‘Girl, Interrupted’: Not An Aphrodisiac

(Films discussed in this post: Meek’s Cutoff, Girl Interrupted, A Little Help.)

Here’s some advice if you’re ever going to date me:

Let me choose the movie.

I have fantastic taste. Some would even say flawless, but I’m far too modest to make that claim myself. Plus, I usually keep the other person in mind when I’m selecting a film for us both to watch. I don’t make off-the-wall choices people are going to hate just so I get my druthers. Well, I mean, only occasionally.

People thank me all the time for opening their eyes (and minds!) to a film they otherwise never would have seen, or probably even heard of.

Really!

So let me choose the movie.

Yes, finding a good “first date” movie is hard. For me, anyway. Because most people want to watch something “light.” Translation? “Light” is usually synonymous with “stupid.” There are a very select few “light” movies I like to watch, and the supply tends to get exhausted pretty quickly. This is how I ended up sitting through such films as 27 Dresses and um, something else with Katherine Heigl. It’s considered poor manners to tell your date that their taste sucks only hours after meeting them, so oftentimes I just have to bite my tongue and take one for the team. And it’s not like I can just bust out Breaking The Waves and ask someone I’m only just getting to know to accompany me on a cinematic downward spiral of repression and suicide. Yes, I may find such films cathartic, but most people just find them depressing. And depression does not make for a successful date.

In the end, a happy medium must be found. It’s possible, with a little precision. But it ain’t always easy, especially when they’re fighting you because Maid In Manhattan is, like, soooo cute and good. (Yes, such people often blatantly misuse the word “good.”)

That’s why I’m always delighted to find someone who will let me choose the movie. I’m a pro, really. And an extra bonus? When they’re cool with what I choose being offbeat, obscure, and maybe a little dark.

That’s how I ended up watching A Little Help. Technically, I guess it’s a comedy, but it’s also about a woman whose husband dies (from fellatio) and instead of admitting the truth, she and her son decide to pretend he was killed in 9/11. So Enchanted this ain’t.

This is one of those middle-of-the-road indie comedies that doesn’t quite work for a number of reasons, mostly involving the writing and story, but it is also pretty funny and totally diverting and worth taking a gander at on Netflix Watch Instantly if you’re looking for a decent off-the-beaten-path date movie. It’s nice to see Jenna Fischer carry a film on her own (I like her, but not The Office) and the supporting cast is solid. Plus, it satirizes Long Island. Or maybe it just actually depicts Long Island exactly as it is, and that’s just funny all on its own. It’s hard to tell.

A Little Help‘s Cinematic Aphrodisiac rating: 6.5/8 = good date movie.

A Little Help on its own merits: C+

Okay, so we were doing well. We’d laughed. We’d enjoyed our plucky heroine’s plight and eventual catharsis. We’d balked at the strangely abrupt ending. After a brief run to the mini-mart downstairs to pick up some more Blue Moon, it was time to select another movie. His turn.

He selects: Girl Interrupted.

In theory, this was a good choice. Dark enough to be interesting, but fluffy enough to not dampen the mood too much. Right? Or so I thought. I hadn’t seen Girl Interrupted since it first came out on DVD, and I remembered very little about it. Famous people kept popping up everywhere: “Oh my god, it’s that girl from Mad Men! What, Whoopi Goldberg’s in this? Well, hello, Jared Leto!” (Also: Clea DuVall, Jeffrey Tambor, and Vanessa Redgrave.)

It was refreshing to see Angelina Jolie in full-on batshit crazy mode. (Remember when she made out with her brother and wore vials of blood around her neck? Yeah, neither does Brad Pitt.) Plus, isn’t it silly to think of an era when Winona Ryder was the top-billed star and Jolie was a supporting character? Topsy-turvy!

Now, Girl Interrupted is no Schindler’s List. It’s sappy and at times, even a little hammy. It’s like A League Of Their Own with razor blades. It still holds up for the most part, though, and the thing that really makes it pack an emotional wallop is the presence of the dearly departed Brittany Murphy as the sickest of all these poor girls, molested by her father and hiding chicken carcasses under her bed.

Let us remember: I did not choose Girl Interrupted. And if I had, I would have been kicking myself, because seeing a young girl in a movie kill herself is kind of a downer. But seeing an actress who actually tragically died at a young age hanging herself in a movie is, like, depresso-rama to the max! (Which is why I will never watch the movie called The Dead Girl, also starring Brittany Murphy.) I don’t know if it was the three Blue Moonds on top of a glass of two buck Chuck on top of a couple whiskeys or the movie or what, but as the credits rolled I just felt sad and bloated and could only think of Tai in Clueless doing her “rollin’ with the homies” and then hanging herself in the bathroom. Anyway, not sexy.

The movie ended, and my date and I were just very.

Very.

Quiet.

For a long time.

Girl Interrupted‘s Cinematic Aphrodisiac rating: 2.5/8

And today I was dutiful in my preparation for my Top 10 of 2011 list, which means I need to see virtually every film I think has even the slightest chance at cracking into those Golden Ranks. I watched Kelly Reichart’s Meek’s Cutoff, lauded by most critics as a revisionist Western. Hurrah!

Now, I’ve never been fond of Westerns, and the only Reichart movie I’d seen prior to this, Wendy & Lucy (also starring Williams), I found competent but wildly overpraised. Meek’s Cutoff is the sort of film I try to see in a theater, since it’s — let’s face it — slow and kind of boring.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a patient person. I like a lot of films that are slow and deliberate. But Kelly Reichart and I, I don’t know. We just don’t see eye-to-eye, I guess. This is a movie about people on the Oregon Trail, and while I know it isn’t supposed to be like that super old school computer game I used to play in elementary school where a bison would run by and trample someone every four seconds, it just seems like there could have been a little more happening. I wish I’d seen it in theaters, because when a film is as pokey as this, it’s hard not to minimize your screen to check Facebook every few minutes since people are basically just standing against pretty backdrops looking extremely worried for the better part of two hours. Maybe I missed something. I admire the way Reichart threw a bone to classic Westerns and yet told a bare-bones, realistic story that we haven’t really seen before. (What was the last Oregon Trail movie? I can’t think of any, except maybe some terrible comedy starring Richard Lewis and John Candy.) But ultimately, Meek’s Cutoff failed to grab or move me, which is probably as much my fault (and Facebook’s!) as it is Kelly Reichart’s. The night-time scenes are so dark I couldn’t see anything anyway; again, this would have worked better on the big screen.

And yes, for the record, I generally hate people who can’t sit still and pay attention during a movie. So yes, I’ve experienced a bit of self-loathing for my failure to transcend the limitations of my ADD-riddled generation in relation to this movie. I will unofficially refer to it as Meek’s Doze-Off. Wait, no I won’t, that’s mean.

Still, I saw enough to know that Meek’s Cutoff is certainly no aphrodisiac. 0/8

But it is a well-made, if not always engrossing, piece of cinema.

And that’s what I’ve been watching! Stay tuned for more.

Thoughts?

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