Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Friday, January 19, 2007

Hidden Movie Gems: ‘Engagement Encounter’ Edition

This weekend, Lynda and I will be experiencing/enduring the wedding prep ‘Engagement Encounter’ retreat, which I am approaching as a mixed blessing:

The Good: I’m glad we can take a break from fretting about all the wedding stuff and actually take some time to prepare for our marriage.

The Not-So-Good: Most likely, a lot of time will be spent talking about our “feelings” and the “relationship”, exploring ways to “communicate” more “deeply”, and to “deal” with “issues” in an “enriching way”; The thought of doing this for 16 some-odd hours this weekend makes “me” want to “throw” myself in “front” of a “freight train”.

Oh, well. I’ll get in the spirit of things by devoting this edition of Hidden Movie Gems to a couple of movies that deal with “feelings” and “relationships” and.....all that girly crap. That’s right, I’m actually recommending two 'Chick Flicks'….or as I call them:

Two 'Chick Flicks' That Did Not Make Me Want To Claw My Own Eyes Out, But That I Actually Enjoyed:

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Synopsis: Through a series of flashbacks, four young Chinese women born in America and their respective mothers born in feudal China explore their past, and each character’s story helps explain the respective pairs’ difficult mother/daughter relationship.

My Take: A layered tale about the clash of generations, I recommend this movie for anyone who likes movies with real people in them. It alternates the often traumatic experiences of the mothers as female chattel in China with the present-day problems of their Americanized daughters. It works these eight strands into a single tapestry, and I was surprised by how much I liked it.

One caveat, though – the male characters. In ‘Chick Flicks’, male characters rarely fall outside one of four one-dimensional roles: Monster, Wimp, Wallpaper, or Mr. Wonderful**. In this movie, they only come in two flavors: Monster and Wallpaper. The male characters that aren’t busy making a woman’s life a living hell have virtually no lines at all. However, since women in most movies aimed at men usually fall into one of three roles (Horny Cheerleader/Sorority Gal, District Attorney, or Mom), I suppose granting a little latitude is in order....

** - In a piece I wrote last March entitled “Things I’ve Learned From The Movies”, I wrote this about such ‘Mr. Wonderful’ characters:

“If you are a single woman in your late 20’s/early 30’s who has been unlucky in love, your building handyman/gardener/plumber will be a well-built (though he never goes to the gym) Renaissance man. He will play classical piano, cook gourmet meals, practice some form of non-dogmatic, non-threatening, one-with-the-cosmos spirituality, never raise his voice, and continue to make himself available to you despite your constant condescension and interest in other men.”

Mystic Pizza (1988)

Synopsis: Three teenage girls come of age while working at a pizza parlor in Mystic, Connecticut. Sisters Kat (Annabeth Gish) and Daisy (Julia Roberts, a year and a half before she did ‘Pretty Woman’ and became an A-lister) work along with Jojo (Lili Taylor) at the pizza parlor in Mystic, Connecticut. Kat, shortly off to Yale, finds herself drawn to a local architect she is babysitting for, while her more wild sister starts dating a guy from the money side of the tracks. Jojo leaves her man at the altar; she loves him but shies away from commitment. Meanwhile the fame of the pizza continues to spread; it seems to contain something almost .....mystic.

My Take: This is now seen as a ‘Julia Roberts movie’, but she hadn’t yet become a star, and her character’s story shares equal time with the other two gals (on the DVD cover, Roberts is featured prominently, whereas on the original movie poster, she is part of an ensemble). The three actresses all pull their weight, and a couple of the guy characters, Daisy’s romantic interest and Jojo’s fiancé (Vincent D’Onofrio, who has arguably the best scene in the movie) are actually written with enough sympathy and depth to seem like real people instead of caricatures. Almost everyone in this movie is likeable to some degree, and the three stars are utterly charming.

Happy ‘Hidden Movie Gems’ viewing!


  • I have to agree with your commentary on both movies, although I'm especially fond of Mystic Pizza.
    Oddly enough, my favorite character in that movie was the one played by Vincent D'onofrio as he made Bill Montijo very real and believable.
    mr. D'Onofrio, one of my afvorite actors often dismisses his participation in this movie as being part of a "Brat pack" type of assembly, and that his vanity wanted to show his recent weight loss after Full Metal Jacket, but I think that he is doing himself a disservice re the role.
    He did an excellent job--- and he did look incredibly sexy as well which doesn't hurt!

    By Blogger Xeresa, at Saturday, January 20, 2007 3:00:00 PM  

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