Movie Matinee: A Series of Unfortunate Admissions

I suppose this doesn’t qualify as much of an admission—seeing as how I’ve written on this subject before, albeit briefly—but I adore and despise the romantic comedy genre, in equal measure.

From the romanticization of stalker behavior to the gaslighting of every leading lady, romcoms are the adult version of “he only pulls your hair because he likes you.” They’re stories snatched straight from the playground, dressed up with schmaltzy soundtracks and marketing targeted to women under the snarky diminution of ‘chick flick’.

Cuz not only will Hollywood not make us decent movies, society’s gotta mock us for taking enjoyment in those scraps we are offered. [See also, for a book-centric analysis of this soft bigotry of the romance.]

My next also!not!shocking! admission?

I find hating romantic comedies part and parcel of enjoying them.

In fact, “Once you’ve mocked romantic comedy clichés, you are free to indulge in them” is itself a pervasive romantic comedy cliché, as Chloe Angyal once pointed out. (By the by, Dr. Angyal is both an active and vocal feminist critic…and herself so romanced by the romantic comedy that she wrote her dissertation on the genre, and its relationship to post-feminist Hollywood feminism.)

One of my favorite mock-worthy clichés is the obligatory makeover of the heroine.

Pretty-Woman-rude-shop
Julia’s pre-madeover look: Underwear as outerwear, held together with safety pins.

The Ur-Romcom in this respect remains Pretty Woman, a flick my college roommates and I used to watch over and over in our dorm room—but only up through the shopping scene, after which we would each drag our sartorially-satiated selves back to our desks. Athough newer movies have done it differently, none has done it better.

1999’s She’s All That, which holds its own place in the makeover pantheon as Most Glasses-Removal That Were Ever Removed*, even paid homage to these roots.

shes all that
Self-referential romcom mocking: Achievement unlocked. 

[*I acknowledge this film’s status, even as I maintain my own soft-spot preference for the glasses-removal scene in the Australian delight Strictly Ballroom: where our heroine is enticed to remove her glasses—and apparently cure her own nearsightedness for the remainder of the movie??—not because she will look better with them off. But because she will dance better.

Nothing says “two left feet” quite like 20/20 vision, I guess.]

Now, to see a truly genius act of romcom makeover-cum-gentle self-mocking of its own tropes-cumPretty Woman shout-out—all served up with a side order of genre gender-bending, no less!—for my money, nothing comes even close to this scene from Warm Bodies, a Romeo-and-Juliet retelling in which the House of Montague is played by zombies.

Including our undead hero:

No glasses to lose, but hey. Can’t have everything, right?


Copping to my final admission is, I’ll admit, a bit painful. But [big breath] here goes:

I sure would like escapist romantic movies that I could escape to without also hating.

I mean, is it really too much to ask for a movie that is both 1) a romance and 2) not-completely-sucky? Word to the wise, for any Hollywood producers eager to accommodate the ladies and unsure how to begin: you could try a remake. (I know you producers LOOOOVE a remake.)

You could try this kind of remake, in fact.

Please??

 

I’ll even take my glasses off just for you, if you do.

# # #


How’s about you, dear readers–what movies have you been watching lately? Got anything you’d recommend?

44 thoughts on “Movie Matinee: A Series of Unfortunate Admissions

  1. Gotta stand up for Strictly Ballroom here… as a competitive ballroom dancer, I can say I never see anyone competing at a high level while wearing glasses, because with the intensity of spins, dips, and other various forms of head-thrashing the glasses would likely go flying off.

    Presumably, Fran has been inspired at that point to go get contact lenses (assuming she can afford them?), but I remember one of my coaches talking about the Bad Old Days before contacts, when everyone still took off their glasses to compete. She definitely needed them, and she danced American Smooth, so she did this dramatic spin away from her partner, and he had his back to her … she looks back to see TWO average-height men with short dark hair and she can’t read the number pinned to his back (she must *really* need glasses, because those things are at like 400-pt font), so she just danced toward one of them and hoped she embraced the right one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope she found the right one to embrace too!

      I don’t think Fran gets contact lenses, no — but she does get a good facial scrub, so really. How much more transformation can a girl need, anyway.

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  2. I loved Ghostbusters and felt like it was awesome in that there was NO ROMANCE! None of these women were distracted at all. I also loved how it was all about this friendship between these two women and how together they became successful! I thought it was funny and full of action. I want to see women doing amazing action sequences. I love women shooting things and blowing things up! I thought Kate McKinnen was glorious! I also thought Leslie Jones was hilarious and I was nostalgic and impressed.

    Funnily, Brad and I just watched the original ghostbusters and I thought (now in my adult woman brain) that it was sort of ridiculous the romance in it. I mean Bill Murray is funny but if a disgraced scientist was stalking you, I don’t think you’d find it funny.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, interesting idea! I watched it again recently, after many years, and yeah — that is one delightfully funny film with a definitive Smurfette problem.

      I would particularly like to see a gender-bent Fezzig. Women characters are so rarely allowed to diverge so significantly from a restrictive range of body types — I’d love to see a female giant character treated as lovingly as “Fezzig” was!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes!! I started to write to have a complete male/female role reversal in the remake because so many roles could ideally be done brilliantly by women. But as I thought a bit, I didn’t really want to see a movie that was 95% women instead. I also don’t believe women should aspire to co-opting male roles ie the brute squad. But yes. The idea of a woman being physically dominating to men — if conveyed with that prodding good humor and wit could be epic!

        Liked by 1 person

      1. The only thing that horrified me about the sex montage was remembering my 18 year-old daughter had seen it. But it was one of my favorite bits! I love how head-over-heels Deadpool is allowed to be over the woman he loves.

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        1. I have similar memories (albeit in reverse) of movies I watched with my mother: may loved certain movies, yes — but every memory now tinged with a heightened horror at all the “naughty language”! lol

          Liked by 1 person

        2. My grandmother was an avid reader, and she used to ask me for book recs. I lent her one that I hadn’t read in years. My sister called me and said “You loaned our grandmother RAMSES THE DAMNED?!” I re-read it, and blushed and blushed. Yes. I lent my grandmother an Anne Rice book.

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  3. Not a RomCom, but Ghostbusters – the new version – cause I actually sorta liked parts of the original, and because I wanted to judge for myself just how they would play out ‘the woman issue’ this time as it has that * surrounding it as being a quasi-feminist-woman power thing. It was okay, but the cliche’ lines killed most of the ability to see and hear anything much beyond a female body spewing Dan Aykroyd and Bill Murray lines. Then there’s the entire Leslie Jones hate response… Ultimately I think it all would have been better just left alone.

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    1. That was one of my fears for this movie. I was afraid that “an all female cast” was their flag to fly and that the writers would just kind of phone it in. Girl-child said it was like the world’s most tiresome SNL sketch.

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      1. Disappointing. Though many SNL reunion flicks end up feeling like a skit that’s gone on waaaay past its commercial break.

        Not a romcom — OR a Ghostbusters reboot — but I recently saw Melissa McCarthy’s action movie spoof, Spy. A positive delight!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Sorry that was your experience. (As well as Heather’s girl-child!) I know other friends who have raved mightily — one of my largest gripes about women-centric movies is that, because of how few of them get made, each one carries this extra baggage of women feeling a NEED to like it. As if any movie based around men is expected to please all men in the audience!

          Oh well. Either way, I’ll probably stick to my plan of watching it once it’s out on video.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. “Love Actually” slayed me because one of the story lines was so painfully real. One of my favorites is “The Truth About Cats and Dogs.” Girl sells herself short and in turn sells a guy short. It was a bit of a twist.

    Liked by 1 person

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