annoying blonde tropes, part II: Fred Willard film festival

So back to our Netflix queue, and annoying romantic comedies.  We’ve watched two so far this week, one that I had wanted to get off the queue for some time, and then one that just struck my fancy for the moment.

Both of these films had Fred Willard in a bit part.  Which I guess is not uncommon.  He might have the second longest list of IMDB credits, immediately after the cast list for Law & Order.  (I shit you not.)

We’ll get to the third film in just a moment.

Let’s discuss the first film.   Ira & Abby: a film about a guy who wishes he were half as funny as Woody Allen and this blonde blythe spirit who he marries within a week of meeting.

Yes, I sang along to the first Rilo Kiley song that appeared with opening credit sequence, but I got tired of the all-Jenny Lewis soundtrack less than a quarter of the way through the movie.  I would have had a better time just listening to More Adventurous while reading wikipedia articles.   The same philosophy that inspired Kubrick to repeatedly feature the work of the brothers Strauss in 2001 does not work with Ms. Lewis.  Sorry.

Anyway.  In short, the film is an “irreverent look at marriage”.  And it’s irreverent indeed.  It basically states that marriage has no point, and is not something that lasts and is not worth pursuing.

What an inventive concept.  No idea how they came up with this one.

But the really really annoying part of the film is that it introduces another Blonde Romantic Trope, even worse than the Melanie Griffith/Meg Ryan/Kirsten Dunst MPDG: Jennifer Westfeldt wrote herself as the Manic Pixie Dream Wife.  Ugh.

Her character insists that she (Abby) and her anxiety-ridden Jewish future husband (Ira, obvs) get married upon one day of meeting: he is “looking for a change”, or so he tells his therapist, and she offers this wonderful new path in life.  (Male protagonist resists change: main qualification for the female lead being an MPDG.)   One of her oh so polite requests upon being married is that she and her slightly schlubby husband have sex, every single day.  A streak they go to great lengths to maintain.  (Forcing yourself to be intimate when you’re not really feeling it is not exactly the key to a healthy relationship.  But this movie isn’t really focused on healthy relationships – it’s got that indie flick moral core of “do whatever you feel.”  No movie really gets that across better than Harold & Maude, and lots of films just keep trying, working in the same aesthetic, and fail miserably.  It starts to make me cranky.)

Abby is friends with everyone she comes across, and has this wonderful, loving family  – her parents are Fred Willard and Frances Conroy, both of whom I usually love.  She brings a feminine wonder to Ira’s apartment, which she moves into.  Eventually the couple divorces twice, and there is a whole lot of inter-familial melee (the best part of the film is the interwoven character montage of everyone at therapy; and the “let’s get in a circle invervention” scene further on ruins the effect).

The best performance in the film is from Judith Light, of Who’s the Boss fame, as an uptight New York psycho-analyst, who is strong and knows what she wants through the whole film.  Sorry, but I’d rather be her than Abby, who argues with husband Ira about having no ambition, and says, “What if I just wanted to be your wife?”  How post-feminist twee.  Gag me.

By the end of the film, she’s no longer his wife, but they’re still together, and everyone’s okay with that.  And she eats McDonald’s everyday and is still thin.  OF COURSE.  Because that’s a medically sound probability.

But that’s why she’s such a Dream Wife: she throws caution to the wind, she eats like crap and doesn’t gain weight, she cares about the sex, and the loyalty, and not the whole marriage business.  And she’s friends with her exes but faithful to Ira, who wasn’t even given much of a fair shake in a hasty end to the movie.

Doesn’t every guy want a ragingly hormonal lady-friend who wants to be his partner for as long as they last, and doesn’t ever bother him about the wife thing?  And refuses to go to therapy (because therapy never helps anyone, of course)?  Women, we’ve got to cool down about the whole ambition and marriage thing.  Obvs.  Or not.

The movie had its charming moments, but it was also annoying as all get out.  Yeah, yeah, I get it.  It’s just a movie, she’s just a character, everything is fine, nothing is ruined, whatever.  There is still the possibility that pop culture characters are more than just characters but whatever.

I know that indie film producers and screenwriters and Manic Pixie Dream Girls everywhere out there want to make us think that being happy is all there is to life, but it’s so much more complicated than that.  Referring back to annoying blonde tropes, part I, I will say that Ira & Abby are just as screwed as Joel & Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Maybe Ira and Abby are just more okay with being obnoxious about it.   Either way, I really disliked even the grown-up version of the MPDG.



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Filed under love, men, pop culture, relationships, women

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