Because the titular writer (Lena Olin) is both brilliant and accomplished, we are expected to eat every word for the wisdom of age and genius.

Au contraire, the wise words are frequently lost among the tests she gives the applicants for her fortune.  If there is anything profound about her plotting with neighbor, Leonara (Roseanna Arquette), and the cunnilingus Maya demands from the young men, I missed it in my fog of adoration for the well-aged star and her game with the boys. For certain, this challenging drama can be a figurative screed against men who dare to ignore older women.

Along the way are some bon mots about writing, mostly about the salutary effect of self criticism and the passage of time.  The film does its best depicting the artist's aging gifts and her need to preserve her estate and writing legacies.  Although her means of preservation are closer to bizarre than eccentric, the effect is the same: Her motives are mixed and occasionally wicked.

Largely because she tortures the men in such a way that misanthropy becomes a relevant motif, it is wrong to go into the film anticipating a feminism that welcomes men in a celebration of an accomplished life. Even her constant critical thinking is a weapon against the boy-men.

Lina Olin couldn't play a more dangerous intellectual, a predatory artist bent on emasculation and dominance rather than loving inclusion.  Actually, her predations are a welcome counterbalance to the current obsession with Harvey Weinstein crimes.  While Maya is no lawbreaking harasser, she is nonetheless lethal. All hail equality!

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at