If you're like me and are lucky enough to be in a great relationship, this Friday evening conversation will be all too familiar to you;
"What film shall we watch tonight hun?”
"I don’t mind, whatever you fancy”
"Night of the Living Dead it is then”
"Eugh no, not that”
"…so not really whatever I fancy then”
The Friday night film choice has led to more than a few heated debates, and we usually end up settling for "something funny”. The trouble is we have watched every comedy film from The General (1927) to Sex and the City (2008). It dawned on me that if we were ever going to broaden our joint viewing horizons I needed to meet my missus halfway. I could hardly expect her to sit through Romero’s finest brain munching hour if I wasn’t willing to give her romantic comedy / drama collection the time of day. Fortunately this most feminine of genres has more than a few tasty pictures in its midst. If only we chaps would learn to embrace out inner box of Kleenex for something other than masturbatory purposes and let loose our womanly cinematic urges; surely a more harmonious movie relationship with our partners would be achieved. Many of us might, dare I say it, find ourselves enjoying a cosy night in with a box of chocolates and a bottle of Rosé. And for those lads who are currently stuck in singles land, you might want to consider arming yourself with one or two of these movies so that next time you try chatting up a lady in a bar and the inevitable favourite film question comes up you’ve got something other than Evil Dead (1981) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) to hand. A good chick flick can show a hint of a sensitive side which is as good as a tasty aftershave to some lady-folk. "Yeah, Runaway Bride is one of my faves. So, …you fancy coming back to mine and touching my cock for a bit?”. If the answer isn’t a "yes” I’ll eat my Manolo Blahniks.
- GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
The original girl-power movie set the bar for chick flicks very high indeed. The novel on which this legendary movie was based, written by Margaret Mitchell in 1936, had already won a 1937 Pulitzer Prize before Victor Fleming brought it to the big screen in 1939. With 1037 pages to fit into a workable script it is little wonder that the resulting movie was a buttock testing 238 minutes long. It is a testament to all who created the film that despite its considerable girth the movie remains entertaining from beginning to end. For those not familiar with the story, the tale is set during the American Civil War and shows the events from a Southern perspective. Intertwined with the war is the turbulent love story between Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Scarlett is more the eyes of the audience and thus a female outlook on the happenings is secured. O’Hara’s final stand of resolution after the flood of traumatic events that befall her, and Butler’s not giving a damn in particular, is enough to have any woman proudly burning her bra. The undoubted quality and ambitious scale of the film has been lauded by every film critic that ever picked up a pen or sat at a keyboard. It is a report worth repeating though, from the stunning photography and the unforgettable soundtrack, to the immortal performances of some of Hollywood’s golden era heroes, Gone With The Wind is one of the finest examples of why cinema is a contender for the title of greatest invention ever. It rarely gets much better than this.
Tasty Morsel – Around 1,400 actresses were interviewed for the part of Scarlett, with 40 eventually being asked to give readings. Among those considered were Lucille Ball, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Katherine Hepburn and Barbara Stanwyck.
- BRIEF ENCOUNTER (1945)
Before eighties movie journalists coined the phrase "chick flick” in response to the flood of feel-good lady films of the time, movies for the fairer sex were decidedly more serious affairs. And more often than not they were all about serious affairs. In 1936 legendary scriber Noël Coward wrote a short one-act play entitled Still Life which depicted a twelve month liaison between two middle class, married Brits. After a number of successful revivals the play was filmed by another English pillar of the arts, director David Lean. At the time an affair between two married people was positively scandalous and far from the Facebook induced everyday dalliance that occurs these days. Even more shocking for the era was the fact that the film’s narrator was the woman of the couple, Laura (Celia Johnson), and a woman who did as much active pursuing as her male counterpart. Coward’s story, though sometimes melodramatic "I want to die, if only I could die”, focused on the earnestness of the affair, the threat of being found out and the burden of guilt. Placed against the Hollywood of today with its rose-tinted romanticism when depicting extra marital mischief, it is a refreshing approach that belays the movies sixty four years of age. Despite the precarious nature of Laura and Alec’s affair there is still great passion between them, albeit an infatuation that strains against the confinement of their situation, never truly realised. It is a longing to love that perhaps resonates much more with the female viewer than the male. But whatever your sex there is no denying the power of the final lack of farewell in the station café.
