Category Archives: Movie Review

Movie Review: A Quiet Little Marriage

[Warning: this review contains possibly-unwanted information about the contents of Collin’s nostrils and my uterus.  And also pretty much spoils the entire movie.  But you don’t care, do you? You’ve never even heard of this movie, unless you stalk the body of work of peripheral characters from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia the way the HitchDieds do.]

A few hours before watching this movie, Collin and I had the following conversation:

Robin: Collin, you have a booger hanging out of your nose.
Collin: Pull it out for me.
Robin: I don’t think our relationship is at that level yet.
Collin: How can you say that? We’re engaged. When we get married, you’ll own half my boogers.
Robin: That’s not how that works.
Collin: Just do this. Take this step with me, for the sake of the relationship.
Robin: I want you to remember this conversation when I go baby-crazy and you are not ready for kids yet.
Collin: When that happens, you can just secretly have your IUD removed.

If we were characters in A Quiet Little Marriage, that last bit of the conversation wouldn’t have been facetious. Wait. If we were characters in A Quiet Little Marriage, that entire conversation never would have happened. Because the “Quiet” part of the title is very literal. This is a movie about a married couple who do whatever it takes to avoid direct communication.

Olive (Mary Elizabeth Ellis, the Waitress from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) wants a baby. Her husband Dax does not. Because he had a dysfunctional family, and because he heard something on NPR about how terrible life in Darfur is. He doesn’t find “we don’t live in Darfur” a compelling argument. He says, “I thought we already talked about this.” “This” being, whether or not to have children, ever. “Already” refers to their first date.

Hoo boy. You can’t bind someone for the duration of a marriage to what they say on a first date! First dates are breeding grounds for little white lies and where exaggerations build their nests. Everyone getting married should talk, seriously, post the first-date universe of lies and half-truths, about plans for child rearing.

Instead of belatedly talking out the baby issue, Olive and Dax decide to take their broken-down communication and smash it with sledgehammers. IN SECRET, of course! Olive pokes a hole in her diaphragm (has anyone used a diaphragm for birth control, rather than as a plot device, post-1981?). Dax discovers a used (negative) pregnancy test and surreptitiously refills Olive’s old prescription for birth control pills. He grinds them up and adds them to her morning coffee, with plenty of sugar to mask that horse-piss taste. Olive, if only you drank your coffee black you could avoid being drugged!

This goes on for four months. Then Olive starts to think that, negative pregnancy tests be damned, she MUST be pregnant. She’s crying for no reason! Her boobs are bigger! She sees her gyno, and the jig is up.

How does she respond? With a conversation? No! She puts every single pill in the house into a fruit smoothie and leaves it on the kitchen counter. (Incidentally, this is the first movie I’ve seen where Chekov’s Gun applied to smoothies. Hopefully not the last). When Dax returns from a long run, does he ask, “Honey, can I drink this smoothie?” No! That would be communication! He just drinks the whole thing. He doesn’t die, which is too bad, because it would have immediately gone into my top five movie deaths of all time.

Unlike all the other movies I watch where the characters act like dolts, A Quiet Little Marriage doesn’t celebrate this lunacy, which is the film’s saving grace. But ultimately I felt like they got off the hook, a bit. The smoothie is non-fatal. Someone conveniently dies so they can have a bereavement-facilitated reconciliation. They come to terms on the baby thing and are immediately granted a baby from a forgotten sub-plot involving one of the McPoyles and Lucy DeVito.

I think I am making this movie sound worse than it really is. I would totally watch the sequel, A Quiet Little Guardianship, in which they raise the baby that fell into their laps in a similarly tight-lipped style. In Kindergarten, the poor little guy would ask his parents where babies come from. Dax would say, “We already talked about this. When you were eight months old.” Olive would scream, “THE MOON!” and then run into the kitchen and weep.  In second grade, he’d ask for help with his spelling homework, and Olive would answer in semaphore.  Kid would ask Daddy what Mommy is doing, Dax would sigh deeply and then hand him a steaming plate of lasagna made with pages from the dictionary instead of noodles.   In seventh grade, the now-moody teen would accuse Olive and Dax of not being his real parents, and Dax would remind him that in Darfur children are forced to eat their real parents.  And Olive would hand him a suspicious-looking smoothie.

Movie Review: Only You

Glaring signs you should not get married:

1. With only ten days left before your wedding, you are willing to fly to Italy at a moment’s notice to chase a childhood fantasy that you are destined to marry someone named Damon Bradley.

