New Year’s two-fer: 1 movie review; 1 book review (not a single word about COVID!)

Coincidently, as I was writing today’s book review and the movie review, it occurred to me that the movie and the book have much in common. Both are about high-achieving professional women who harbour lingering doubts about their capability and effectiveness as mothers. It comes down to the old question of life balance. Is it possible to be a good mother, a good wife, a good daughter, and still be successful in your chosen profession? 

As most women today already know, you cannot be all things to all people and a considerable amount of balancing, prioritizing, and adjusting time constraints is an ongoing battle and no one can do it all. Someone or something inevitably gets short-changed. 

On the other hand, women who chose motherhood or career, not both, also question their journey. It’s an eternal dilemma and ultimately, none of us is perfect and we just have to get on with the hand we’re dealt. We are marvellous creatures capable of great things.

Could someone explain The Lost Daughter to me?

It’s been about two years since I’ve been able to do a movie review for BoomerBroadcast, so I was very excited on New Year’s Eve when I sat down to finally watch The Lost Daugher on Netflix. Anything starring Olivia Coleman has to be good. Right?

The movie is based on the book of the same name by award-winning author Elena Ferrante and although I have not yet read The Lost Daughter I loved every one of Ferrante’s four-book Neopolitan series starting with My Brilliant Friend

The movie is generating multiple accolades for Director and Screen Writer Maggie Gyllenhaal. A full-page ad in the Sunday edition of The New York Times declared it a masterpiece and it has won numerous awards.

Twenty minutes into The Lost Daughter I was bored, baffled and bewildered. I think it comes down to the old discussion of “the movie is never as good as the original book”. Those of us who are avid readers are always disappointed in the accompanying movie adaptation.

It’s the story of Leda, a forty-eight-year-old single university professor of literature who takes a working sabbatical on a Greek Island. Her tranquillity is rudely disrupted by an extended family of Americans and Greeks whose brashness and intrusive lifestyle conflicts with Leda’s plans for a quiet, contemplative vacation. 

I decided to stick with it since it was bound to get better and everything would eventually make sense. Right? Wrong! At the end of the movie, I was left with a list of questions:

  • What does the young beach attendant mean when he says of the large, extended family, “They’re bad people.”? I saw no serious evidence of this.
  • What is Lena’s fixation on a child’s lost doll?
  • Why does Lyle reject Lena when he seemed to come on to her first?
  • Why does Nina fear her sister’s disapproval?
  • What on earth is that ending all about?

So many questions are left unanswered. I felt like I was the one lost. While I’m not trying to issue spoiler alerts, perhaps if you watch the film you can enlighten me. Maybe I need to read the original book to understand the nuances of the characters. There’s so much subtext that seemed to be missing in the movie.

Ultimately, I found The Lost Daughter quite unsatisfactory and I figure Olivia Coleman only took the role because she read and understood the book and wanted a couple of months filming on location in Greece. Otherwise, someone has some explaining to do. What’s it all about, Alfie?

To order The Lost Daughter (the book) by Elena Ferrante from Amazon, click here.

We can learn a lot from PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi

You do not have to be a woman to appreciate and benefit from reading My Life In Full: Work, Family, and our Future by Indra Nooyi, the first woman Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo International.

Much of what she writes about and describes in her book will sound familiar to women already but it’s men who have a lot to learn about her journey to leading a Fortune 500 company for twelve years. Men will learn about the struggles women have that they may not be aware of. Her challenges and experiences in negotiating a male-dominated business while trying to balance a home life with an equally successful husband and trying to raise two daughters will be inspirational and validating for women to read.

Nooyi was born in India, the middle child of middle-class parents who stressed excellence in education. Her parents were surprisingly liberal in their attitudes to gender and encouraged both their daughters to excel in school and pursue careers in business or science. An energetic over-achiever from a young age, Nooyi channelled all her aptitudes and talents into acquiring as much education as possible. When this meant emigrating to the United States to earn advanced degrees at Yale University, she packed her bags set about learning as much as she could.

Even with her elite education and advanced degrees, Nooyi’s career did not begin in the executive suite. She spent time on the ground selling thread and fabric in India, then, learning everything she could about the energy business and working soul-crushingly long hours building her on-the-job skills.

She was motivated to become and remain at all times financially independent of her husband and family in case she was ever left to fend for herself. This was a very different philosophy from the way most women were raised in her native India. In her own words, “We all deserve the power of the purse for our own freedom. It unlocks them (women) from being at the mercy of a male-dominated world. This attitude defined her entire career and approach to leadership.

Indra Nooyi (left) with husband Raj and daughters Preetha and Tara.
Indra Nooyi with Hillary Clinton at Nooyi's induction into the Smithsonian.

Like most working mothers today, Nooyi struggled with juggling the demands of being a good mother, a wife, a daughter, and an employee simultaneously. She acknowledges it is impossible to be the best at everything and credits the support of her husband and family, and being able to afford help as making the difference between remaining in the lower ranks and getting ahead.

According to Nooyi, “The men who were climbing the management ladder, reaching for bigger titles, salaries, stock options and board seats, could work more, travel more, study in the evenings, and spend hours mingling with clients, competitors, and friends. They were flexible because women were minding the home front.” Women rarely have this advantage. “The rules of engagement in corporate leadership were absolutely unforgiving. Compromise to accommodate home life was unthinkable.”

Until I read this book I had no idea that PepsiCo carried such a vast range of brands and products.

There are just too many words of wisdom in this book to do them justice unless you read it yourself. Boomer women will recognize many of the challenges we faced as women during our years in the corporate world and we hope that today’s working women appreciate the groundwork we laid to improve conditions for women in the workplace. We did get the ball rolling. Nooyi reminds us, though, that there is still a long way to go to making the workplace equitable and family-friendly for both women and men.

I bookmarked so many pages in My Life in Full. When I reflect on my own career, there are so many things I wish I had done differently but times were different then and rocking the boat was not a career-enhancing move. Nooyi spends more than half the book describing her upward journey before getting into the specifics of her career and management style at PepsiCo, which was a nice balance. Every page of this book is a gem. Read, learn, and enjoy.


If you are unable to obtain My Life in Full by Indra Nooyi at your local bookstore or library, please click on the image of the book cover to order from Amazon.

(Disclosure: You will receive Amazon’s best price and I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thank you.)

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1 year ago

The movie I might skip by the sounds of it.
Now the book is another story . It sounds fascinating and I will also pass the title on to my daughter who became a first time mom at 40, and still manages her career, while trying to have a work/life balance.

1 year ago

I just watched it yesterday too. Bad people: I’m pretty sure they are in a mob of some sort and involved in illegal stuff Doll: reminds her of her childhood doll that she loved, that her daughter Bianca ruined and Leda threw out the window in anger. reminds her of what little patience she had as a young mother Lyle: c’mon, it was weird, her leaning over him and speaking in Italian. And she was right when she told him she was mean Callie — I believe she is the sister-in-law, not sister and is clearly the female head of… Read more »

Gail Czopka
Gail Czopka
1 year ago

Always enjoy your outlook. Just being a single working mother myself, it was tough enough without the added pressures of having the demands of a senior management position. It takes a special kind of person and a good partner for that to work. Something to be admired. I don’t always understand the hype about some movies. It causes me to expect more from the movie when I do see it & then disappointment because it didn’t meet the expectations promised in the media…… Or maybe just above my intellectual understanding🤣

Gail from Oakville