Tasty Morsel – The film was remade for television in 1974, with Richard Burton and Sophia Loren as the adulterous couple.
- BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S (1961)
And I said what about Breakfast At Tiffany’s, or so the song went. Deep Blue Something sure had a point back in 1996, a worthy reference to a forty eight year vintage that just keeps getting fresher. The story had fine breeding, coming from the pen of American writer Truman Capote. Blake Edwards’s film takes Capote’s novella as the basis and in the hands of screenwriter George Axelrod the film became a minor masterpiece. The story is a humorous dance between two occupants of a New York brownstone apartment block, peculiar socialite Holly Golightly and struggling writer Paul Varjak. Even if you have yet to taste the movie’s delights you will no doubt be aware of the iconic imagery of Audrey Hepburn’s Golightly, the actress wearing the hell out of the characters signature Givenchy black dress with accompanying cigarette holder. But there is much more to the film than Hepburn’s visual on offer, not least of which is the actress’ performance. Golightly’s display of understated feminine authority is still empowering as she breezes through her unconventional life with a hidden confidence. Her sparring partner is none of than the A-Team’s Colonel John "Hannibal” Smith, George Peppard Jr and he accounts for himself so well as the affable Varjak it is a wonder that he never made more of a dent on the big screen. The glossy veneer of early sixties New York completes the trio of centre points, the wistful backdrops as much a character as any of the Manhattanites we come across. It is a stylish world that appeals to the open hearted fashionista in every woman and the closeted fashion-follower hiding in every man.
Tasty Morsel – The song "Moon River” was written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer specifically for Hepburn, so that it could be sung in one octave to accommodate the actress’s lack of singing prowess.
- DIRTY DANCING (1987)
If you only see one chick flick, you best make it a good one. And when it comes to chick flicks they don’t come any more oestrogen fuelled than Dirty Dancing (1987). It is to girlie movies what Die Hard (1988) is to man movies, a film so ingrained in the female psyche there are some ladies out there they could quote you every line and twirl every pirouette. I have tried to resist the movie in the past, but my argument that Patrick Swayze’s older dance teacher should know better than to chat up a seventeen year old girl always fell on deaf ears. The fact that Swazye’s Johnny Castle states that the multitudes of women who sleep with him were in fact "using him” will raise a wry smile from every male viewer, but a coo of sympathy from the ladies. Right Johnny, sleeping with that many different women must have been a real pisser. It doesn’t take much for these story failings to be swept aside though by the torrent of misty eyed romance and delightful period setting. Most of the credit must go to Swayze as Castle and Jennifer Grey as Frances "Baby” Houseman, their literal and metaphorical dance scenes a delight to behold. The soundtrack is a goldmine of fifties and sixties classics which also help to melt the heart. If you are not fist punching the air during the final "We’ve had the time of our lives” dance sequence you may be beyond the point where any feature film can reach in and touch your soul, particularly now that the legendary Swayze has tangoed to the great dancefloor in the sky. Yippee-ki-yay Castlefucker indeed.
Tasty Morsel – A sequel followed seventeen years later, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004). Set in Cuba in 1958, the movie features a cameo from Swayze as a dance instructor though it isn’t revealed whether this is a returning Johnny or not.
- BEACHES (1988)
If there is one aspect of the chick flick oeuvre that will mystify most if not all men it’s the genres predilection for depressing storylines. By and large most chick flicks can be spliced into two categories; the love story where the lead lady attempts to overcome obstacles to acquire their perfect mate, and the death story where someone is on their way to croaking it. Either one of these types can reduce a lady viewer to tears. The odd thing is that some ladies seem to get a perverse pleasure out of putting themselves through the emotional movie wringer with the likes of The Way We Were (1973), Terms of Endearment (1983), Little Women (1933, 1949, 1978, 1994), and Steel Magnolias (1989). Often times these movies are deliberately manipulative, overly slushy in their attempts to strangle the life out of one’s heart strings. Occasionally a movie with real empathy slips into the genre. Step forward director Gary Marshall and Beaches (1988) based on the 1985 novel by Iris Rainer Dart. The film tells of the life long friendship between Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler, a companionship which of course ends in tears when one of the pair shuffles off before her time is up. It is the preceding relationship between the ladies which ensures that the carefully handled passing is a five hanky tear-jerker when it arrives, a pairing that has all the ups and down of real companionship. Midler’s plain speaking brashness is also deeply appealing and works wonders in making the film an affecting watch, though one could do without her cheesy "Wind beneath my wings” warbling. Blubber away lads, blubber away.