2.  If you, as a grown woman, truly believe you are destined to marry someone named Damon Bradley because a Ouija Board told you so when you were eleven, you probably lack the mental capacity to decide to marry.

3. If, in Italy, someone compliments your feet, and you say, “Hey, do you happen to know Damon Bradley?” and he says, “Why I am Damon Bradley!” and you DO NOT CHECK FOR ID, then your ineptitude at even the simplest inane task like chasing a childhood fantasy suggests you might fail at marriage, which can be hard.

4.  If you have a romantic evening with a stranger who claims to be Damon Bradley nine days before your wedding, you should call off your wedding.

5. But you should also not marry the person who claims to be Damon Bradley, who continues to seduce you after discovering you are spoken for, even if he comes clean before sticking it in you that he’s not actually Damon Bradley.

6.  And he should not marry you!  YOU ARE A LUNATIC!  And a cheater.  See points 1–5.

7.  Also, WHY would  you believe Not Damon Bradley that he tracked down The Real Damon Bradley in Romantic Italian Location #3?  He’s a demonstrated liar! Why would you invite him to join you on the trip down there?  Why have you STILL not called off your wedding which is now EIGHT days away?  Don’t you have bows to tie and all the other last-minute crap that befalls engaged couples?  You should not get married because you are clearly running out of time for wedding details.

8.  And you,  Not Damon Bradley! Just to be clear! You should not marry someone who skips town ten days before her wedding, arrives in Italy on her sister-in-law’s dime wearing her would-be-mother-in-law’s wedding dress, foolishly believes you are named Damon Bradley, is charmed by your cut-rate Gregory Peck impression, kisses you despite her IMMINENT MARRIAGE, follows you to another Italian city, goes on a date with a tightly-pantsed Billy Zane because he also claims to have the right name, and only rejects the real Damon Bradley because he’s not particularly attractive, er, I mean because she’s in love with you after two freakin’ days of lies and creepiness in Italy.

Nevermind, you deserve each other.

Movie Review: Best Men

According to Netflix, Best Men is an “off-the-wall comedy.”  Also, a “romantic comedy.” Also, “romantic.”  These are all lies.

In fact, until the unlikely event that I review Kill Bill, this movie will almost definitely have the highest body count of any wedding movie I cover on my blog.

Best Men begins with a motley crew of groomsmen picking up the groom on his wedding day.  They pick him up from state prison, from which he’s just been released.  [I think he was in prison for stealing the engagement ring, but I might have made that up.]

On the way to the church, one groomsman asks to make a stop.  This vital, wedding schedule threatening errand?  A bank robbery.

Which becomes a hostage situation, for reasons I can’t really sort out aside from “that is what happened in Dog Day Afternoon.”  The other groomsman and the groom himself all get mixed up in it, somehow.  Maybe because there were enough handguns to go around, so they say, “why not?”  Actually, the groom is on his third strike, and therefore none too pleased about being roped into this crime.  Plus the whole thing where he is missing his wedding for this.

Luckily for our Repeat Offender Groom, the bride charges her way through the police barricade, kicking cops in the groin with the Doc Martens she’s wearing under her bridal gown.  Then they invite a priest to perform the ceremony in the bank lobby.

I can see how this plot could be a comedy.  Sometimes I thought that the movie was actually trying to be a comedy.  When the priest comes in to perform the ceremony, he tells the groomsmen to bow their heads because they’re “in the house of the lord.”  There is banter about how they’re actually in a bank.  Is this an attempt at comedy?  That priest, so rigid as to expect solemnity and respect for god at a wedding conducted in the middle of a hostage situation, reprimanding a row of groomsmen packing heat for not bowing their heads in prayer!  Ha ha?  Right?  I mean, they’re trying to make me laugh at least, right?

Nope: it is set up for the priest pulling his own gun out of a hollowed-out bible, and then shooting a few groomsmen.  This is just the start of the bloodshed.

Before the movie ends, Sean Patrick Flannery delivers the entire “to be or not to be” soliloquy, sincerely, as he actually considers whether he’s ready to die in a hail of law enforcement gunfire.  Wedding movie?  Where did you go?  Come back, wedding movie!

Best Men is not a comedy, off or on the wall.  Dog Day Afternoon, the movie Best Men wants to be when it grows up,  is closer to comedy, and Netflix calls that one a “gritty crime drama.”

But it is still a wedding movie, and valuable study material for me, for one reason: upon arriving at the scene, the bride says, “I was sure I’d run down every possible scenario of everything that could have gone wrong today, but this one wins the prize.”  First, I won’t be making that mistake.  I now know that a bank robbery hostage scenario is a contingency I should plan for on my wedding day.  Second, when things do go wrong on my wedding day, as long as these mishaps fall short of federal crimes and gunfire, I will feel a little more at ease.

