Once again, Hollywood perpetrates aÂ hate crime against humanity and romance disguised as harmless piffle. â€œThe UglyÂ Truth,â€ yet another bright- nd-shiny anti-romantic comedy, flounces into ourÂ midst, full of makeovers and double entendres, movie stars and other clichÃ©sÂ that might fool you into thinking itâ€™s enjoyable. Perhaps Iâ€™m getting crabbyÂ after so many dollars have been picked from my metaphorical pockets by thisÂ Godforsaken genre, but itâ€™s high time to go back to the drawing board. IÂ surrender, Studio Executives. Gimme a time machine. A time machine or a movieÂ emporium that screens the romantic comedy classics I love, the theater of myÂ mind. Please return to making the kind of movies that made me fall in love withÂ love and movies.
So Iâ€™m changing up the format a little for this Smackdown.Â Itâ€™s â€œThe Ugly Truthâ€ vs. The Beautiful Lie. Itâ€™s hardly a fair fight, I admit,Â but Iâ€™m struggling here to save you (and our planet) from cosmicÂ disappointment, steering you in another (and for some of you, new) direction.Â Backwards into our charming and innocent and wise and witty cinematic past.Â When movie men and women were adorable and we adored them. Hereâ€™s my littleÂ treatise on all the Classic Films I Love And Why I Love Them. My rant in theÂ darkness, railing Against The Horribly Cynical RomCom Drek Thatâ€™s Infesting ourÂ Multiplexes and Why This All Must Stop.
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â€œThe Ugly Truth.â€ Well, they got itÂ partly right. Itâ€™s ugly. The two leadsÂ are shiny as the vinyl automatons they resemble, both gleaming like mapleÂ syrup-soaked action figures with the kind of hideously brightened smiles toÂ which weâ€™ve grown scarily accustomed. Gerard Butler struggles gamely with hisÂ from-nowhere American accent and sports a rather unfortunate beard. Perhaps heÂ should stick with action pictures and leave the RomCom alone. Generic as canÂ be, Katherine Heiglâ€™s career oman ineffectively looks to bag Mister RightÂ after vetting him with a list and the help of her faithful Â (and curiouslyÂ devoid of any other characteristics) assistant. No other human beings populateÂ this neurotic control freakâ€™s life. No past, no family, no friends. Just a jobÂ and a man hunt. Where have I see this before? Oh, yeah. Everywhere.
The Defending Champions
Hereâ€™s the thing. There areÂ many. So many Iâ€™m going to forget some. But here are some of my very favorites.
You canâ€™t go wrong with any of these films. I fell in love with men watchingÂ these movies, fell in love with the idea of marrying one even. I urge you toÂ watch one you havenâ€™t seen or rewatch one you havenâ€™t seen in a while.
It Happened One Night (1934)The Gay Divorcee (1934) TheÂ Thin Man (1934) Top Hat(1935) MyÂ Man Godfrey (1936) Swing Time (1936) Follow the Fleet (1936) The Awful Truth(1937) Shall We Dance (1937) HolidayÂ (1938) Bringing Up Baby (1938) Â CarefreeÂ (1938) Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939) The Philadelphia Story (1940) HisÂ Girl Friday (1940) Ball of Fire (1941) The Lady Eve (1941) Meet John Doe (1941)Â Palm Beach Story (1942) Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) The Miracle of Morgan’sÂ Creek (1944)
Did they ever do RomCom right after the thirties andÂ forties? Rarely, but yes. Here are some of my picks. Sabrina (1954) TheÂ Apartment(1960) ) The GraduateÂ (1967) Two For The Road (1967) Annie Hall(1977)Â Heaven Can Wait (1978)Â ManhattanÂ (1979) Gregory’s Girl (1981)LocalÂ Hero (1983) Broadcast News (1987) Bull Durham (1988) Green Card(1990) Truly, Madly, Deeply(1991) Four Weddings and A Funeral(1994) Love Serenade (1996) Jerry MaguireÂ (1996)
According to the coarse and endlesslyÂ smutty â€œThe Ugly Truth,â€ men want big boobs, long hair, and oral favors;Â nothing is too simplistic or vulgar for this filmâ€™s witless Men-Are-From-MarsÂ depressing dialogue. Euphemisms, familiar and newly coined, fester in myÂ fevered brain even a day later as I wonder whatever happened to subtlety. (IÂ may never eat another bean without gagging.)Â Written by the women responsible for the far less toxic â€œLegally Blondeâ€ andÂ â€œThe House Bunnyâ€ whose names I will not mention for the same reasons Hogwartsâ€™Â minions decline to mention the Dark Lordâ€™s moniker, the ugliest truth is thatÂ people are watching this crap and theyâ€™re laughing at it. These chick-written vulgarians give JuddÂ Apatowâ€™s slovenly slackers a run for their money, but at least Apatowâ€™s guysÂ have hearts and long for love and romance. Apatowâ€™s raunch comes from a place IÂ wouldnâ€™t want to live but Iâ€™ve certainly visited; itâ€™s an apartment with dirtyÂ laundry on the floor and milk crates for shelves, a boys club treehouse with noÂ girls allowed.