Tasty Morsel – A sequel to the movie was planned, as a television movie, but was never filmed.
- PRETTY WOMAN (1990)
The last great eighties-cheese movie actually crept into the caring nineties. But mark my words it is as eighties as they come. The soundtrack is littered with chart friendly hits, the hair is huge, the denim stone washed and the fashions are retina melting. It also has that couldn’t-care-less story implausibility that marked out most of the cinematic output of the preceding decade. A modern update of the Cinderella story, we witness Richard Gere’s dashing businessman Edward Lewis sweep Julia Robert’s prostitute Vivian Ward off of the mean streets of LA and into his world of overpriced hotels and free flowing champagne. About as realistic as Star Wars (1977) then. For one thing, for all her efforts to make Vivian a true street ruffian Roberts is far too pleasant to be anything close to a Hollywood hooker. But once you accept this story conceit it is impossible not to be swept up by the movie’s overwhelming charm. Gere and Robert’s have sizzling chemistry, and the roles each of them inhabits can be projected into by every viewer, male or female. Most women would love to be rescued like Vivian and most men would kill to be as dashing as Edward. And there is just the right amount of tastefully revealed flesh from each of the leads to titillate both sexes. Setting wise the LA locales, even the dowdier ones, have a sunny appeal on a par with Robert’s million dollar smile. As a package it is super slick but enchanting enough to melt even the frostiest heart. Repeat viewings reveal some surprising story flecks, the significance of Hector Elizondo’s performance as the manager of the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and the traces of a darker story left in the screenplay. For all his gentlemanly qualities we forget that Edward plumps for a good old fashioned blow-job the night he first meets Vivian.
Tasty Morsel – The original screenplay was a lot darker in tone than the cheery film that was eventually released. Vivian had a cocaine habit and the relationship with Edward touched on much more controversial topics, with Eds throwing Vivs clean out of his moving car in one dramatic scene.
- GHOST (1990)
Take a deep breath boys, you’ll need it do get through this one. If you want a prime example of the most chick of chick flicks, look no further than Ghost (1990). It has the most intense concentration of over-sentimentality that you will find in any movie and it takes severe testicular fortitude to sit through all one hundred and twenty eight minutes of this Jerry Zucker weep-fest. That’s right, Jerry Zucker, he of the Zucker brothers fame, the guys that brought us Airplane! (1980) and The Naked Gun: From The Files of Police Squad! (1988). Furthermore, the film has Demi Moore in it and she doesn’t even get her kit off. Throw us poor guys a bone Hollywood for goodness sake. Moore plays Molly Jensen a girl who loses her boyfriend Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) when he is shot dead by a street punk. Sam finds that despite passing away he hasn’t made it to heaven and is left lingering as a ghost. Learning that there was more to his early departure than he first thought, he finds that he can communicate with a local medium Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg). He seeks to commune with Holly, set right his untimely death and make it to heaven. Some might say that the film is deliberately calculating in its brash displays of emotion, the use of Righteous Brothers’ Unchained Melody being the most overt tactic. Praise be for Goldberg then who provides much needed grounding for the sceptical viewer. The actress won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work and rightly so, as she makes what would have otherwise been a difficult film to connect with much more palatable. With Whoopi by our side Sam and Holly’s story becomes the genuine tear jerker it deserves to be.
Tasty Morsel – Crocodile Dundee himself Paul Hogan turned down the role of Sam Wheat, as did Moore’s then husband Bruce Willis.
- YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998)
In 1993 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan decided to team up for a second movie together following 1990’s Joe Versus the Volcano. The resulting movie, Sleepless in Seattle (1993), was a smash hit. A loose tribute to An Affair To Remember (1957) the film saw Hanks and Ryan play a couple that are destined to be together but do not meet until the movie’s finale atop the Empire State Building. The pair attempted the same trick in 1998 with a more direct remake of The Shop Around the Corner (1940) entitled You’ve Got Mail (1998). Capturing the current zeitgeist the film swapped pen-pal letters for email, and milked the concept for all it was worth. Hanks and Ryan are rival book shop owners, Hanks the all powerful tycoon and Ryan the small businesswoman. The pair lead two separate lives with each other, one as enemies in business and another as anonymous soul mates on the internet. This clever premise made for a film that had much more humour than Sleepless, with Hanks in particular on delicious form, "I have a very thirsty date. She’s part camel”. It also allowed the central pairing to be fleshed out as fully three dimensional characters rather than the sickly sweet caricatures they had previously played. For us Brits, whether you root for Ryan to hook up with the charming Hanks really depends on whether you had the displeasure of viewing Ryan’s shitty attitude on that infamous 2003 episode of the Parkinson chat show. If you missed it, dive in and enjoy. If you saw it, approach with caution.
Tasty Morsel – Monty Python alumni Michael Palin filmed a small number of scenes as a generous writer who gives a number of readings at Ryan’s bookstore. Unfortunately, his scenes were cut from the final film.
- BRIDGET JONES' DIARY (2001)
When the creative world finally got off its arse to create some female friendly story telling the literary scribers was about a century ahead of Hollywood’s moguls. Mills and Boon were lighting fires in lady-loins back when most cinemas still had a piano underneath the screen. It was a tradition that flowed right through the twentieth century. In 1996 author Helen Fielding gave the world a novel that became a modern day Bible for many British women. It told the everyday adventures of a single thirty-something female in a contemporary setting, written in the inspired form of a years worth of diary entries. When it was announced that a film adaptation was on the way fans rejoiced. Smiles turned to scowls though when American actress Renee Renee Zellweger was cast as the eponymous Jones in Sharon Maguire’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001). With a bevy of English roses seemingly tailor made for the role it seemed foolhardy to cast the blonde haired Texan. It didn’t take much screen time for Zellweger to blow all doubters out of the water. Not only did the actress look the part having filled out her waif like figure with some sexy curves, but the spirit of Bridget appeared to have inhabited Zellweger in a way that few Fielding aficionados could have hoped for. Further inspired casting choices were made, including a role reversal for the usually saint-like Hugh Grant and the only man who could possibly inhabit a character named Darcy, Colin Firth. The undeniable charm of Jones and hilarity of her daily struggles sweep away the clichéd plot aspects. Even the cheesy snow drenched concluding kiss can be forgiven just to see Bridget come out on top for once.
Tasty Morsel – As well as gaining a most welcome 25lbs to play Bridget, Zellweger actually worked for a month in a British publishing company. Having adopted a posh British accent the actress was allegedly not recognised during her time there.
- THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006)
When the Spice Girls fooled ladies everywhere into thinking that the advancement of women’s rights involved them acting like obnoxious beer swilling blokes with their butt cracks hanging out, the traditional chick flick died on its previously dainty arse. All girlie films from the late nineties onwards had to have balls, a jarring contradiction if ever there was one. There was certainly room for the average chick flick to become less flowery but not at the expense of having to grow a pair of hairy testicles. It was a tough mix to get right but thankfully the HBO television show Sex and the City got the blend absolutely spot on. Its popularity bled into the literary and movie worlds, with one of the best results being Lauren Weisberger’s 2003 book The Devil Wears Prada. The novel was turned into a movie in 2006. We meet Andrea Sachs a struggling journalist who lands the job of personal assistant to Miranda Priestly, the icy boss of Runway fashion magazine. The film follows the unfashionable Andrea as she fights her way into the graces of the hostile Priestly. Anne Hathaway is convincing as Andrea despite her striking good looks making her an unlikely dowdy geek. Good support is offered by the ever watchable Stanley Tucci and the gorgeous Emily Blunt, but this is Meryl Streep’s movie, wonderfully aloof in the Priestly role. The actress of actresses somehow created an undercurrent of sorrow and sympathy for the ice queen editor despite painting her as an über bitch in just about every scene. How on earth Streep managed this I don’t know, but I suspect it is just another example of the ladies mountainous talent.
Tasty Morsel – It's a widely held belief that the story was based upon Anna Wintour, the editor of US Vogue magazine. Whilst Wintour was initially sceptical of the film the editor did attend the movie’s premiere and later praised it as "entertaining and glamorous”.