Movie Review: When In Rome

I met most of my friends in Pittsburgh at a comedy show that a few of them run.  I have earned a reputation as a “laugh slut” among them.  My friends are all very funny people, but from time to time one of their bits fall so flat even the crickets stop chirping.  Yet I will still laugh.  I’m easy like that.

Which is why I really started to worry when I realized I hadn’t laughed—at all—in the first hour or so of When In Rome. I knew I was having a bad day (I’ll spare you the details, but it involves crying while talking to customer service operators and the words “pre-existing condition”) but was it really so bad that I couldn’t find anything to laugh at in a romantic comedy?  Starring people I find genuinely, wonderfully funny, like Kristen Bell, Danny DeVito, Kate Micucci, Kristen Schaal, and Will Arnett, as well as other people who are allegedly funny, like Dax Shepard and Jon Heder and Bobby Moynihan?  Ghostface Killah has a cameo, and 30 Rock seems to think Ghostface Killah is the world’s greatest punchline.

Has my soul died? Is that another pre-existing condition that is going to keep me under-insured until 2014?

Kristen Bell plays Beth, who is a curator at the Guggenheim and should therefore probably not whine about how her job spoils her love life, because really, who needs a love life when you have a sweet job like that?  (A job that I’m sure comes with fantastic health benefits!)  But then she is publicly humiliated by an ex and finds out her younger sister is getting married all in one night.

Somehow, this wedding happens almost immediately, in Rome, with Chiavari Chairs and all the other wedding movie standby indicators of ginormous unexplained wealth.  After some further public humiliation and the bad fortune to see the groomsman she was hitting it off with making out with another chick, Beth dives into the “Fountain of Love” and pulls some coins out of it.  She thinks she is “saving” the coin-tossers from their delusion that romance exists, but she’s actually activating a spell that causes all of them to fall in love with her.  I don’t know why the legend would go that way, because it seems to encourage pulling coins from the fountain, which is messy and disruptive, rather than tossing coins in the fountain, which is fun and potentially charitable.

Her bewitched suitors include DeVito as the Sausage King, Heder as an illusionist, Arnett as an Italian artist, and Shepard (who is Bell’s actual fiance) as a model.  And the charming groomsman, maybe! [Spoiler alert: The true owner of the fountain toss attributed to the charming groomsman is so clumsily telegraphed by the film I literally feel insulted.]  These guys follow her around declaring their passion in slapsticky ways.  I stare at the screen like this.

Believe me when I tell you that when Beth and Charming Groomsman go on a date in a restaurant where dinner is served in total darkness, and Danny DeVito tells CG “I’m your liverwurst nightmare!” before going all Three Stooges on CG’s face, as seen in night vision, that this is exactly the kind of terrible joke which I’d normally be in stitches over.  My friends would all say “slut!” I’d wipe laugh tears away from my eyes and quietly repeat, “liverwurst nightmare!”  But today… nothing.

It doesn’t help that the film’s tone shifts abruptly from nonsense like the Blackout restaurant and Napoleon Dynamite in a body cast and tiny Italian cars stuffed with five people driving into art museums to trying to make the audience feel saaaaaaad that Beth and CG’s romance is potentially fabricated by the magic of the fountain.  Or that sometimes CG’s klutziness (disaster-magnet klutziness of the kind typical to women in romcoms, so score one for feminism, I guess) is usually played for laughs, but we’re also supposed to be a moved by his sadness over the mid-game lightning strike that ended his football career.   It’s hard to begin with to take a movie about a magic fountain seriously, but after so much broad comedy, or at least attempts at comedy, it is next to impossible.

But perhaps the greatest failing of this movie (the one that will most trouble Lyn, for sure) is the non-inclusion of The Promise’s “When in Rome” on the soundtrack.  Especially when it is clear that When in Rome does not feel it is above cheap references to Napoleon Dynamite:

Let’s rectify that.  And hope this movie is in fact as bad as I thought it was, because I need all the laughs I can get:

Ok, phew, the hair flip at the 30 second mark cracked me up.  I’m not broken!


