David Denby - A Fine Romance
My New Yorker's are usually the last magazine in the pile (aside from the NY Times magazine), so I am very late to this past summer's (July 23rd issue) piece by David Denby on how Knocked Up has shifted the whole genre of the romantic comedy. (I would link to it, but for some stupid reason The New Yorker only makes limited archives available.)
The overall thrust of the piece is that in today's romantic comedy ala Judd Apatow, the woman and the man are not working from a place of equality like they were in earlier versions of the genre from the screwball comedies of the 1930s all the way through the Woody Allen comedies of the 1970s.
I couldn't agree more. While I did find Knocked Up to be quite funny, I also found it very disturbing because the comedy was so guy-centric without caring at all about the female character aside from showing that there is no way these two should be together because she was competent and ambitious and he was a stoner an his job (unpaid) was to create a porn site.
But this reality has become quite typical 21st century Hollywood - stories about guys, told by guys and the woman is thrown in because they need to get laid.
Here are some interesting quotes:
Knocked Up, written and directed by Judd Apatow, is the culminating version of this story, and it feels like one of the key movies of the era- a raw, discordant equivalent of The Graduate forty years ago. I've seen it with audiences in their twenties and thirties, and the excitement in the theatres is palpable- the audience is with the movie all the way, and, afterward, many of the young men (though not always the young women) say that it's not only funny but true.
The louts in the slacker-striver comedies should probably lose the girl, too, but most of them don't. Yet what, exactly, are they getting, and why should the women want them? That is not a question that romantic comedy has posed before.
What's striking about Knocked Up is the way the romance is placed within the relations between the sexes.
All the movies in this genre have been written and directed by men, and it's as if the filmmakers were saying, 'Yes, young men are children now, and women bring home the bacon, but men bring home the soul.'
The perilous new direction of the slacker-striver genre reduced the role of women to vehicles. Their only real function is to make the men grow up.
The society that produced the Katherine Hepburn and Carole Lombard movie has vanished; manner, in the sense of elegance, have disappeared. But manners as spiritual style are more important than ever, and Apatow has demonstrated that he knows this as well as anyone. So how can he not know that the key to making a great romantic comedy is to create heroines equal in wit to men? They don't have to dress for dinner, but they should challenge the men intellectually and spiritually, rather than simply offering their bodies as a way of dragging the clods out of their adolescent stupor.Doesn't it seem that the men are the ones who don't challenge the women intellectually rather than the reverse? And why is it women's fault that they want to be successful and have a career? Get with it Judd Apatow, you have two daughters and I know you wouldn't want either of them dating any of the dudes who populate your movies.
Continuing in Theatres This Weekend
Jane Austen Book Club
Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray) wil receive the Rising Star award at the 2008 Palm Springs International Film Festival on Jan 3 and 4. (Hollywood Reporter)
Women in Film's Entertainment Forum is this weekend. More details:
Women in Film Entertainment Forum
Some of the most interesting panels include:
DOES "FUNNY" HAVE A GENDER?
Cynthia Littleton, Deputy Editor, Variety
Morgan Murphy, Comic/Writer/Actress
Jane Lynch, Comic/Actress, 40 Year Old Virgin, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Jennifer Coolidge, Comic/Actress, For Your Consideration, Legally Blonde
SOCIAL ISSUE FILMMAKING: FILM AS AN AGENT FOR CHANGE
Bonnie Abaunza, VP, Campaign Development & Operations, Participant Productions
Ted Braun, Writer/Director, Darfur Now
Cathy Schulman, President, Mandalay Pictures/Mandalay Independent Pictures
Colin Thomas-Jenson, Policy Advisor, ENOUGH Project
Janice Kamenir-Reznik, Co-Founder & President, Jewish World Watch
Ugly Betty's America Ferrara has been named the U.S. Hispanic Woman of the Year
America Ferrara (AP via US Today)
Story of DC's first female police chief to be made into film.
Cathy Lanier (Hollywood Reporter)
I plead with you to watch Friday Night Lights. Most people are not watching this show because they think its about football, I can assure you it's not. Last season they had a show the dealt with race relations that was so fantastic and non-preachy that I can't believe it didn't win an Emmy.