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September 04, 2002

DVD Journal: "The Sweetest Thing"

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Friedrich --

The Wife and I caught up with "The Sweetest Thing" on DVD. Have you seen it? A painful misfire. Cameron Diaz, Cristina Applegate and Selma Blair in a slapstick, road-trip romance that wants to combine "There's Something About Mary" (charm, gross-outs) with "Sex in the City" (charm, satire, glamour). Almost nothing in it works. The girls twinkle and laugh, show off their underpants, wink at the camera, sing and dance a satirical song about the penis -- and almost none of it is funny, let alone charming.

sweetest thing cover.jpg They Wish

Fascinating to read viewers' comments about the movie, which generally divide this way: it's gross and raw and therefore bad (the "tut tut" reaction); or it's gross and raw and isn't that cool and it's therefore good (the "you go, girls" reaction).

My own reaction: it's interesting to think about how to put across a chickflick that features guffaws and grossouts, but this particular team certainly didn't solve the problem. The actresses shriek, horse around, and seem to amuse themselves. But from minute one you're staring at the movie in disbelief as it lays egg after egg: How could it have gone so wrong? Cameron Diaz has nothing like the technique it takes to put over this kind of extreme, stylized material; Cristina Applegate is fine; Selma Blair I adore (that comic earnestness and overintensity!), and I was glad to see her manage a few droll moments. But all three seem terrified of not being found charming, and overcompensate wildly.

More general musing: I'm glad girls and young women feel free to be more rambunctious than they supposedly used to be, although I wonder whether we don't paint earlier generations as more uptight than they were. (My mom had an out-of-the-house job, like many of the moms in my small town; and I recall being chased, beaten up, and outplayed by many neighborhood girls my age, lucky me. It's a funny myth, this idea that American women were until recently so repressed: I remember an article in Salon whose young-woman author had apparently been convinced -- by some women's-studies prof? -- that before the 1970s women didn't enjoy sex.) But it's about time, in any case, that some of that rambunctiousness started showing up in movies.

Do you, by the way, as the daddy of teen girls, find the new girls much different than those of our generation?

thesweetestthingtop.jpg The Penis Song

But girls seem in conflict in ways boys don't. A boy can be obnoxious, extreme, and gross and still semi-reasonably hope to be found entertaining. Girls still often want (biology or culture, I'll let others fight it out, although I know which side I vote for) to be found charming, and even cute. Allowing for that, has any female performer successfully brought together funny, gross. and charming? Margaret Cho, maybe?



posted by Michael at September 4, 2002


The sweetest thing kicks ass. You're a male, so you wouldn't understand the humor.

Posted by: Mara on May 12, 2004 8:52 PM

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