Movie Review: I Love You, Man

Deciding to get married makes people take stock of their life. I think it is because you’re forced to think about The Future in a massive, “til death” sort of way. But it is also reinforced with concerns about how things will appear at the wedding, when you’ve got all eyes on you. For example, a lot of people try to lose weight for their wedding. (Which I do not endorse, but just run with this analogy for a second.) You’re thinking about spending the rest of your life with your partner, so you think you want to make that life longer and better, and you try to achieve that by eating better and getting more fit. Meanwhile, you’ll maybe look thinner at your wedding, which will delight everyone because you’ve done your duty in our jacked culture and gotten thinner before daring to display yourself to a large group of people. (Sorry, I can’t go through with that analogy without getting really cynical. I hate that weight loss is such a big part of wedding culture, but that is for a different post!)

In I Love You, Man, Paul Rudd plays Peter Klaven, who after getting engaged takes stock of his friendships, or lack thereof. He’s thinking about a future where his wife needs time with her girlfriends, but he doesn’t have close friends of his own. And he’s thinking about having a line of women in matching dresses on one side of the ceremony, and no one to stand up with him as the groom. So he tries to make friends.

There’s a bunch of awkward scenes where Peter seeks out friends but ends up hanging out with weirdos and/or accidentally going on dates, which frankly I skipped today, because I really only had time for a “good parts version.” The good parts are about Peter and his new best friend, Sydney, falling in Man Love, but what really makes this movie work as more than a diverting bromance is Peter and his fiance, Zooey, being in Romantic Love in a very convincing, non-cartoonish relationship for this sort of movie.

The AV Club’s Q&A column last week asked which fictional couples seem like they’re actually a good match, and Nathan Rabin named Peter and Zooey because their relationship “felt very lived-in and natural, like they’d known each other forever, yet familiarity bred comfort and security rather than contempt.” I completely agree with that assessment; even though the characters get engaged after a short courtship, they do seem to just fit together. It’s relatable and nice to see in a wedding movie.

When Peter and Zooey’s inevitable “your relationship with your New Best Friend is weird” fights come along in the plot, they’re believable and reasonable. Zooey’s character could have so easily been depicted as a shrew, the Ho to Sydney’s Bro. Which, at least as far as I’m concerned, would have sunk the movie, I don’t care how charming Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are when they’re playing Rush songs together and comparing pineapples.

Believe it or not, I Love You, Man even passes the Bechdel Test, provided one line of dialogue about sushi being tasty enough to risk mercury poisoning is sufficient to satisfy the third prong (the conversation quickly turns to preparing for pregnancy, so… maybe not. But even coming close is impressive for a movie that is about Dudes in Friend Love).

I’d also like to thank I Love You, Man for being the first wedding movie to have given me inspiration I’m actually planning on using in my own wedding. I’ve mentioned before that because I don’t have living parents to walk me down the aisle, I’d like to be walked down by my closest friends. This movie is totally where I got that idea. (I first saw this before Collin and I decided to get married, but I filed it away for future use.)

Can I also take a moment to praise the costume designer/set decorator for making Zooey’s apparent appreciation of the color yellow appear throughout the film and not just in her bridesmaids’ dresses? It’s a little detail, but it rings true and I appreciate it.

I Love You, Man depicts friendships and romantic relationships warmly, richly, and genuinely, and it is very funny and pleasant to watch along the way. Plus it involves a wedding while avoiding or at least subverting so many of the wedding movie cliches that have started to make me break out into hives, and it actually gave me an idea I am excited to use at my wedding. And the cast features Lou Ferrigno as himself. You can’t get much better than that. What I’m trying to say is, “I love you, movie.”

Movie Review: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

So, check it: I’m gossing with a friend about essentially the Platonic Ideal of a Bad Boyfriend, and she says, “have you ever watched Ghosts of Girlfriends Past“?1

It might sound like non sequitur, but it was actually a perfectly reasonable segue. Because the tagline to this movie could have been, “Feel better about the bad choices you’ve made in your love life.  You could have done much worse.”

Matthew McConaughey stars as Connor Mead, a name the screenwriter must have been pretty proud to come up with because it is said in full about 15,000 times throughout the 100 minute movie.  Connor Mead is a famous photographer of dubious talent, but more importantly he is the worst person in the universe to date.

This movie really, really wants to get across how disgusting Connor Mead is, never quite being satisfied with its exposition on that point.  Not convinced after his photo shoot where he strips a starlet down to her underwear without her consent and has an arrow shot at her head over her firm objection?  Well here he is insulting the starlet to her face while getting ready to bone her.  A sick-making boning which is, to make it even more clear that Connor Mead is the worst possible romantic partner imaginable, interrupted by him dumping three chicks over a conference call.

You know what that Connor Mead needs?  A Dickensian redemption on the eve of his younger brother’s wedding!  Three ghosts (plus Michael Douglas in the Jacob Marley role) pop in and out of Connor Mead’s brain to find out how he became such a toolshed, and maybe, just maybe, save him from a lonely life with only Breckin Meyer in horrifying age makeup to mourn him when he’s gone.

