Saturday, February 6, 2010

Whip It, good -- The Ugly Truth, not worth hearing

In addition to going to the theatre to see Edge of Darkness, I rented two movies: Whip It, which was good fun, if a bit predictable, and The Ugly Truth, the stars of which are far too pretty for it to be ugly.

Whip It is a coming of age story in the context of southern beauty pageants and roller derby -- what's not to like?

Ellen Page plays Bliss Cavendar with the same open honesty that she played Juno, except that this time she (or the character) is not quite so self assured.

Her mother, played by the marvelous Marcia Gay Harden, is convinced that the only way out of the tiny Texas town of Bodeen is through beauty pageants.  Not surprisingly, Bliss is less convinced, but she is looking for a way out, for a life different than that of her parents.  

On a shopping trip to Austin to purchase unladylike combat boots -- an endeavor her mother actually endorses until she realizes that they are in a head shop -- Bliss is completely captivated by some roller derby girls who roll into the shop to drop off some flyers and then roll out.

Thus a secretive teenage rebellion is born.

There is the usual angst and conflict, but everyone ends up on the same page in the end.  What makes Whip It different than so many other similar stories is that Bliss actually has friends to tell her that her rebellion is selfish and that she really should think about the consequences of hurting her parents by trampling their good intentions.  So often the parents, especially the mothers, are cast as repressive ogres when really they mean well and are just trying to make up for mistakes made and chances not taken in their own lives.

In the opposite corner, what's not to like is The Ugly Truth, starring Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler.

Now, I have been a fan of Gerard Butler since Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, and Katherine Heigl is funny and charming as the neurotic Izzy in Grey's Anatomy and on the big screen in 27 Dresses.

Admittedly, I stopped watching after the first forty-five minutes, so maybe I didn't give the film enough of a chance, but I'm not going back.

The problem was not that I had a hard time accepting the "truth" (because I agreed with quite a bit of it, especially the point Butler's character, Mike Chadway, makes about a woman needing to be both the librarian and the stripper) but rather because I couldn't believe the lovely, professionally successful, chicly dressed Abby as someone in need of a makeover.  There was not a chipped nail in sight, a hair out of place, or an article of clothing askew.  She was not a shrinking violet with a confidence problem.  She has her own house -- not an apartment or a room in her parents' house.  She does treat her love/social life like another job, which can be intimidating, but her only real issue is an insistence on believing in an imaginary man (which isn't much of an issue in my world as long as you recognize that he is, in fact, imaginary, and the reality will never completely match the fantasy, especially if it is an enduring one).

Heigl's character takes a lot of the same approach as I do -- "What's wrong with comfort and efficiency?" she asks when Butler's character complains about her wardrobe -- but I had trouble being sympathetic to the slim, leggy blonde whose definition of comfort and efficiency is still far more fashionable and feminine than mine.

I'm not trying to imply that gorgeous people have it made when it comes to love just by virtue of their georgeousness, but they are a few steps ahead of the rest of us when it comes to making that all important first impression on those extremely visual male creatures.  As Chadway, points out, "He doesn't fall in love with your personality at first sight."

I don't know how it turns out -- if she ends up with the orthopedic surgeon from next door who appears to be everything Abby has ever wanted or the crass loudmouth whose advice she is only taking to get him to quit ruining the morning news show she produces -- but there wasn't enough potential for transformation or growth by any of the characters to make me care enough about their "problems" to find out.

Feel free to watch the entire film on your own and let me know how wrong I am.

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