It’s been another movie kind

It’s been another movie kind of weekend here at the homestead. Be ready with a cup of your favorite beverage and be ready to read. 🙂

Having never read anything by Truman Capote, I now want to. Howie and I watched The Grass Harp, the adaptation of one of his novellas, on the Independent Film Channel today. The official link is at its producer’s site, Fineline Features. Wow, what a great movie!

As usual, it didn’t get too high a rating in the consumer reviews I’ve read at Internet Movie Database and Rotten Tomatoes, but we loved it. It’s typical that movies we like others find boring. We love a good people story with in-depth characterizations, movies about personality quirks and family conflicts and healing.

This one is set in the 1940’s, one of my favorite eras when it comes to music and style, and set in a small southern town. When young Collin’s mother dies, he goes to live with his father’s two spinster cousins, Verna (Sissy Spacek) and Dolly (Piper Laurie) Talbot. A few days after that, Collin’s depressed widowed father drives himself off a cliff into the Gulf of Mexico.

A sidenote: Okay, but don’t worry, it’s not one of those movies which goes from depressing to more depressing. You will not watch the credits roll only to find yourself fumbling for razor blades or a handgun to end your misery, I promise!

Dolly and the housemaid Catherine (Nell Carter) are best friends, and they bring Collin under their wings and befriend him. Joining their odd circle is retired judge Charlie Cool (Walter Matthau) and itinerant mother-cum-evangelist Sister Ida (Mary Steenbergen). Jack Lemon and Roddy McDowell also play parts in this movie. They all do a super job and make you really believe in and care for the characters. It’s just a magical, touching, and often hilarious movie.

The links I give offer some plot information, so I won’t go into detail here (but beware of plot spoilers at those links!). The filming is exquisite and the costumes are wonderful – it’s lovely both to look at and be lost in.

Breather here…Whoooooo.

We also watched a couple of fluff movies today, thanks to Howie’s co-worker loaning us a couple of movies. Those we could have lived without, though one of them sparked some good conversation afterward.

Pure, silly fluff was Legally Blonde. Reese Witherspoon is such a cute thing, and so funny. If it weren’t for her, I don’t think I’d have stuck with the movie. You know something which I really liked about the movie? It probably isn’t what most would expect to be a stand-out thing. Her character, Elle, is a rich, fluffy sorority girl, yet when she goes to Harvard, her best friend ends up being Paulette, the gal who does her nails down at the boutique; her friend is a high school dropout and what many would dismiss as “trailer trash”, yet Elle identifies with her and befriends her.

Paulette plays a sounding-board role in Elle’s life, I think, and serves as a means for the film-makers to voice the otherwise friendless Elle’s thoughts to for the audience. I don’t think the beauty shop scenes lived up to their potential at all, but I know this is just a light comedy. Like many such light comedies, it of course had plot holes you could land a plane in, but it was a fun diversion.

And finally…

We watched Shallow Hal, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Jack Black, and Jason Alexander. This one we initially liked okay (not great, but with enough to keep things going). The more we thought about it afterwards, watched the cut scenes and interviews, the less we liked it. The movie’s about Hal (Jack Black), a guy who has impossibly high standards when it comes to women.

Like his best friend Mauricio (Jason Alexander), his unrealistic and shallow expectations keep him from having many relationships until…Yes, the hook. Hal gets stuck in an elevator with motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins, who counsels with him during their wait and bestows on him via hypnosis the gift of seeing women as they really are. He will, says Robbins, see their inner selves and beauty rather than their outward appearances. Okay, just go with me on this.

Suddenly, every woman he meets is gorgeous by worldly standards. And they all like him. He thinks Tony somehow just gave him confidence and that’s the reason for his new found success. What he doesn’t realize is that the women he’s so taken with are, by worldly standards again, fat and/or ugly. (This I will touch on in a moment). He meets Rosemary (Gwyneth Paltrow) and is smitten. They begin a courtship and he falls for her, head over heels. He doesn’t realize that she really weighs 350 pounds. Everyone around him can see this, but he sees her as slim, siren Gwyneth.

You don’t see much of the “real” Rosemary through much of the film. But the film-makers go out of their way to show you she’s fat. A chair she’s sitting on at a diner bends and collapses beneath her bulk. When she cannonballs into the pool, the resulting plume of water goes sky-high. The underwear she discards are gigantic (you wonder how Hal overlooks that). You see far-away shots of her in her real form, and some close-ups of her big legs.

Hal’s friends are polite to Rosemary and to Hal, but are repulsed by her and can’t understand what he sees in her. His friend Mauricio thinks Hal’s been brainwashed and, predictably, hunts Robbins down and begs him for the magic words to release Hal from his hypnosis. Zap. Now the dilemma: Will Hal still love Rosemary now that he sees her as she really is?

I won’t give the plot away any more than that. I will say this, though. The movie sets out to hammer the lesson of “inner beauty” into our heads, but makes so many fat jokes and digs at the “less than lovely” that it falls flat when you really think about it. It did develop Rosemary as a really neat person, but I wonder how the audience would have reacted if she’d been shown more in the fat suit. This movie just leaves me kind of torn — did I like it, or did I not?

Things like the breaking chairs and Rosemary cutting herself a huge chunk of cake at an office event just play right into hurtful fat stereotypes. Not only that, but the other girls he thought were beautiful turn out to be homely and greasy-haired. In the “extras” portion of the DVD, they showed a brief interview with Brooke Burns, who plays a minor role as Katrina. She made this big deal about how ugly the character was, from her crooked, dirty teeth to her dull, greasy hair. So….Am I to believe that all homely people are also slobs with terrible hygiene? And do all fat people eat huge portions of food in public? Do they all dress in completely unflattering clothes?

No.

It reminds me of the episode of Friends when they put Courteney Cox Arquette in the fat suit to show how Monica would be had she not shed her pounds. Suddenly her IQ dropped 50 points, her voice became whiny and piercing, her dress and hygiene went bad, and she hoarded what little food she wasn’t stuffing into her mouth. What? All because she was fat?

I don’t think I can say it any better than this article does.

By the way…There was much about the movie I liked, too. I just feel so ambivalent about it right now. Yes, I am a plus-size woman, an ample woman…A woman of substance…Tall, but well-insulated and voluptuous. Could I relate to many things about Rosemary’s character? Sure I can. Does that make me sensitive to fat jokes and put-downs? I’d be lying if I said no. I carry as much a burden of memories as I do of pounds, and I am realistic enough to know the two are inter-related.

One other thing…I find it interesting to read many people who negatively reviewed Shallow Hal at IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes made the point of saying they were not fat, but were very offended by its poking mean jokes at the same time it was supposed to say appearances aren’t what count.

Okay, at this point I feel I’m rambling…It’s late and I’m tired. What IS it with me lately staying up so darned late? It’s not a good thing, I think; it’s just been easy to do since I am still more comfortable sleeping on the couch because of the cushions and handholds for rising. But it is also where the computer is, and it’s sooo easy to find a whole night’s gone by while you’ve entertained yourself online. Do I hear an amen? Holy cow, I hear thousands of ’em! 😉

Feel free to leave some comments and let me know your thoughts on Shallow Hal if you saw it. Or that Friends episode. Or just anything I’ve touched today.

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