First thing that went wrong is Connor Mead’s parents died, which we all know is a nonstop ticket to the bitter streets of Stoneheart City.  Then Connor Mead failed to ask young Jenny (played by the same chick who played the 1980s version of Jennifer Garner in 13 going on 30, which is bizarrely specific way to be typecast) to dance when REO Speedwagon came on at the Spring Fling, and lost her to a ninth grader.

After the school dance disaster, Michael Douglas enrolled Connor Mead in Douche Academy.  Fast forward to the Ghosts of Girlfriends Present and Connor Mead has boned three-quarters of his soon-to-be sister-in-law’s bridal party and lines up the “hat trick” by APOLOGIZING to her because unlike all her best friends she hasn’t yet had the privilege of his pelvic thrust.

Eugch, that Connor Mead!  I need a stick of gum or some mouthwash or something.

The problem with this whole A Christmas Carol storyline is that the more we find out about Connor Mead, the less I want Connor Mead to be redeemed.  Especially because Connor Mead’s redemption means that poor Jenny has to end up with him, and all of his sexually transmitted infections, instead of a hot fellow doctor she meets at the wedding.  When the Ghost of Girlfriends Future, or whatever, shows Connor Mead Jenny’s wedding to Hot Fellow Doctor, it is not a sad thing.  It’s not like the audience thinks, “Oh god, this horrible future must be stopped!”  We’re like, “Aw, look at Jenny and Hot Fellow Doctor getting married!”

When Connor Mead wakes up and gets a second chance (once he’s fixed his brothers’ wedding which he somehow destroyed while I was getting Collin more ice for his face2) the audience is like, “Ok, that’s enough redemption for you!  Now stop.  Stop it! STOP IT BEFORE SOMEONE GETS HURT.”

But you know that won’t happen.  You know Jenny is going to get all dewey eyed as he makes some dramatic wedding-saving speech, and return to the place of her childhood romance during the reception and then slow dance with Connor Mead in the snow when REO Speedwagon comes on.  And over the credits the interchangeable slutty bridesmaids will physically fight over men, because bitches be horny at a wedding, right bro?

Well, yeah, this is a wedding movie.  Everyone’s inexplicably fabulously wealthy.  The bride freaks out over the wrong salad being served.  Someone has dead parents.  The main characters make horrible choices with their love lives and we’re supposed to celebrate the romance of it all.

1Actually, yes, I watched it on the flight to my sister’s wedding, which was a year and two days ago. Belated happy anniversary, Beck!
2Collin got his widsom teeth extracted today. Wish him speedy healing and tell him to take his damn painkillers when he needs them.

Movie Review: The Baxter

The Baxter has an intriguing premise; an irresistible premise if, like me, you’ve been watching too many wedding movies:  “Did you ever wonder about the guy left at the altar? The ‘wrong guy?'”

Michael Showalter plays Elliot Sherman, a CPA whose favorite day of the week is Monday and his favorite book is the dictionary.  Clearly this guy is no romantic hero, but he’s engaged to the beautiful if deeply vapid Caroline Swann. In the weeks leading to their wedding, Caroline reunites with her old flame Bradley.  He’s a debonair geode scientist.  How can Elliot possibly hang on to his fiancée against the feet-sweeping forces of “Hurricane Bradley”?

He can’t, and we know this because the first scene of the movie is the dramatic conclusion to the movie about Bradley and Caroline, where Bradley dramatically stops Caroline’s marriage to Elliot, the Wrong Guy.  I think I have seen that movie four or five times by now.

The Baxter doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of its premise.  The movie rewinds from this point to tell the story of Caroline and Bradley through The Baxter’s eyes, which is cool and everything.  I like that device, and have since I was five and read The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.  But what I really want to know from the first scene on, and what I really want to know from all these other wedding movies where some other asshole barges in and destroys a wedding,  is what happens to the jilted person?  They can’t all become Miss Havisham.

Elliot certainly doesn’t.  You see, Caroline is Not Right for him.  This almost always happens with love polygons in the movies.  When a character chooses between two relationships, one is “meant to be” and the other isn’t.  The audience shouldn’t feel bad about the third party getting jilted because it isn’t meant to be! And that means no hard feelings, right? No non-refundable deposits, no humiliation in front of family and friends, no broken hearts, no lonely nights, no tear-stained pillowcases, no alcoholism, no collateral damage on the rebound.

