Posts Tagged ‘Whip It’

Frenzy on the Wall: A Sad State of Affairs

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Let me start by saying that I didn’t see Life as We Know It because I’ve already seen it. Chances are you’ve seen it too. Based on the premise and the trailer, I’m fairly confident that I could predict every beat in that film. Not only do I know everything that will happen in it, I’m pretty sure I can predict how the actors will say their lines, when the music will reach a crescendo, when a montage will occur, and how it will be shot and edited. This is the nature of romantic comedies today; no innovation, just re-purposing old tricks that have worked well in the past. It is the one genre where it seems like nobody has any interest in creating art.

Look at Katherine Heigl’s filmography over the past four or five years and you’ll see that it is littered with nothing but romantic comedies. And, other than Knocked Up, there isn’t a single decent one. It’s not just that she’s in films that are unoriginal and uninspiring, but that the characters she generally plays is the same: uptight, hard-working, no sense of humor, shrill, etc.

Frankly, she’s playing a very specific female stereotype and it’s difficult for me to see her movies as particularly empowering to women when all of them involve her not finding happiness until she finds love with a man who is usually irresponsible or loutish or a murderer (as in Killers). So, the message of these movies – like The Ugly Truth, 27 Dresses and yes, even Knocked Up – is that if you’re a hard-working and mature woman in your late 20s or early 30s, then just loosen the fuck up and lower your standards already!

How many films have we seen that follow this pattern in the last few years? Hollywood continues to churn out romantic comedies with the same theme. I just find it fascinating that in all of these films it’s the woman who has to be the one to lower her standards in some way. Look at She’s Out of My League; hell, it’s in the title! She’s a wonderful, beautiful woman and she falls for an unattractive, fumbling man because he makes her laugh with his awkwardness? Yeah, sorry, I don’t think that relationship’s going to last a long time.

There’s a strange kind of propaganda with these films about marriage. Every film like this ends with a proposal, a wedding, a flash-forward to a point where they are already married, etc. It’s bizarre to think that there can’t be a romantic comedy that doesn’t end with the leads either getting married or having children. It’s even more bizarre to think that in this day and age we can’t have a romantic comedy that ends with our leads single. Sometimes in life, avoiding a relationship is the smartest move one can make, so why can’t we have a film that shows us that?

Know what would have been a perfect film to show us that? Sex and the City 1 or 2. I will always be disappointed in the way that show unfolded to the point where four self-reliant single women all became dependent on rich men for their happiness. When the show ended with each woman involved in committed relationships, I was aghast that an HBO show didn’t have the balls to follow through on its initial premise and have at least one of the women remaining single and fabulous.

They compounded that mistake in the first film by having Carrie actually get married, then realized that they had to find a way to extricate Samantha from her relationship so that future films wouldn’t be about four married women. Still, in the sequel, we have four happy women and so the filmmakers have to create things for the characters to do that we might find interesting; they painted themselves into a corner. So instead of giving us a narrative we find compelling, instead we get two and a half hours of Sarah Jessica Parker wearing different outfits! I understand fashion is a big part of the show and the films, but I’m willing to bet most people aren’t going to the movies to see women in their 40s try on different outfits.

But women love shopping, right? That’s what Hollywood has taught us, which is why we get a scene of women going to boutiques and trying on clothes in every other romantic comedy. I can think of one time when it worked well: Pretty Woman. It was an empowering moment for Julia Roberts in that film because she had been denied the opportunity by those snobby women earlier in the movie. In most “shopping” scenes since then, it just feels contrived.

The reason people went nuts for 500 Days of Summer last year was the fact that for once there were real people doing semi-realistic things that couples actually do. But even that film couldn’t help itself and had the happy ending and the scene where he quits his job with a big speech in front of a board room full of co-workers. Still, at least that film was attempting something different. Same goes for Adventureland. But these are films about a younger generation, so there is no marriage on the horizon and we can assume that they are young enough that these relationships might not last a lifetime.

