Women’s fantasies make films like ‘27 Dresses’ critic-proof

Yes, I was bored with and ticked off at “27 Dresses,” which is doing terrific business at the box of
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Categories: Life & Arts

Yes, I was bored with and ticked off at “27 Dresses,” which is doing terrific business at the box office. How can anyone in the target audience of women be fooled by it?

And now, please, a back story:

A few years ago I walked into a college journalism class as a guest. The professor asked that I speak about reviewing movies. One thing led to another and, by way of example, I related a situation I had confronted that very morning.

Composing a review of a film that now happily slips my mind, I mentioned that it was such a corny romance that I was tempted to write that it appealed to girls and women who picture themselves in wedding photos usually shot under a weeping willow. As usual, the bride would deceive herself into believing that it was all romance instead of schlocky sentimentality.

I further mentioned that I did indeed write something like that, but not before I wondered whether I would be insulting a bride-to-be or recent newlywed who had posed in the same type of picture. I concluded, rightly or wrongly, that my first truthful impulse trumped what I saw as a temptation to wander into the hell of political correctness. A writer cannot be obsessive about offending someone. Even in day-to-day life, we all can go crazy, knowing that every time we render an opinion, we risk injuring another’s sensibilities.

Stony silence

My comments were met with silence. The teacher in me tried to confront two girls in particular: Dressed to the nines, they there staring ice and glaring fire. “Hey, I thought that weeping willow sentiment constituted some kind of humor. Why aren’t you laughing? Understanding?” It took me a nanosecond to intuit these girls thought I was a jerk. What I wrote — or said I wrote — insulted them, because that Weeping Willow Dream was in their bones as much as slugging a homer in the ninth was in mine.

The difference was that I would welcome a comic riff on my boy-as-hero fantasy. Not these two. As I was to learn more than once, the new generation especially has little tolerance for satiric humor — especially when it is directed at their lifestyles. Silly me. As a kid from the ’60s, I naively assumed the liberated girl-woman saw through that shallow Bride Magazine stuff.

Silly me. Dumb me. If I am a sucker for a movie that has a kid come off the bench to win a game (no matter how corny the dialogue), the feminine impulse dictates girls are suckers for movies with weddings and pretty gowns and teary walks down the aisle with Daddy.

Why do I have to keep on relearning that lesson? So what if “27 Dresses” stunk out loud, as we kids used to say.

No matter. Girls and women look at me askance as they declare to each other, “Silly boy. We don’t care what he thinks, and oh, yes, we could have told you what he would think before he saw the movie.”

A few days ago, I went on a mission of truth. I asked women from 22 to 55 why they had a great time, and here are some responses:

“It was fun.”

“So cute.”

“Of course I got caught up in it. I wouldn’t be a girl if I didn’t.”

Every woman I talked with saw it in a pack. Sarah, 27, went with six girlfriends and walked into a theater loaded with females.

Margot, 55, saw it with five girlfriends on a rainy day in the desert.

That was the fun of it. A little movie party with “a bunch of girlfriends,” and we’ll be darned, said Margot, if we let a critic rain on our little matinee. What I noted when I talked with the women was that she happily suspended critical judgments she might apply to a mystery or drama or standard comedy. The ladies under interrogation had no interest in discussing issues like credibility or acting talent, not to mention a script I found lazy and manipulative. Nor were they especially eager to probe whether “27 Dresses” was up to the level of classic screwball comedies from the ’30s with the likes of Cary Grant, Irene Dunne or Katharine Hepburn.

“I’m tired of those movies and women who speak with fake acting accents,” said Margot.”

“But . . .”

“No buts. I’ve seen enough of them,” she shot back.

“But wait,” I protested, “ ‘His Girl Friday’ with Rosalind Russell. She makes these modern cuties and hotties look like Girl Scouts.”

What kind of a guy am I?

A flush of bored tolerance passed over her face. I was beginning to sound to myself like a guy I can’t stand; the whining pedant who lectures others about what they lack in knowledge and intelligence.

I bring up these issues not to slyly indicate intellectual superiority.

I am talking about smart, savvy professional women. Late in the night of my investigation, I awoke in a sweat. I was in an operating room looking over a white sheet. Suddenly I heard hisses. I looked up. From the gallery above, I saw women — faceless women — condemning my presence. I lifted the sheet. Beneath was a woman in a pink bridal gown. Clasped in her hands was a bouquet of white roses.

The phone rang.

It was Margot with the answer I had been awaiting — Margot armed with the most eloquent reason women are quietly delighted with see “27 Dresses”:

“We all had experiences of being in other people’s weddings and wearing ‘bad’ dresses. We have all had the feeling that we are the ones who are ‘there’ for others and only hope that others will be there for us in time of need. Women are drawn to the concept of the groom standing in the front of the church and looking at us in that special way, or looking at our daughter in that special way.”

So there it is, out of a dream and into reality. The distant call of feminine bonding we guys first witnessed in elementary school when Ellen, Carole, Denise, and Diane stood in front of the room whispering, shutting us out, protecting each other in time of need.

That, my dear reader, is why a movie like “27 Dresses” is critic-proof.

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