The Baxter proves that Elliot wasn’t meant to be with Caroline in the laziest, easiest, most irritating way: by pairing him off with Michelle Williams’ character, a woman who is Right For Him.  Cecil is Elliot’s one time temp assistant who becomes his confidant as his engagement unravels.  She reads the dictionary too!  She dresses anachronistically!  She’s slightly awkward!  She’s perfect for him!  Elliot just needed to learn to bat in his own league!

Cecil’s got a boyfriend too, but don’t worry, he just met up again with his college ex. She was (small world) dating Bradley, but that’s obviously over, so even though it doesn’t happen on-screen, we can assume they got together and the whole world pairs off into little hetero pairs of destiny, HOORAY!  Love’s mysteries: solved.

Doesn’t that look like a typical happy ending to you?  Did you really think the answer to “what happens to the guy left at the altar” would be, “OH, don’t worry… he just runs across town to his True Love.”

So The Baxter ends up reinforcing the wedding movie malarky I thought it had set out to subvert.  I’m disappointed in the movie for not exploring the darker possibilities of its premise.  There’s some middle ground between Never Changing Out of Your Wedding Dress and Suddenly Realizing the Right Girl Has Been There All Along.   I think a really cool movie could be mined from that.

While The Baxter isn’t the movie I want it to be, that doesn’t mean it is bad.  It’s a delight to watch if you dig Showalter’s brand of comedy, and I do.  Also the supporting cast is fantastic!  Peter Dinklage as the wedding planner who treats Brooklyn like backwoods Appalachia is a particular highlight. There’s also Paul Rudd! Andrea Rosen, getting laughs without any dialogue! Pre-30 Rock Jack McBrayer!  Zak Orth, or as my dad called him, Lunchy!  Plus all the usual suspects from The State. It’s cute how comedy people are so incestuous and loyal.

Movie Review: The Proposal

[Thank you for reminding me of this movie, Addi!]

Last summer, Collin and I went down to Florida with his grandparents.  It was a lovely vacation.  One night on this trip we saw The Proposal.  We didn’t know that one year later, Sandra Bullock would be a divorced Oscar winner, Ryan Reynolds would somehow still be married to ScarJo, and Betty White would be hot like Mexico, rejoice.  But I think we did know that one year later we’d be engaged.

In fact, on the way home from the movies, we ran into a friend of Dottie’s and she asked Collin and I if we were engaged.  I replied, “Not yet.”  It did not occur to me that this was perhaps a scandalous thing to say, but for the rest of the trip Collin kept muttering “not yet” and shaking his head with embarrassment.  Collin: I WAS RIGHT. Neener neener.

The Proposal is a charming and diverting screwball comedy.  I use the word “diverting” not because the film distracts you from your problems, but because it distracts you from its own.  Every time I start to think something like, “that’s a surprisingly racist line of dialogue and it is extra uncomfortable hearing it coming from the mouth of America’s Sweetheart Ex-Wife of a Neo-Nazi” the movie zigs my attention away with something like a hawk swooping up a doggie, Betty White saying something insouciant, or Ryan Reynolds’ abs.

Sandra Bullock is Margaret, an ice queen book editor with visa trouble.  She tries to stay in the U.S. by pretending to be engaged to her long-suffering assistant, Andrew.  She wants to stay in the country so she can keep her fancy job.  It’s not like when she’s deported to Canada she’s going to starve or be put in jail for her religious beliefs.  And Sandra makes sure we all know that she’s not an immigrant the way those people are, the “gardeners and delivery boys” at the CIS office [see above, re: surprisingly racist dialogue].

Andrew agrees to this because for some reason entering a sham marriage is his way of reclaiming his masculinity after three years attending to every need of his heinous B-I-T-C-H1 of a boss. Including “midnight tampon runs.” Clearly this guy needs to enter a loveless marriage, STAT, or he may never see his balls again!

Wait, what? Yeah, I dunno why a sham marriage is a better solution to Andrew’s problems than, say, QUITTING two years before the events of this film. But don’t think about that, just watch Sandra Bullock commune with nature with a performance of Lil Jon’s “Get Low”! She just said, “all you bitches crawl” in front of Betty White! Don’t allow thinking to ruin your chance to be entertained.

Andrew’s masculinity crisis is further muddled with some very teenage pouting over completely boring Daddy Issues. It has something to do with his family owning an entire town in Alaska. Oh, man, being fabulously wealthy is SUCH a bummer, right? The only thing worse is being deported to Canada.

