Continuing with my Chick Flicks Guide, I'm moving onto the "She's a mess" category. I have a love-hate relationship with this category. Sometime in the 90s the winds of change blew. (You'll notice there are no old movies in this list, as I don't think this was as much of a story device back in the day. Except for Doris Day, who I'm saving for later...)
But in the 90s I think it started with Callista Flockhart, in what was that tv show called again? And then it was exemplified by The Diary of Bridget Jones. It was all about the neurotic woman. I like to think of it as "she's a mess". Something is always going wrong, falling apart - on the outside or the inside. Maybe she's a perfectionist on the outside, but she's so uptight and controlling that her inner life is pitiful. Maybe she's embarrassingly naive, hopeful or obsessed with love. Or maybe she's a klutz. Or her career's in shambles. Or her apartment's a mess. Or her shopping's out of control. Or she drinks too much. Or some combination of the above.
I think the neurotic woman at first felt like a breath of fresh air - hey, we're real, we're human, us women have our foibles, okay? We don't all have to be perfect. But I also think the neurotic woman is a chance to look down at a fictional character and say "Hey, I'm bad, but I'm not THAT bad." And I wonder if that's healthy.
And then, even bigger problem, I think the neurotic woman has grown into a character cliche now. It's so easy to craft this character in your sleep. And that bugs me.
Nonetheless, I hereby present the "She's a Mess" list of Chick Flicks:
Bridget Jones 1 and 2 (although I hope they don't make a 3)
This list must begin with these films. Bridget Jones just needs a t-shirt that says "I'm a mess". After all, that's pretty much the theme of her fictional life. She can't stop eating, drinking, smoking, shopping, sabotaging her career, and chasing after the wrong fellows. She is a basket case. You feel so terribly embarrassed for her. And you want to slap her. Except that sometimes you feel a little bit like her. For me, the books get old. But I like the movies. The casting worked for me. I have no idea why they just couldn't cast a British actress, but for all the hoohah Renee pulls it off and Colin Firth and Hugh Grant really round it out with a bit of gravitas and charm.
I actually LOVE this movie. But it's inhabited by two neurotic women. Cammie Diaz "can't commit" and is addicted to work and has no feelings. And Kate Winslet is a big, deluded, teary eyed wreck that can't stop pining for a jerk. But throw in Jude Law in his most awfully charming mode, and Jack Black as a teddy bear and it all works out alright. And seriously. Seriously. I love the settings and the houses in these movies - you get such different worlds - LA and countryside England and it works.
Confessions of a Shopaholic
Light, sweet, charming confection. It's hard not to like this good-hearted, colorful, confident girl, even if she is a bit silly and is always walking around dressed like a parrot (I do love all the colors). This movie also has the advantage of having Hugh Dancy as a leading man. One great irony though - I think the extremity of her label-worship and shopaholism only serves to make me think "oh, I'm not that bad" on my occasional Anthropologie run. These are the perils of comparing yourself to insane movie characters.
My life in ruins
The title pretty much says it all, right? She's a tour guide in Greece and things aren't going well, especially with her surly bus driver, who ends up being a hunk when he shaves off his beard. What a shocker. Like most "she's a mess" characters, you want to slap her often. (I can't remember whether she used the tour bus mike to deliver a cheesy monologue in this movie, but she probably did. I'm just warning you.) But I liked this movie for a light film that was a little different.
Oh Catherine Heigl. You may be a pretty nice person. And I don't totally dislike you. But sometimes you just come off as the younger plump-cheeked big-eyed sister of Ally McBeal. I like this movie against my better judgment. But I find myself wanting to tell the main character to please, for goodness' sake, pull yourself together. And please, finally, just tell someone, anyone, that you won't be in their wedding. You have the power. It's called free will. Oh, and I don't like the way this movie feeds into the wedding mythology, that a wedding is the ultimate pinnacle of a woman's life (which I guess a lot of rom-coms do). I mean, I loved my wedding, but it's just one day for goodness sake, and it doesn't mean you're any less of a woman just because you haven't had one.
Never been kissed
Okay, Drew Barrymore's character shows up to her first day as an undercover reporter in high school wearing a feather boa and please note the above white go-go boots. This girl's got prob-lems. And that's why I loved her. She wasn't too whiny. She was kind of feisty and gutsy. More my kind of "she's a mess" gal.
When in Rome
I cringe as I mention this because I really didn't adore this film. But it's a recent one, so I thought I'd share. She goes to Rome, desperate for love, steals some coins from a fountain and supernatural love mojo follows. Beware supernatural rom-coms, they're almost always riddled with cheese. Sometimes I wanted to tell Kristen Bell's character to please stop whining, because "she's a mess", but the movie was kind of a mess too. But if you just can't hold yourself back from a cheesy pleasure, you might as well see this one.
Flying to Ireland on the spur of the moment to ask your boyfriend to marry you is kind of a desperate move. Well at least if you're a gal who believes in The Rules, that ancient book, or to bring it up to modern times - He's just not that into you. And then walking around Ireland in fancy shoes, dragging a Louis Vuitton suitcase behind you, while endlessly whining, all of this fits right into the "she's a mess" genre. Without the surly love interest to put her in her place, I almost couldn't have handled it.
Recommended Double Features:
Feisty gals: Never Been Kissed and Bridget Jones
Inspiration to clean out your closet: Confessions of a Shopaholic and 27 Dresses
UK-Bound: The Holiday and Leap Year
Any favorite (or not so favorite) flicks you'd lump into this category?