Wednesday, August 6, 2008

This is an occasion for genuinely tiny knickers.-Bridget Jones

I will not be talking about a book today, because I've only just started The Ghost Map, but I came across an article I really enjoyed and decided that I'd like to put in my two cents worth (okay, probably more like half a cent's worth). The article is called In Defense of Chick Flicks, written by Martha Brockenbrough.

I think that so-called "chick flicks" need to be defended (in actuality that shouldn't have to be defended at all), because there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. Brockenbrough goes into more depth than I will, putting a bit more intelligence and feminist-thought into her article than I feel I need to; mostly because she's already done it for me. In general, I find these films to be quite enjoyable. I don't watch them after any specific event, or at any specific time. There are exceptions of course. I'm going to start off by discussing only Jane Austen and Jane Austen-based adaptations (since apparently Jane Austen is considered "chick lit", although I do know one straight man who thinks Pride and Prejudice is a fantastic novel), and then maybe throw a few other favourites in at the end.

I thoroughly enjoy watching the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice while it's raining. I like all of the various versions of this film, since Pride and Prejudice is one of my all-time favourite books, but this version is the only one I own. Frankly, I like to watch this even when it's not raining; it's just one of the best (Matthew Macfadyen is Darcy), there's just no getting away from it. The book itself is a masterpiece (if you don't agree with me, I don't know if we can be friends), I actually need to buy a new copy because I'm pretty sure the next time I read mine, it's going to disintegrate in my hands. While I love the BBC-Colin Firth version, it is rather too long to watch all of the time, but the 2005 version is just about the right length to watch at any time (for obvious reasons: mini-series vs. feature length). There is something about Pride and Prejudice that makes one believe that mistakes aren't always permanent and that a first impression (the novel was actually originally titled First Impressions) can be changed. The 2005 version does a great job of relaying this. Although I'm not a big fan of Kiera Knightley in general, I do like her as Elizabeth, although she's not quite the way I pictured from the book (granted, a mite better than Elizabeth Garvie from the 1980 version, who kind of annoyed me). The movie is also shot beautifully, and was actually Joe Wright's feature length directorial debut.

From Pride and Prejudice we move to another "chick flick"/novel loosely based on it: Bridget Jones's Diary. The novel was written by Helen Fielding, and she co-wrote the screenplay. Although I'm really not a Renee Zellweger fan, I really dislike her most of the time, I don't mind her as Bridget Jones. She is also saved by the fact that she's starring with our Mr. Darcy, Colin Firth, and the ever-enjoyable Hugh Grant (who's movies I have a secret love for), although he does play a cad. This one is entertaining because Bridget is sort of the anti-heroine. There are a ton of movies where the main female character is all dorked-out and then suddenly blossoms into beauty and wins over the "popular" boy (think along the lines of She's All That), but Bridget is who she is; kind of overweight, and not very pretty with terrible fashion sense. She doesn't all of a sudden lose weight and get better clothes, but she does get a better job, toss off the jerk, and go after what she wants. That's why I like it, it's not about transforming into someone different, and it's a great one to watch while eating a pint of ice cream (it's doesn't seem so bad when the character in the movie is doing it too).

I do have to say that I really, really dislike the 1996 Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma. It's pretty bad. Jeremy Northam = awesome, Gwyneth Paltrow = blech! However, it's super-fantastic-contemporary-teen sibling, 1995's Clueless is pretty close to perfection! While it is considered a teen-flick, it is also still considered a "chick flick", but I actually don't know many guys who don't think it's pretty funny. We all remember when it came out, and how big it was. I remember having pens with the feathers on top, just like Cher. I also believe I may have started wearing knee-socks after that (with my Le Chateau plaid skirt that my uncle bought me). I think Amy Heckerling did a fantastic job at adapting Emma for a contemporary audience, without losing a lot of the soul of the book (although she did say that she was actually unintentionally plagiarizing when she started writing the screenplay, realized it, went back and read the novel again, and then adapted it intentionally). It has a lot of vibrancy, great characters/actors, and the "love stuff" isn't too over-the-top, but rather just right for a teen-style flick that can be enjoyed over and over.

Another one of my favourites would have to be 1995's Ang Lee-directed Sense and Sensibility. This one is great because it combines two of my secret film loves: Jane Austen adaptations (not so secret anymore apparently) and Hugh Grant. Although, I wouldn't have picked Edward, he's a little too reserved for me. I'm more of an Elizabeth than an Elinor anyway. I also love Alan Rickman; although more in a he's-awesome-kinda-way, than in a he's-hot-kinda-way. Also, Hugh Laurie, I mean come on, who doesn't love Hugh Laurie?! Although Emma Thompson is far too old for the part of Elinor, I think she did a fine job, even though I pictured Elinor as slightly more lively while reading the novel. Though Sense and Sensibility is not my favourite of the novels, there is something about this movie that I fell in love with. I could watch it a thousand more times and still feel the same way. Again, I think the magic of Jane Austen is that mistakes can be corrected, one isn't always doomed to live by them, and that love is often unexpected. There isn't anything other than period adaptations of Sense and Sensibility that I can think of, except one Bollywood film.

Patricia Rozema's 1999 adaptation of Mansfield Park is great because the Fanny Price (Frances O'Connor) character isn't half so annoying in the movie as in the book, but there is some stuff added into the movie that I didn't think was necessary. The 1995 version of Persuasion is a huge disappointment, Amanda Root as Anne Elliot drives me insane. I think I've only been able to watch it twice. I really enjoyed the 1986 version of Northanger Abbey, it has just the right amount of spook, satire (Austen wrote this to poke fun at Gothic novels of the day), and schmaltz (good schmaltz, not bad schmaltz). I haven't seen any of the recent adaptations that were airing on PBS, but I plan to.

Now to end, I'm going to list some of my other favourite "chick flicks". Some of the stuff that's included I know how been thoroughly enjoyed by those of the straight male persuasion (i.e. All About Eve and The Devil Wears Prada, just to name a couple), and some were made to be movies for everyone (like Titanic), but have come to be regarded as more "chick flick"-y. In chronological order, they are:

1933, 1949, 1994: Little Women
1939: The Women
1947: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
50s/60s: Anything with Audrey Hepburn :)
1950: All About Eve
1953: How to Marry a Millionaire
1984: Sixteen Candles
1987: The Princess Bride
1989: Say Anything
1989: When Harry Met Sally
1991: Beauty and the Beast (and yes, I do mean the Disney cartoon)
1997: Titanic
1998: Dangerous Beauty
1998: Ever After
1998: You've Got Mail
1999: An Ideal Husband
1999: Notting Hill
2002: The Hours
2006: The Devil Wears Prada
2006: The Holiday

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