The Riddle of the Chick Flick

What do you mean, audiences don't think I'm cute? I'M HOLDING A BABY.I flatter myself that the people who visit this blog are people who’ve followed me here because they have a similar taste in cinema — or at least because they like to think about the movies they see, which is all I really ask of anybody.

And I while I’m as happy as any of my contemporaries to hail a genuine work of art — an “Uncle Boonmee“, a “Nostalgia for the Light“, a “Synecdoche, New York” — I also take considerable pleasure in championing smart popular entertainment wherever I find it.

I don’t do either of those things in this week’s MSN DVD column, which focuses on two rather dreadful movies — “Life as We Know It” and “You Again” — in an attempt to understand why the women who star in them seem hell-bent on building careers in crappy studio comedies. If anyone has an answer, well, the comments are waiting.

2 thoughts on “The Riddle of the Chick Flick”


    Horrible as it is, each month there must be one new comedy, and no matter how banal or wretched or predictable the thing may be, it garners new life, free from the darts wielded by critics because it just sits there among foreign, horror, docs, and badly designed covers on store and online racks.

    People see Pierce Brosnan or Jello on the cover all smiley-faced, and they know exactly what they’re getting: some music, some smiley faces, some crying, some running, more music, maybe impromptu singing, and a finale where the vapid male and the vapid female are on their way to Couples Joy, underscored by a music montage (Ooh! “Walking on Sunshine!” No one ever uses that song!) you can buy online.

    These banal films are indestructible because they’re headlined by neutral and occasionally meritricious thespians who appear with steady regularity in yearly productions, ensuring a place in the consciousness of the average renter, including those not crazy about rom-coms, but willing to spend $6 on one because they’ve seen everything else.

    The comedy’s also the Compromise Film, a break from each person’s usual genre fare, and it may be the only genre (specifically the rom-com) where either gender can take time making a sandwich, broil a steak, stir fry an extravagant chicken dish, and/or take the longest pee in history, and come back to the couch and fill in the blank spots with few continuity errors.

    They’re also safe to watch with kids, won’t stress Sam goldfish, and if they do provoke rage in viewers for time utterly wasted, it’s ideal water cooler fodder.

    Not that I’m a cynic.


  2. I think the criticism of overwhelming crapitude is more accurately directed at the rom-com, an unfortunately large subset of chick flicks. Part of the problem is the regressive nature of the formula rom-com plot. In a formulaic “guy” movie, getting the girl is often a prize ON TOP OF whatever else he gets to do in the movie, an excuse for a gratuitous boob shot in between explosions or car chases. In a rom-com, the man IS the prize, not a convenient bit of eye candy she’s allowed while she gets on with something exciting/interesting/important. (The only example I can think of off hand where men’s bodies were thrown in just as casually for the female audience to gawk at while being pretty marginal to a lot of plotlines was Sex and the City, series and 1st movie.) If the “exciting/interesting/important” part of the main character’s life is just going to be ditched for some guy, why bother to make that part of the movie intelligent or engaging?

    Studios can make money – and therefore actresses can get parts easier – with the formula rather than trying harder and gambling trying to figure out the elusive “What Women Want,” which by the way, was a fun chick flick. A few others – Julie & Julia, The Devil Wears Prada, and, going farther and farther back, Legally Blonde and Private Benjamin. Since they don’t have much in common, how is a studio going to duplicate their $ucce$$. (The most typically rom-com of these was The Devil Wears Prada, but who cared about the guy, or even Anne Hathaway? The movie was owned by Meryl “cerulean blue” Streep, Emily “I’m one stomach flu away from my ideal weight” Blunt, and Stanley “gird your loins” Tucci.)

    I’d bet that if there were a greater variety of non-rom-com comedic parts for actresses, they’d be fighting over them. Katherine Heigl can stay in bad rom-coms, however. It’s become a good sign to steer clear of a movie.

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