Monday, January 10, 2011

Oh Chick Flicks, How I Hate You-"No Strings Attached"

I review films for a number of sites, but this is a bit more of a blog than a review. It's kind of a hate letter to chick flicks. As some of you know, I just interviewed director Ivan Reitman for Coming Soon and got the scoop on the next Ghostbusters film. I do so love that man. Not only did he give us Slimer (anyone else remember drinking Hi-C Ecto Cooler?) but he's an incredibly nice man. I just attended a screening of his new film "No Strings Attached" and I was all ready to like it...because it's Ivan, not because of the subject matter.

I hate chick flicks. Just despise them. Oh, there are exceptions. I loved Lady Jane. Historical chick flicks can still get me. I do love a good love story. I just hate the stupid rom com formula. I know the very blah couple will be attracted to each other. There will be a series of hijinks and misunderstandings specially designed to keep them apart. They'll end up together. There will be a cute montage over the credits. I can tell you the entire story from the trailer. They bore the hell out of me.

Part of the reason is the fantasy of it all. This is coming from someone who reads books about dragons. But at least I accept that I'm unlikely to run into one on Hollywood Blvd. The fantasy of the perfect guy who has no flaws coming to sweep you off your feet is bullshit, yet I hear over and over from both men and women that they really do believe the perfect person is out there. When they meet someone who is otherwise wonderful, that one little flaw messes them up and they break it off or complain about why it just won't work. They're just not movie quality material.

Now, understand, I'm happily married and I've been with my husband for 14 years. He's seriously awesome and I'm convinced we were meant to be together. It was and is a damn good love story and I'd watch a film about it. Seriously, you wouldn't believe me if I told it to you how it all happened! But we both have flaws. After this many years, they're part of what I love about him. Anyway, like I said, a good love story is all right with me. Aragorn and his elf lady. The sweetly tragic A Lion in Winter. A Princess Bride. All favorites of mine. It's the "saving" thing I can't stomach.

In "No Strings Attached," we have a woman who is too busy for a relationship. The story is a bit of a mess. The couple (Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher) meet as teens in camp and she tells him she's not an affectionate person. They meet again years later and drags him to her father's funeral. She tells him he'd be better off not knowing her. Later in the script, we're told that she's only been frozen since dealing with her mother in the aftermath of her father's death.

Well, wherever it started, she's got relationship issues. All she wants is a fuck buddy. No room for the perfect man who loves her and has no flaws! Yup. Ashton's character has bad things happen to him but doesn't have a single thing wrong with him. (Makes him boring as hell in my book.) He puts up with Natalie's crazy. He makes her mix tapes. He takes her to fun places. He loves her with all his heart. He holds her. He doesn't even have a zit. Eventually, she caves. He 'saves' her from herself. Surprise, surprise.

Look, I loved listening to writer Elizabeth Meriwether speak. She's funny. Reitman said she's got a great understanding of her generations. But all I saw here was a reversal of the usual chick flick. In those, a perfect woman, far too pretty to be single, who's co-workers/family/friends don't get the perfectness of her being, meets a guy who is unobtainable. He's emotionally unavailable either because he doesn't want a relationship or he's already in one with a bitch (she has to be a bitch or we might actually sympathize with her) who just doesn't get him. In the end, he falls in love with her. She 'saves' him. It's the same damn thing. Sure, this film is a little more raunchy then the traditional fare, but hey, so is the younger generation. I think one of the first mistakes was having a director, wonderful though he is, on a film for far younger people. If he's like the rest of the older generation of Hollywood, he was so amused by the raunchiness and the phenomenon of social networking and navigating that world while dating that he didn't notice all the problems with the script. Ooh, it's different! It's the voice of a younger generation! Look at those crazy kids and their Facethingies and Tweeters! The script is so fresh and different! Imagine...women saying dirty things! Heehee! Here's the thing. For those of us IN that generation, this isn't fresh and new. It's our life. So we don't have to wade through all of that. We can clearly see the script problems, and the flawless, unreal character.

The newness and raunchy words from women are so normal to us, that it's also impossible to miss how underused this wonderful cast was. We get some great funny moments from Kevin Kline as the pot smoking dad dating his son's ex-girlfriend. But you've got Cary Elwes and you give him 3 lines? What the fuck? (See? Women curse.) Greta Gerwig, Olivia Thirlby, Adhir Kalyan...he's just a prop! Why stuff the cast with awesomeness and give them nothing to do?

The whole thing was uneven and unbelievable. No one is so flawed that they'd turn down a guy like this. There IS no guy like this. And the sex scene...oh god. Very uncomfortable. A still shot on the face during a scene that...I'm sorry. I don't care how cute he is. No woman, issues or not, is going to be okay with it going that quick.

I know, I know. No one is going to stop making these things. Some people love them. I know plenty of people who think my love of scifi is stupid. (Those people are crazy. Who doesn't love a time-traveling purple talking dragon on a spaceship?) I'm just saying that, if you're going to do the unbelievable, save me from myself, it's all going to work out in the end and we'll never have a fight for the rest of our lives and pour syrup over our heads-we're just so sickeningly sweet thing, at least try to have an even script. The Proposal managed it. This one didn't.

1 comment:

  1. I hear you on the hating of chick flicks. I saw the poster and trailer for No Strings Attached and thought, I want to see that. I never did.
    I usually don't end up following through on my initial desire to see these "chick flicks" because I know what I hope the movie will be isn't likely to actually happen.
    As a filmmaker, when I think of chick flicks I think of edgy, well-rounded, unpredictable female characters carrying an intense multi-layered story regardless of genre.
    No to find an excuse for the movie, but I think it's difficult for movies coming out of the studio system to really do a chick flick justice. No pun intended, but there's a lot of strings attached to getting a film through the Hollywood system and a good chick flick doesn't stand much of a chance.
    Thankfully, technology gives us a lot more opportunities to make the stories we want to see and get them out there without having to rely on the studios.
    And if more of us, like you, speak up when we see crappy chick flicks, maybe we'll start seeing better ones. I hope so 'cause in my mind chick flicks are cool.