Know what my favorite romantic comedy of the last year or so has been? Drew Barrymore’s Whip It. I’m not quite sure that I would call it a romantic comedy, although there are definitely scenes of romance and it is definitely a comedy. I don’t think that film got enough credit for what it accomplished: it gave us an empowered young female who realizes she might be getting played by her boyfriend and instead of forgiving him or believing his (possibly legitimate) excuse, she just kisses him and walks away. She’s a strong, independent woman who has bigger dreams (and nightmares) in her life than some dude who may or may not be in love with her. I was surprised because it went in a direction I did not expect, which is so rare for movies in general these days and especially for movies like that one.

Films like The Proposal, He’s Just Not That into You, It’s Complicated, Bride Wars, etc. I just don’t understand why anyone is seeing them. I keep hearing over and over that it’s because they are “fantasies.” But fantasies are supposed to be empowering or exciting; they are supposed to show us that we can lead lives that are different from our own. A true “fantasy” is something that most mere mortals cannot attain, so I don’t understand how getting engaged or married or having a child is a fantasy when it’s completely within the realm of possibility for most people.

I could see how Eat, Pray, Love could be considered a fantasy since most people don’t have the means or courage to do what Julia Roberts’ character does in that film. Although, again, her journey is not complete until she finds a man of course!

Look, I’ve written a lot about romantic comedies in this column and it’s because it’s one of my favorite genres. I complain only because I love. I mean, the films of Eric Rohmer are mostly romantic comedies, but they have almost no resemblance to what America has produced in the last twenty years. There is no risk-taking with romantic comedies these days. Look at Annie Hall, a film that is hailed as one of the greatest films in the genre; spoiler alert, Alvy Singer doesn’t get the girl in the end. How about Billy Wilder’s The Apartment? That film deals with suicide and adultery. Doubtful we’d find those two topics in romantic comedies made fifty years later.

One of my favorite romantic comedies of all-time (and indeed one of my personal favorite films of all-time), something I watched with my mother when I was growing up countless times, is a film called Seems Like Old Times. Neil Simon wrote it and it stars Goldie Hawn. She’s a lawyer who represents small-time crooks who are mostly illegal aliens. She’s married to the District Attorney (played by Charles Grodin) and her ex-husband (Chevy Chase) is a writer who is on the run for as crime he didn’t commit. It’s a complicated film that deals with complex emotional issues, but does so in a hilarious screwball way. Hawn also gets to play a woman who is never shrill, always accommodating and yet she’s tough, but sweet. She’s, you know, an actual person.

The craziest part is that Goldie Hawn is actually stuck trying to choose between two men she loves very deeply. As an audience, our allegiance shifts constantly and we don’t know how it will end or who she will end up with. Then, in a stroke of brilliance, the film ends on a moment of ambiguity. Can you imagine? Ambiguity at the end of a romantic comedy? I just need to say something I almost never say: when it comes to romantic comedies, they really don’t make them like they used to.

MCN Review: Whip It!

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Whip It!MCN Review:  Whip It!

Is it perfection? No. But it is a warm, funny, kind, smart, loving movie that girls, grrrrrls, women, and womyn will really enjoy. It is entertainment with ambition. And how does one say, “no” to that? (it’s a rhetorical question… one doesn’t.)  More>>

24 Weeks To Go Toronto Scores A Single, But Not Much More

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

That sound you heard coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival this year…

Near silence.

The films that came in hot (An Education & Precious) stayed hot, the new film expected to come out hot (Up In The Air & A Serious Man) came out hot, and a total of one title that went in unsure came out with some heat, A Single Man.

Just not that exciting, awardswise.

There were other good movies. But there was not much of a fuse lit. Studios started pushing away from the Gala events at Roy Thompson Hall, often preferring the less tony environs of the Elgin, the newly reopened for movies Winter Garden, and often the college theater energy of Ryerson Hall.

The Road wasn’t killed… but it didn’t come flying out of the week either. Capitalism: A Love Story wasn’t a car wreck… but it was a lot more Sicko than Fahrenheit 9/11.

