I think it was halfway through The Back-Up Plan that I leaned over to my mother and declared “I’m never going to another chick-flick with you ever again. Never. From now on we’re going to watch independent documentaries about people with really sad diseases.”
“Shh,” my mother said, “I’m sure it will get better. Soon.” And then a placenta spilt all over Jennifer Lopez. Oh, I’m sorry. Spoiler alert: a placenta spilt all over Jennifer Lopez. It was a laugh riot.
That said, I was apt to dismiss it as an anomaly until I started thinking about the last really good women-targeted, mainstream movie I’ve actually seen (for the purposes of this article, I’m referring to them as chick-flicks because it’s catchy and I like it. Though I did think about calling them vaginema. Get it? Like cinema. And vagina. Combined). The Killers? Sex and the City 2? Leap Year? When in Rome? Valentine’s Day? The Bounty Hunter? The Ugly Truth? All of these movies had something very special in common. They all sucked like a vampire.
James Wolcott (a man who actually enjoys chick flicks) has a great piece in this months’ Vanity Fair about the genre’s demise. He notes:
“How far the women’s picture has fallen can be gauged from Diane English’s disastrous 2008 remake of The Women, in which the frisky, staccato dialogue an whiplash pace of the Clare Booth Luce-George Cukor original gives way to Meg Ryan boasting that she “can suck the nails out of a board, and that is a fact.” If Eat, Pray, Love based on Elizabeth Gilber’s unstoppable best-seller and starring Julia Robert’s Kentucky Derby smile, doesn’t resuscitate its fortunes, perhaps the genre is unrevivable – unless more producers, directors and screenwriters begin to take an interest in real life women. Like that’ll happen.”
In conclusion, when I said recent chick-flicks “suck like a vampire” I should have said “suck like Meg Ryan’s character in that absolutely Godawful remake of The Women.”
But if directors aren’t taking an interest in presenting real modern day women, what are they interested in presenting in these films? I have a theory.
2) Fart jokes.
Okay, I kind of get shoes. I can understand how producers might be lead into thinking that shoes = something women like = sure fire hit for the female audience. And there are definitely movies that have glossy, glamorous montages that fit perfectly with the movie. Pretty Woman? I love that scene in Pretty Woman where she finally gets to shop. That’s a really happy scene. And I love it when Molly Ringwald makes that hideous 80’s gown at the end of Pretty in Pink. But I also feel like, in those movies, the clothing was very, very secondary to the plot and the characters. And in some of the modern movies, it seems like the clothing and superficial glamorous stuff is the primary focus.
Take The Women. I’m pretty sure that entire movie was just an elaborate advertisement created by Saks. You can tell by the scene wherein Annette Bening (Annette Bening! These are not stupid actresses) bends down, grabs a child by the shoulders and earnestly says “No. One. Doesn’t. Like. Saks.” You feel she will honestly slap that kid if they ever express a desire not to hang out in the handbag section of a department store again. It would at least explain why the rest of the characters spend the rest of the movies strutting angrily about squawking “Saks! Saks! Saks! Let’s buy perfume! At Saks! Let’s Get our nails done! At Saks! Let’s start a fashion line and sell it! To Saks!”
Meanwhile, Sex and the City 2 drowned under a sandy sea of the consumerism it gave birth to. There was a time show the seemed to be about women (or at least very recognizable female stereotypes) but as of Sex and the City 2, it seems to be more about making sure your slave boy fetches you your Dior and your camel-riding Louboutins.
“[In older films] Prosperity and all the comforts of home rested on a more precarious foundation. If Carrie has a tiff with Big in SATC2, she can simply decamp to the bachlorette aartment she still keeps and pout into her laptop; in Nancy Meyer’s comedies (real-estate porn with an estrogen injection) affluence buoys the airiness of every interior, each kitchen a shiny outpost of Shan-gri-la.”
And when they’re not doing that they seem to be making jokes about how much sperm Samantha can swallow. Or how many chocolates Jessica Alba can stuff in her mouth. Or just stuffing a vibrator down Katherine Heigl’s pants and having it go off halfway through dinner. Or having placenta spill all over prettily put together Jennifer Lopez. I don’t mind an element of slapstick in my comedies, but I guess I just don’t think that’s all that funny. At least not funny enough to carry a movie.
You know what I think is really funny? Pretty much every single line from the original 1930’s The Women. Or Bringing Up Baby. Or, hey, the wordplay in John Hughes movies. Basically anything that seems to indicate that a character has a higher level of intellect than just being able to say “I can suck the nails out of a board” and expecting it to pass for a witty bon mot. Because, ugh. You are not sassy, board sucking character. You are my mother’s painful middle aged friends who want to talk about how they may be divorced but then can give one hell of a blow-job over lunch in a desperate attempt to shock me and reassure themselves that they’re still hot. You don’t give me the giggles. You give me the cringes.
Again, I understand why producers think this is a good idea. Not everyone is going to get the wordplay in All About Eve. I guess everyone does get that sticky things exploding on people are funny. Sort of. But it means that producers are attempting to attract 100% of people with something that’s 10% funny, rather than 10% of people with something that’s 100% funny (at least to that 10%).
Until they get back to that, thanks for the numerous options Jennifer Lopez (and Jennifer Aniston, too!) but I’ll be at home illegally downloading Heartburn and When Harry Met Sally.