Fortunately, the women in the Alaskan Royal Family are not as burdened by the great pain of their richness, so while the men get their pout on during angry boatmaking sessions, they welcome Margaret into the family. They throw her a bachelorette party and plan a wedding for her with 24-hours’ notice. In one day they put together a wedding that looks nicer than many weddings planned over eighteen months:

Margaret is an orphan,2 so she freaks out after being shown genuine familial affection.  First she steers herself right off a motorboat, then she gives one of Those Speeches, at the altar, no less, about how she can’t besmirch such a beautiful family with a fraudulent marriage, and turns herself over to the feds.

The movie is almost over, so these displays of orphanly vulnerability somehow make Andrew realize he’s in love with Margaret! She is saved from a life of persecution in Canada AND a bitter spinsterhood in one fell swoop.  And, a-ha!  By functioning as Margaret’s maple-slashing knight, Andrew gets his masculinity back.  Every marriage should be this mutually beneficial.

1“What’s a bitca?”
2Which makes The Proposal the THIRD wedding movie I’ve watched in which one of the main characters has dead parents. That’s over 20%. I swear I’m not doing this on purpose.

Movie Review: The Wedding Date

You know how sometimes when you watch a horror movie you shout at the characters like they’ll hear you? “Don’t go in there!” “Look behind you!” “Don’t bother with the condom, you’re about to die!”

I did that with prostitution rom-com The Wedding Date.

Debra Messing stars as Kat, your typical neurotic protagonist in this sort of movie, although she’s perhaps not as fussy as she seems because she yanks six grand from her 401k to hire a prostitute as her date for her sister’s wedding.

Her sister, you see, is younger (OH NO!) and is marrying Kat’s ex-fiance’s best friend (EEP!).  She clearly needs to bring along a stud and show everyone, but most importantly her ex, how great she’s doing.

So she hires Nick, a Brown-educated hooker, or “escort” if you think contracting to function as arm candy and charging extra for sex entitles one to a more genteel label than other sex workers.  Ooch.  Did that come across as too judgmental and sex-negative and do I need to send my credentials back to Feminism HQ?  I’m sorry! This is very dangerous ground for me, as someone who would like to keep her feminist credentials, and doesn’t want to disrespect any sex workers in the real world, but at the same time found the “business arrangement” in this PG-13 wedding movie to be… let’s say “oogie.”  (Hey, the film uses the expression “morally repugnant.”  Don’t fight me! Fight the man!)

What’s oogie about it?  I don’t begrudge Kat her desire to craft a lie to take away the pain of being in a wedding party with an ex-fiance, particularly when her mother spends most of her toast at the welcome cocktail party mocking her for her failed love life.  But I did start yelling “Don’t go in there!” when her prostitute starts to lay all of his seductive powers on her in some sort of attempt to guru her out of her neuroses.  And I cried “look behind you!” when Kat drunkenly stops at an ATM and withdraws the maximum number of pounds from four different accounts so that she may take advantage of the upsell that Nick’s been dangling in front of her.

This switched to a different sort of yelling at the TV, of the “Are you KIDDING me?” variety, when Nick insists that he wasn’t on the clock during their horizontal romp, and HOW DARE SHE think he was?  Also, she didn’t withdraw enough cash, especially because she [insert euphemism for oral sex]!

UGH. This is the thing that drives me batty about prostitution in the movies.  So often, “I’m a prostitute, but that doesn’t give you any excuse to deny me human dignity” [Good!] is accidentally translated into, “I’m a prostitute, but that doesn’t give you any excuse to expect I take money for sex with my clients!” [Wait, what?]  Like, if Nick has itemized that a blow job (received) costs £300, and is going to snip about that with the woman who paid him $6,000 plus travel expenses to pretend to be dating her, he should probably not be outraged that she stopped at an ATM before sleeping with him, right?

Nick gets over it, almost immediately, because he’s in love with Kat, for some reason.   There’s still half a movie left, so the characters have to stumble into new conflicts so Kat has reason to judge his profession anew.  She says something like, “You lied to me! But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, because you accepted $6,000 to participate in an elaborate lie!” He says something like, “How dare you judge me when you orchestrated said lie and tendered payment of said $6,000!”  I scream something like, “SHUT UP, SAID CHARACTERS!”

Meanwhile, a wedding happens, and considering this is my wedding blog instead of my hand-wringing-over-sex-work blog I should probably discuss that for a moment.

