CATEGORIES Comedy, Romance, Universal, Home Entertainment, Cinematical Seven, Lists, Features, Cinematical
Two things I enjoyed about Definitely, Maybe, which came out on DVD today: the cheesy jokes about New York City in the early '90s and the fact that it is a chick flick for guys. What I mean by the latter is that the movie seems targeted to females yet it caters more to the male viewer. It's basically a male fantasy: Ryan Reynolds tells the story of how he dated three beautiful women (played by Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz and Elizabeth Banks), one of whom he married and later divorced -- meaning he's now single again. And he also got a cute, precocious daughter (Abigail Breslin) out of the deal who becomes beneficial to him in his return to bachelorhood.
But then is it really a chick flick? I guess it is if you count romantic comedies in that grouping, though the genre has never necessarily been aligned with the term, nor vice versa. And in the age of Judd Apatow, it's more likely that any new romantic comedy is actually a guy movie. Do many men realize it's a movie for them, though? Probably not. Though chick flicks are typically movies primarily populated by women characters and/or a female protagonist (think Steel Magnolias), romance films not made by either Apatow or the Farrelly brothers may be thought of as being for the ladies, even if they feature a male lead, like Reynolds in Definitely, Maybe.
I'll admit I've always been confused about chick flicks as a term. I apparently enjoy many so-called chick flicks, including even (especially) Beaches. So, I may not be using the term correctly in this list. However, I am a guy and I know what guys want. So, I'm going to do this my way, and answer the following question: What other films may have been initially perceived by males as being made for chicks but which turned out to be more for them (us)?
It may have been targeted for everyone, though it seemed as though mostly female moviegoers were the ones seeing this romantic disaster film multiple times. Yet besides the mushy love story and the sad ending (both associated with chick flicks), there's a lot to be enjoyed by the male audience. Obviously the special effects appealed to men, but let's not forget that nude scene. A chick flick might include female nudity in a non-sexual way (think Emily Mortimer in Lovely & Amazing and Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give), but here Kate Winslet was purely an erotic object for the male spectator.
Was Tootsie more targeted to or successful with female audiences? I was too young at the time to remember that now, but aside from the fact that nowadays manly men seem to like dressing as women for Halloween, I can't imagine a lot of guys at the time wanting to see a movie in which Dustin Hoffman does drag to star on a soap opera. And empower women. However, any guy who likes to hold on to the idea that this is a man's man's man's world and women are just visiting, or that because this is a patriarchal society, for women to be accepted as equals they must become like men (in the movie, a man becomes like a woman, but his empowered audience learns how to be free from a man), would probably take great enjoyment in the subtext of the film.
A Lady Takes a Chance (1943)
If a guy must watch any classic romantic comedy, why not one that stars the biggest male ego ideal of all (cinema) time? That's right, John Wayne was in a screwball comedy with Jean Arthur, who received top billing. I've never been one to identify with Duke, but considering Arthur is my all-time biggest movie crush, I actually wish I were him when watching this. And even though Wayne gets a little mushy here, I bet the rest of my gender can still connect with him as usual.
When Harry Met Sally ... (1989)
I could instead offer up Annie Hall, which is an obvious influence on WHMS, but then I don't ever think of Woody Allen movies as chick flicks. However, it's pretty much a fact that all Meg Ryan movies are (sorry guys, but Top Gun, The Doors and even Courage Under Fire will have to be retroactively labeled chick flicks to fit this rule, but it must be done). Some of the evils included in the film that could irk men: the famous fake orgasm scene, which may have turned on a few but which mostly worried us by instilling fears of inadequacy; so many scenes of Ryan and Billy Crystal simply talking on the phone. Yet one thing is certain: Crystal is a total guy's guy (especially after making 61*), and male audiences can easily identify with him. And his character is correct about how men can't be friends with women, because they always want to have sex with them. The movie doesn't prove otherwise, and so it's supported every guy's claim of such since.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Now that Top Gun is a chick flick, I could use that movie for the obligatory Tom Cruise slot, but I'm going with the more obvious anyway. Never mind that Cruise is now too weird to be an ego ideal -- so weird that it's hard to even grandfather in his early films. Never mind that Renée Zellweger now looks too weird to be an acceptable love interest -- she's still cute then and it's easy to grandfather in her early films. Never mind that Jonathan Lipnicky is the most obnoxious kid in cinema history. Never mind that Cuba Gooding Jr. had it all after this movie, and he somehow threw it all away. Jerry Maguire may have had the ladies at hello, but it had the men at the depiction of one of the greatest male fantasy jobs ever.
Twenty years earlier, Richard Gere starred in another chick flick that's considered OK for the guys, An Officer and a Gentleman. But man is it mushy. Here we have different kinds of threats to the male spectator: a cheating wife and an annoying French lover (somehow the ladies find him attractive) who is difficult for us to relate to. Yet instead of being mushy, it's super sexy, and of course there's plenty of Diane Lane nakedness to appease the guys who would otherwise be upset by the infidelity. Plus, through Gere, always the ego ideal, we get to have our cake and then kill the oven, too.
The Princess Bride (1987)
Currently one of my Facebook friends has the following status update: "is watching Princess Bride for the 50th time." Yes, she's female. But this is definitely a story for the guys, as evidenced in the extradiegetic structure of the film, which has the story being told by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his grandson (Fred Savage) who keeps interrupting the "kissing parts." So there's a love story, so what? There's also fencing and sea monsters and Andre the Giant and some of cinema's most memorable lines, most of which you hear repeated by guys, not chicks. After all, what dialogue does Buttercup speak that you'd want to quote? As a chick flick, it's best characterized by what guy's guy Billy Crystal says in the film: "to bluff." Because it brings the chicks in for what is really a total guy movie, and it also brings the guys in long enough to be, as the grandson eventually is, OK with the "kissing parts."