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October 24, 2002

Movies--Sweet Home Alabama and Secretary


You ask if I’ve seen any movies. The only movie I've 'been to' recently was "Sweet Home Alabama" which I can’t really claim to have seen. It was such a estrogen-fest that I kept passing out; every time I woke up, the fumes put me back under. I honestly could not bear to look at the screen much of the time. I was embarrassed--and not in a superior way--by what was going on there. (It just wasn't meant for my eyes.) Women seem to have some kinky fantasy about finding the perfect mate and then refusing to acknowledge this because of, er, pride or something. Then, of course, the perfect mate is so darn persistent that he wears down the heroine's idiotic preconceptions until she realizes her "error" and bliss ever after follows. Of course, anyone can see where this is all going long before it gets there (even while watching the screen no more than 20% of the time), but female viewers who are ordinarily intellectually demanding go into some kind of fugue state and sit open-mouthed and enraptured while the inevitable slides majestically onwards. Honestly, there is some kind of weird female pornography going on here. It's too bad that Reese Witherspoon got mixed up in this, because she's generally quite good (e.g., in "Election" and in "Legally Blonde.")

Reese Witherspoon in Happier Days

Oops, wait a minute, I also saw "Secretary." I went to see it with my wife because an old friend was involved in making it. Maggie Gyllenhaal, the lead actress, is just fabulous in the film. She gets more goofily human the more aggressively sexual the part gets. Eventually, at the end of the film, she achieves a truly unique distinction in my film experience: she emotes rapturously in full frontal nudity. For possibly the first time in screen history, the nudity is actually entirely justified (if only by her performance.) Ms. Gyllenhaal's character has become content with her lot in life at last and displays her stigmata--she has a thing for cutting herself--in the nude with total pride. James Spader, her costar, does his best with the role, but is directed in far too ka-thump, ka-thump a fashion to deliver an interesting performance. He seems to have no subtext--he's pretty much stuck being a plot device, really. As a matter of fact, the whole film is directed in far too "literal" a way--there's generally one and only one thing going on in each shot.

The Radiant Maggie Gyllenhaal in "Secretary"

A humorous note: the film, which revolves around the developing SM relationship between the secretary and her boss, involves a good deal of spanking, and Spader really whacks Ms. Gyllenhaal’s buttocks hard—you can see her flesh jump as he makes contact. That part of the film is not 'simulated sex' at all. What a girl—all that talent and a good sport, too! The only false note is early in the film, when for the first time, she cuts herself on camera, seeking to "drown the pain" of her parent's bad marriage. Presented as drab and mousy, (Ms. Gyllenhaal's character has just gotten out of the booby hatch) our heroine pulls up her long, unflattering skirt to reveal a firm, toned, tanned, aerobicized L.A. actress' thigh. Of course, jarring as it was, I somehow found the strength to carry on watching.



posted by Friedrich at October 24, 2002


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