Chick Flicks

One of the main problems with chick flicks (which in general I enjoy) is that the resolution often doesn't compensate for the trouble you've gone through.

Typical chick flick plot: boy meets girl, misunderstanding arises and continues, confrontation occurs (about 3/4ths of the way into the movie), boy and girl fight, boy and girl resolve differences.

It's a fairly respectable plot. Shakespeare used it. What Shakespeare understood, and what so many film makers don't appear to, is that the resolution has to be worth it. All the convolutions and misunderstandings have to have a resolution worthy of so much wackiness. Good grief, Shakespeare had statues come to life and twins show up and people sleep with other people without knowing they were sleeping with other people and lovers getting enchanted and so on and so forth.

I came to this conclusion after watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It's a cute movie. I enjoyed it. It followed the chick flick plot, but the end just didn't work. And I determined that it didn't work because the end wasn't as creative as the middle. It was the "Oh, they fought and she's going to leave town and he runs after her" ploy: blah blah blah. Where's Claude Rains when you need him? Shoot some Nazis already!

The other solution, of course, is to have the confrontation and the resolution occur at the same time. This is the end of Good Fairy (wonderful, wonderful old film, by the way). It is also the ending of You've Got Mail (actually, You've Got Mail uses both techniques since he knows about the misunderstanding, but she doesn't). I consider You've Got Mail one of the most satisfying chick flicks of all time and a great deal of that has to do with the resolution, which is allowed to underwind slowly and naturally (naturally for a chick flick film). Too abrupt and you feel like you've missed something; uncreative and you wonder why you bothered. Why should these people get together? They didn't work for it!

Some good chick flicks:
You've Got Mail
Say Anything
Notting Hill

Jane Austen
Shall We Dance (Japanese Version)
Ballroom Dancing
The Mirror Has Two Faces
Born Yesterday
(the new version which, surprise, surprise, I far prefer to the older version)
While You Were Sleeping
The Beautician & the Beast
(a surprising amount of fun)
Untamed Heart

Could Have Been Better:
How to Lose a Guy
Alex & Emma
10 Things I Hate About You
(I prefer the black & white version, but even that is kind of a strange movie: mostly, I just like watching Humphrey Bogart jump up and down on a large piece of plastic; Greg Kinnear is excellent in the new version)
The Truth About Cats & Dogs

Chick Flicks I Never Saw and Don't Want To or Saw and Didn't Care For:
Sleepless in Seattle
Bridges of Madison County
My Best Friend's Wedding
(except for Rupert Everett)
As Good As It Gets (It's a good movie, but I don't much like Jack Nicholson)

Not Really Chick Flicks but Great Romances
Princess Bride (of course!)
Good Fairy
Joe versus the Volcano



Jen said...

What about Moonstruck????

Kate Woodbury said...

Yes!! Sorry. Moonstruck absolutely goes on the list. (In fact, I just rewatched it recently--now, there's a film where everything goes together, forming a perfect ending. Also, the whole "misunderstanding/confrontation" scene is more or less avoided...since everything is wrapped up at the end.)

Eugene said...

An additional problem that crops up in romantic comedies is the vilification of a minor character in order to create dramatic tension and make the protagonist look good.

A case in point is the otherwise above-average Wedding Crashers. Rachel McAdams is given a token fiancé so that Vince Vaughn will have some sort of obstacle between him and true love, but by the end of the movie, they have made the fiancé such a loathsome creature that you have to question the girl's good judgment.

I recall reading a similar comment about Sleepless in Seattle, to the effect that no sane woman would give up a real Bill Pullman (whose only sin seems to be a bad case of hay fever) to pursue a hypothetical Tom Hanks.

The B story in Wedding Crashers, which matches Vince Vaughn with Rachel McAdams's ditsy younger sister, is actually the more "realistic" pairing. They're both just as shallow and can equally see right through each other. A match made in heaven.

Mike C said...

Abother good one (surprisingly) was Elizabethtown. While the movie is rather cute and touching, it's the last 20-25 minutes that truly make the film special.
Also, for those who don't mind foriegn, Amalie was also really cute (although I didn't care much for the resolution... that's one of my nagging points in a movie as well).

Eugene said...

Another nice understated and under-the-radar Japanese romance is Twilight Samurai. It's ostensibly the old story about the reluctant fighter forced to use his sword, but the real payoff is the relationship between the hero, a lower-cast samurai, and his childhood sweetheart from an upper-cast family. Plus a pair of the cutest kids you'll ever see.

Anonymous said...

I am not a "chick flick" watcher, in fact, I detest them. However, I love good romantic comedies. What's the difference, and there is a signficant difference? Fodder for another visit perhaps.

That said, I think that Serendipity is a very good, overlooked romantic comedy. (My appreciation for Jeremy Piven as the "wingman" is perhaps one reason.)


Cruising Troll

Anonymous said...

I really like chick flicks but my general problem is the resolution and the sense of "that would never happen/work in real life." that I'm often left with. However I'll take that over the "lovely" stories of statutory rape that movies like Dirty Dancing try to pass off as a romantic chick flick.