At $1 million, A Single Man was the biggest sale of the festival… which tells you right away that there were no rush-it-out sure bets like The Wrestler or The Hurt Locker in play at the festival this year.

Creation, Agora, Chloe, Mother & Child, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Micmacs, Love & Other Impossible Pursuits, The Young Victoria, Triage, Harry Brown, The Joneses, The Vintner’s Luck, The Boys Are Back, Leaves of Grass, Life During Wartime, Ondine, and London River are part of the long list of high profile titles looking to break out at TIFF and just not doing so. Cannes hits Broken Embraces, Bright Star, A Prophet, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus did fine… but didn’t have a next step, propelled by Oprah or anyone else.

The non-Best Picture arthouse breakout may turn out to be the Chinese-made City of Life & Death while the most commercial films might be Whip It (large size) and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (small size).

But still… the only potentially significant awards story to emerge from TIFF 2009 was A Single Man.

And the only really bad news for a film that was looking for a push out of TIFF was Bright Star, which opened on 19 screens for a 3-day $9,984 per-screen average and expanded to 130 screens and a $5,168 per-screen. The film is running slightly ahead of Cheri, as an example, on weekend per-screen, though after 10 days, Cheri is running slightly ahead of Bright Star because of weekday numbers. I still expect Bright Star to outperform Cheri, but $5 million seems like the high bar domestically. That is unlikely to be enough to make the Best Picture leap, especially in a season with an unusual number of strong female-driven films (Nine, Precious, An Education, Coco Before Chanel, Julie and Julia, Amelia, It’s Complicated and more).

Outside of Toronto, there have also been casualties of timing. Films from Martin Scorsese, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lasse Hallstrom, Neil Jordan, and Paul Greengrass all are out of the game because they won’t be released this year.

What is clear is that there is plenty of room to fight for a slot at this point. Of my Top 12 – which is really my entire top group at this point – only three of the films are unseen as of this writing (Nine, Invictus, and Avatar). In addition, there are a couple of completely blind items, like Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol and Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones. Traditionally, films like Sherlock Holmes, The Blind Side, and It’s Complicated are commercial films and not Oscar films… but there is always room for a pop.

What finally smashed me in the face up in Toronto was that with 10 Best Picture nominees and only five in each of the acting slots, it could get pretty weird. Nine and Precious are actress fests. Invictus, A Serious Man, A Single Man, and The Hurt Locker are actor parties. But at the same time, you have to assume an Oscar nomination for Daniel Day Lewis in Nine and for Julianne Moore in A Single Man. How many of the 8 star actresses can be nominated for Nine?

If it’s Day-Lewis, Clooney, Firth, Renner, and Damon… what happens to Mortensen, Wahlberg, Sarsgaard, Stuhlbarg, and Maguire?

If it’s Streep, Mulligan, Cotillard, Weisz, and Sidibe… what happens to Tautou, Cruz, Cornish, Swank, and Theron?

Supporting Actor is looking like the softest category with potential in Gyllenhaal, Tucci, Molina, Duvall, and Kind.

Best Supporting Actress is a MONSTER… Just Nine has Dench, Loren, Hudson, Cruz, and Kidman. Add Ronan, Farmiga, Kendrick. Moore, Adams, Portman… and God knows who else?

So here we are… about two months from things really locking in… and while The Ten doesn’t seem to be in for a whole lot of changes, there are some big fights brewing in the other categories. With 10 nominees, all of these films are more likely to be seen by Academy voters.. making it all the more interesting.

– David Poland
September 30, 2009

DP/30 Sneak Peek – Whip It screenwriter Shauna Cross & co-star Juliette Lewis

Monday, September 21st, 2009

DP/30 Sneak Peek – Ellen Page & Alia Shawkat Whip It!

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Whip It, actors Ellen Page & Alia Shawkat

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

Whip It! Pictures

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

In Bodeen, Texas, an indie-rock loving misfit finds a way of dealing with her small-town misery after she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin.

Whip It Poster

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Trailer: Whip It!

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009