You can’t judge a movie by its title

Hey all you romantic comedy lovers, here is the movie you need to put on your NetFlix list: 

I’m Through With White Girls.

Yeah, I know. Weird title.  I can’t even remember why I put it on the NetFlix list.  It was a recommendation (given my history of rentals, they though I might like it) and whatever reasons they gave were convincing enough that I put it on the list.

But I gotta say when it showed up in the mail (all these many weeks later) I thought, “Huh. Why did I want this?”

Today, after writing and revisions and canvassing and buying a new microwave, I was ready for a nothing movie.  I had White Girls or Tudors, and I decided to give White Girls ten minutes. 

For the first five, I was pretty sure I wan’t going to watch the whole thing. By ten minutes, I was hooked.  By the last scene, I was laughing so hard that my dog was worried about me. Perfect payoff.    It plays with stereotypes on a dozen layering levels.  The women are smart.  The ideas of romance, of what it means to be black or white, to love somebody, to deal with class issues when you work your way into a new class–all of it is here.  Handled not with giant lobster claws, but with a lot of grace.

One of the great pleasures is in watching Lia Johnson, who has a quirky, strange, beautiful face.  The other pleasure is the friendly camera angles and the warmth of the direction.  It was no surprise to discover it was a woman who directed.    A woman produced.  But a man–Courtney Lilly, of Arrested Development fame–wrote it, and that’s where it all begins, after all.  Good work.

It is a romantic comedy, so it isn’t as if there is a big surprise anywhere, but in a way, there really is–and part of it is in the playing with our expectations. 

Twice in the past week, I left my desk and went out to watch a movie at the theaters because I’ve been starved for good romantic something.  I gave Nicholas Sparks another chance with Nights at Rodanthe, even after the big betrayal in Message In a Bottle (my sister didn’t go to the movies again with me for a year after that.)  And here is what I will say about Sparks:  Never. Again.  Do you hear me?  Not even if Anthony Bourdain plays the lead. Never. Ever. Again.  He betrays me every single time and I hate him for that.  I don’t get why anyone enjoys the way he tortures his characters. They deserve better.  And so do I. 

There are so many great romance writers, why does Hollywood focus on this guy????  I just don’t get it.

I also–since it was my sister’s birthday–went to see the completely bizarre BURN AFTER READING.  It was slightly funny, sort of ironic, and about as satisfying as puffed rice.  Clever, not intelligent.  Steeped with ennui.  Now why would I want to see this again? 

So it was an abolute treat to see something made by women, directed toward the romantic comedy market, that was smart, funny, and wise and completely satisfying.  Skip Sparks and the silliness of BURN, and just go rent I’m Through With White Girls.

What have you seen lately that was deeply satisfying?


11 thoughts on “You can’t judge a movie by its title

  1. Mel

    Message in a bottle was a TERRIBLE film. It’s that whole male idea of a “love story” which seems to require a tragic ending. That said, I will give Nicholas Sparks a pass for The Notebook which is sad but not tragic (and a beautiful movie!). Or maybe, it’s not men, it’s men named Nicholas, because Nicholas Evans writes similar stuff. At least they fixed the ending of the Horse Whisperer in the movie! : )

  2. Mel

    Oh, and for deeply satisfying lately, I have to say Mamma Mia was the most joyful movie I’ve seen for ages. And WallE for sheer “awwww” factor.

  3. Yeah, I was disappointed by Nights in Rodanthe, too. I’d read the book, so I knew the ending, but I just never found myself engaged in the movie or suspending disbelief. There were some individually interesting performances, but nobody really clicked. I liked Notebook and Walk to Remember. I have to say I actually giggled in Nights in R. in the scene where Diane Lane was sitting in the chair sobbing and suddenly she shook her nose and chin back and forth in whatever she was smelling. What was that about?

    I haven’t seen anything in a long, long time where I just came out of the theater and sighed with contentment.