It’s in the UK, so there are many fabulous hats in attendance:

The costume designer should be given mad props for the bridesmaid dresses. I feel like it is not often you see realistic bridesmaid dresses in wedding movies.  Either they are designed to be comically ugly or they don’t look anything like bridesmaid dresses.  These are on the money:

Also, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I like the bride’s tiara:

Wedding lessons learned:

  • Consider the effects on society that may trickle down from wanton granting of plus ones.
  • But also keep in mind that having someone around whose business is love may save your wedding from last-minute cancellation.
  • Don’t wear heavy eyeliner and frosted lipstick if you a pale blonde bride.  Even if you are the only woman in the universe who can look cool wearing a wedding tiara.

Movie Review: Steel Magnolias

[Note this is really only a review of the first 45 minutes of the movie, the wedding part of the movie.  This blog is much more suited to “my colors are blush and bashful” than “I want to know WHYYYYY!”]

I remember a time in my childhood when Steel Magnolias was the go-to chick flick for lazy sitcom writers.  What I truly hate about the “chick flick” designation is the idea that by being “for women,” a piece of entertainment becomes categorically NOT for men, without the reverse being true.  Lazy sitcom writers never rely on the innate hilarity of a woman watching Predator.  Anyway, Steel Magnolias‘ reign as the quintessential chick flick probably ended with Sex and the City‘s coup of the cinema screen.  I’m guessing current scouting-aged girls are unaware of Steel Magnolias.  Which is really a shame, because it is a delightful movie.

I certainly watched this movie on basic cable at least a half-dozen times in my girl scout years, but there were certain things that I only noticed for the first time this viewing.  Things you can only see through wedding-obsession goggles!

1. BLUSH and BASHFUL.

Blush and bashful != pink and pink.  ColourLovers confirms “one is much deeper than the other.”

When I was a kid and people asked me what I’d want to do when I grow up, I went through a phase where my answer was, “I want to name the colors in catalogs.”  I thought that was a job, and I wanted it.  I suspect if that imaginary career existed, the real money would be in the bridal field.  Because selling a cashmere cardigan in “morning sky” is one thing.  Selling “morning sky” as a wedding color means you can sell bridesmaids dresses, stationary, bouquet holders, ring pillows, nail polish, candied almonds, ribbons, photo albums, confetti, place setting chargers, cupcake liners, vase filling “crystals”… pretty much any object that can come in a color and could be conceivably related to a wedding.  Cha-ching.1

2. Bunting

I read wedding blogs for a while before I finally figured out that “bunting” means “those little flags on strings.

However! Steel Magnolias suggests bunting may be any festive use of fabric to decorate.  Because Shelby tells the ladies in the salon that her ceremony decorations include “pink silk bunting draped over anything that would stand still.”

Which looks like this:

The Big Green Dictionary of I’m Right and You’re Wrong sides with wedding blogs: “Bunting, n.  A thin woolen stuff, used chiefly for flags; also, a cotton stuff imitating this; hence, flags collectively.

3. Morning Coats!


The HitchDied debate of suit vs. tux rages on, but at least we’re not getting married during the daytime so I don’t have to push the hard sell of morning coats.  I think morning coats are the coolest.  I think I like the idea of the men being in wedding costume, because the women usually are (although as matching bridesmaid dresses become considered a sign of rudeness, and brides eschew the long and the white “requirements” for wedding dresses, this may become less and less true).  I’ll just have to become Solicitor General to satisfy my morning coat lust.

4. Backyard Business

This movie certainly makes it clear that a backyard wedding reception can be a huge production.  Before the first line of dialogue, we see at least a dozen wedding professionals milling around the house carrying rented glassware from trucks, hanging flowers, carrying umbrellas.  It reminded me of Rachel Getting Married, minus the musicians and people of color, plus Tom Skeritt shooting off blanks to scare away pigeons.  I wonder if big shot wedding planners have birdscare technicians on staff.

5. Groom’s Cake

Two years ago, I went to a cousin’s wedding in Texas, and I said I’d never heard of a groom’s cake.  Someone said, “How could you forget the armadillo in Steel Magnolias?”  Friends, I do not know how I could forget such a wonder:

I am now fantasizing about being a guest at a Southern wedding, wearing a simple pastel frock with a string of pearls and stunning hat, and eating a slice of groom’s cake meant to look like a piece of dead animal.  Whether the cake is deliberately an homage to Steel Magnolias is immaterial, either way it will be the best wedding I’ve ever been to.

1Although based on my reading of Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products, Inc., 512 U.S. 159 (1995), I think that you couldn’t actually get trademark protection for “morning sky” because the color would be functional instead of source-identifying; and before you’d be able to establish secondary meaning in the marketplace you just know David’s Bridal would add “Dawn” to its color swatches and you’d be screwed. But I suppose the legal particulars of an imaginary profession aren’t that important.