Then you’d better see a doctor, it’s probably cancer. Oh rom-coms, what is your deal? Just when I became your most ardent defender and even went so far as to make Defender of the Romantic Faith buttons, I come across this weak-water, ill-executed, petite bollocks of a rom-com that makes me wonder what it is to be a man in modern society. Well, no, it doesn’t make me wonder that at all, it just makes me wonder why casting in Hollywood takes the people you love and trust and make them betray you so cruelly.
Emma Lloyd (Uma Thurman) is a radio host that gives out canned, prudent advice to strangers of the “Heroes are hard to find” variety. That is, every squirm in your stomach, young lady, represents a problem you have with your beau. The advice is exclusively woman-to-woman. Incidentally, she’s about to be married to her publisher, Richard (Colin Firth), about whom she has no complaints but also few positive impressions. When Emma’s one-size-fits-all advice leads to Patrick (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) getting dumped because he doesn’t fit the “R.E.A.L.” criteria (*sigh*), Patty the fireman decides to deliver some of her own medicine. Apparently, her own medicine is the inverse of what Emma did to him.
Instead of making Richard dump her for non-specific reasons, his friend downstairs hacks into public records and makes Richard and Emma man and wife. So now, Emma has to deal with that by annulling the technical marriage (which she unquestioningly accepts as a random glitch) and Richard does what he can to make that a long and irritating process. Did I say irritating? I meant to say charming. He’s charming and unpredictable while she’s neurotic and weirdly peppy throughout. Oh my goodness, what will happen next?
Farrago: n. A confused mixture: from Latin, literally ‘mixed fodder’, from far ‘corn’. In the Professor’s dictionary, there is another entry. Farrago: n. The contents, usually trite or clichéd, that one places in a medium, usually film, in order to expand a single premise of any originality into the appearance of a full piece of work. I can’t decide which simile I like the best. Is it insulation, flour for bad gravy, or baking soda for cocaine? They all have their virtues.
I have nothing against the genre, as I said, but I do have something against the weaker members of the club. Before I name the members of this sub-genre, why don’t I explain my objections?
On the face of it, movies of this group are light and flighty. The conflict, though potentially serious when you think them over, are dealt with as though they aren’t of much concern. At least, that’s what the music and lighting is telling you. The actors, on the other hand, take everything in the same way—as though the sky is falling, bread refused to be sliced, or their hair had been set on fire. Eeeek! They’re begging for that laugh.
The plot is immaterial to the criticism. In reality, you don’t need one beyond Boy and Girl (or Boy, there’s nothing wrong with that, some of my best friends…) in near proximity. But there must be a dynamic. Again, it need not be more elaborate than their emotional résumés do not share many references. That’s certainly the dynamic they chose for this movie. The problem is that they didn’t tell Patrick that he wasn’t supposed to like her. Here’s a person that ruined his life, but within days of meeting her, he starts to like her. Why? Couldn’t tell ya. Because she’s Uma Thurman, presumably.
My major problem with this group of movies is that they are made, I feel, exclusively for women. Read carefully. I feel this to be the case, but I can’t tell why. I think it’s the fact that it is so anti-woman. Her neuroses are all self-destructive wall-building (is that a contradiction?) and her main theory painfully, obviously in the wrong. She is the enemy to men and happiness. Her revelations all come from this simple man. If she only had the sense God gave a dog, this would all have been avoided. That strikes me as quite patronizing and yet the driving force of the narrative.
My final complaint is that they are all incredibly cheap. I mean that in production values and moral values. Cheap and easy. The wit is ten a penny (but doesn’t seem to realize it) and bows before the porcelain altar of situation. Flush. I’m so sad that Griffin Dunne directed this movie. He was so good in After Hours.
All right, let’s start naming names. Prime (2005), Bride Wars (2009), Someone Like You… (2001), She’s All That (1999), Valentine’s Day (2010), America’s Sweethearts (2001), You’ve Got Mail (1998), Sweet Home Alabama (2002), Keeping the Faith (2000) (which Ed Norton directed?!). I have many more suspicions, like Made of Honor (2008), Something’s Gotta Give (2003), Rumor Has It… (2005), and Must Love Dogs (2005). I’m getting tired. Things I don’t like make me tired.
The great thing about IMDB is that it’s “People who liked…” feature confirmed (and inspired) many of my choices.
Oh Darcy, you’re such a fool some times.