    Tell No One (Harlan Coben, in French with subtitles) was pretty good. Then She Found Me (directed and acted by Helen Hunt) was on the verge of great for me, because it made me really think. Bette Midler was a little self-conscious (um, surprise!), but there is one scene near the end that really grabbed me. And Colin Firth … need I say more?

    Hoping for Secret Life of Bees to wow me in a few weeks!

  4. Julie, I’m betting that The Secret Life of Bees will be fantastic. The previews look great, and it would be hard to go wrong with such a great story and incredible cast.

    Mel, I loved Mamma Mia, too. It was so JOYOUS! And The Notebook is, indeed, a special film, but it’s a true story, so that’s not quite the same thing.

  5. Mamma Mia was definitely feel good happy. I was lucky enough to be enticed to go (as I don’t usually get to the movies very often but watch plenty on DVD) with really great writing friends. Three of us brought our hubbies (who reckon they’re picking the movie next time) and you could just about feel the group shudder at the end with the rain and CF with his shirt off! LOL! Not to mention CF in lycra. 🙂

  6. Anybody seen The Women yet? I am debating going to the movies or waiting for DVD. I agree about Nights in R. About half way through the movie I had the memory of Message in a Bottle…and thought, oh that’s right, this will not end well. Men who write love stories tend to leave off the happy end and opt for tragedy. They don’t want to be thought of as girls and Sparks in particular bristles at being called a romance author.

  7. I saw Ghost Town and that was a really good romance and comedy. The hero is a misanthrope dentist who really doesn’t like anyone…I guess misanthrope said that! But he ends up saying the wrong things and falling in love any way.

    I expected a comedy about dead people and the afterlife but the movie was really touching and surprisingly poignant.

    I really recommend it.

    Kathy 🙂

  8. Kat, I would not have expected Ghost Town to be a good movie, so thanks for the recommendation.

    Cindy, I’ve wondered about The Women, too. If anyone sees it, let us know.

  9. I saw The Women last weekend, and it was pretty good. I was glad I had the chance to see the 1939 original (thanks TCM!) before seeing the remake–it was interesting to see how it was updated. Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing and Eva Mendes are all great. They could have easily cut Jada Pinkett Smith’s character and beefed up Bette Midler’s (The Countess had more of a role in the original), but overall I enjoyed it. I’d say four out of five stars.

  10. Susan

    Barbara – thanks for the recommendation on the…White girls movie. Have read your books, No place like home and Lady Luck’s map of vegas. I love your writing, especially the humor you weave into your stories. I usually don’t watch movies of books I’ve read. It’s almost always disappointing. One exception is the Hallmark hall of fame version of Luanne Rice’s Silver Bells. I think because it was one of her shorter novels, they were able to include every character covered in the book. I just love the photography angle she pulls into the story. It’s a great “get in the Christmas mood” book or movie. In fact, Barabara, Luanne Rice is the reason I read No Place like Home in the first place…SAMUEL was close to RICE on the Library shelf !! Message in a Bottle remains one of my fav’s, not for the story -although it is my go-to movie when I need a good cry (ha ha). I hadn’t read that or any other Nicholas Sparks yet…but I like it for the Outer Banks beauty, the music (great soundtrack), Kevin Costner, and the late Paul Newman. I was reading People mag. article on Mr. Newman, and realized his character in “Message”, although the father of a troubled son, was a good guy. So many of his roles were bad guys that we’ve all rooted for over the years. I just don’t think I can see Nights in Rodanthe, I can’t get over the fact that Diane and Richard (we’re all on a first name basis, aren’t we?!) were in the movie “Unfaithful” together. Another of my fav’s…not for Richard, but for the French guy.

  11. Susan, I can see why you’d like MESSAGE. There was a lot to like. I wouldn’t have been so upset if it had been a bad movie.

    And yes, yes, yes on the French guy in Unfaithful. And Diane on the train afterward. What a great scene that was!

    Heather says we can see The Women safely. Maybe when I get this piece into my agent this week.

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