Just because their names are above the title, we know HeiglÂ and Butler must wind up together, no matter how unsuited and unlikely theirÂ characters may be. This Madness Must Stop. One saving grace, a few randomÂ upticks in an otherwise irredeemable character does not a match or happy endingÂ or suitable bedmate make. Any Ape Man may well be kind (if inappropriatelyÂ sexually open) with a prepubescent nephew, he may indeed order tap water, andÂ anyone can generate considerable heat in an elevator kissing scene followingÂ the requisite sexy dance foreplay and drinking. He may even uncustomarily copÂ to a romantic history of pain, sadness and disappointment. These moments ofÂ nascent humanity hardly mitigate his otherwise universally gross behavior,Â cynical raunch, and charmlessness. Iâ€™m pretty sure Girls Gone Wildâ€™s Joe Francis/Satan probably asked some girl to aÂ middle school dance and was rebuffed. Does this make him marriage material too?
Generic Cute-Meet Doctor Perfect-Guy (my Gaydar was workingÂ overtime on this walking talking Ken Doll but heyâ€¦) shows up just in time forÂ the awkwardly contrived misunderstanding/unmotivated breakup scene. Seriously?Â Is anyone out there buying any of this ill-conceived claptrap?
And while weâ€™re talking generics, let me just go on recordÂ and state a truth that may not be universal but is certainly my experience. IÂ am not a montage kind of gal. The number of photogenic places Iâ€™ve been withÂ any guy on any date in my half century on this planet wouldnâ€™t make a decentÂ Kodak commercial, let alone a RomCom generic falling-in-love montage.Â (Contrarily, I could easily compile a terrific falling-down montage of myself,Â suitable for Americaâ€™s Funniest Home Videos hundred thousand dollar grandÂ prize.) Â I donâ€™t fall in love on the beach at sunset, at picnics inÂ meadows, on mountaintops with city vistas, high atop the Empire State Building.
Nope. I fall in love in conversations which happen everywhere and anywhere. InÂ a crummy apartment with a view of a brick wall. On a bus. In an office, workingÂ side by side with someone competent and challenging. My erogenous zone liesÂ squarely and stubbornly between my ears. Gimme conversation, not a view. GimmeÂ a well-chosen joke or a cheap gift referencing something specific, not a dozenÂ roses. Make me feel known. Make me laugh. Generic romance doesnâ€™t do it for me.
Heiglâ€™s much-touted ripoff restaurant orgasm scene is aÂ classic of misbegotten stupidity, unbelievability and vulgarity, a sort ofÂ Badness hat trick. Here are the elements that conspire to sear my retinas andÂ scar my sensibilities: the raunchy gift of vibrating panties, a remote controlÂ dropped haplessly into a purse, dropped again into the hands of a convenientlyÂ bored and seemingly addled child. Hilarity and humiliation ensue as the prudishÂ producer loses control, remote and otherwise. Get it? Or shall I loan you aÂ hammer the better to slam it into your skull for safekeeping? Hey, hereâ€™s anÂ acting/writing/directing exercise for youâ€¦letâ€™s say youâ€™re actually in a work situationÂ where people with the power to fire and judge you are watching you at closeÂ range and you become sexually excited. Is it truly unimaginable that one mightÂ successfully cover arousal? Movie drunks frequently overact their drunkenness;Â real people who are drunk usually try to act sober. Movie climaxing womenÂ overact as well; I suspect real women could pull it together with enough (orÂ anything) at stake.
Iâ€™m the mother of two daughters, and it saddens me deeplyÂ that this is the world in which they must find suitable mates. They were raisedÂ in a house where Cary Grant and Fred Astaire played the sugarplums that dancedÂ in their heads when they slept, and now theyâ€™re of age in a time when barelyÂ shaved simians strut their vulgar stuff and get the girl. I know I may haveÂ tipped my hand on this one and you know I could write a book but Iâ€™ll spareÂ you. For now. Mostly. But hereâ€™s the thing: RomCom movies were better a whileÂ back and here are some reasons why.
Movie Women were allowed to be pretty amazing back then forÂ reasons too complex to go into here. Suffice it to say that heroines ofÂ romantic comedy reached a sort of zenith before most of us were born andÂ havenâ€™t managed to claw their way back over the intervening decades. Movie MenÂ too had a wider berth, not yet consigned to the uncomfortably generic genderÂ roles they still inhabit. Characters came equipped with families, friends, andÂ real history; class or its absence mattered. Intelligence and real quirks wereÂ considered genuinely attractive,Â and sexuality was a subtler thing; the actual deed was done only off camera andÂ after the credits rolled. They had faces and flaws and fabulous wardrobes,Â impeccably fitting suits and collared shirts, even hats and gloves, aÂ civilizing and expressive layering of clothing subduing and submerging the moreÂ primal urges which played out in urgent, even overlapping, dialogue, slammingÂ doors and disguise. Supporting casts were brilliant and highly skilled players,Â reprising stock characters with tiny twists and elegant turns.
And oh, the writing. There’s a reason I grew up to be a writer, and they’re the reason. Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Philip Barry, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, Robert Riskin, and all the rest.
Well, duh. Itâ€™s a knockout. NativeÂ Americans believe that a tiny piece of your soul is taken when a camera takesÂ your photograph. I believe that a big important chunk of your heart and hopesÂ will be filled watching â€œThe Ugly Truth.â€ Trust me. Step away from theÂ multiplex and run for Netflix or Blockbuster or your local library and fall inÂ love with: Jean Arthur. Roz Russell. Myrna Loy. Katharine Hepburn. BettyÂ Hutton. Barbara Stanwyck. Claudette Colbert. Ginger Rogers. Cary Grant. JimmyÂ Stewart. Joel McCrea. Clark Gable. Gary Cooper. Fred Astaire. William Powell.Â Henry Fonda… I rest my case.