Thursday, March 05, 2009


While Pete watched the Blazer game on TNT (with its unlistenable commentators), I subjected myself to a little piece of probable masochism and watched "Enchanted" streaming on Netflix. They couldn't perform enough of those songs at last year's Oscars and I've always kind of wondered what all the fuss was about. My expectations were very, very low. And you know: it wasn't a total and complete waste of my time. It was mostly a waste of my time, but Patrick Dempsey's irritated rejoinders made much of the movie almost bearable. And I liked the little post-feminist twist at the end; very cute.

What surprised me was how empty I felt once it was over. I have ranted in the past, out loud if not in this blog, about how much I hate the unrealistic standard set by romantic comedies for what love and relationships are supposed to be like. There's so much focus on "happily ever after" that girls who grow up watching too much of that dreck are woefully unprepared for the quotidian realities of a real, long-term relationship.

AN ASIDE: I feel I should offer the following disclaimer before going any further: I am one of those irritating people who is happiest doing the most mundane relationship/household things. I love going to the grocery store, I love long days in and out of the car running errands, I love chatting in the kitchen while I make dinner and Pete does the dishes... And I also had the nerve to marry my best friend, so we genuinely get along and enjoy each other's company.

SO... why do people usually watch romantic comedies? Because they like the sensation of vicariously falling in love. Now the whole deal with "Enchanted" is that it's supposed to put the lie to the fairy tale "happily ever after"- that given a dose of reality, even an animated fairy princess would realize you can't base a lifetime of "happily ever after" on a single duet and a mutual attraction. But it's still a romantic comedy, so the princess in question (named Gisele) has to fall in love. And she does. With real world New York divorce lawyer Dempsey. And it's very cute: she forms an attachment with his daughter and we find that she is less worldly than a six year old. Predictable, but not over done. So that's something.

ANOTHER ASIDE: One thing I did like is in the beginning, when Dempsey decides to let this strange woman sleep on his sofa - mostly because she's already asleep - he tells his daughter he wants her to sleep in his room that night. (Oh, keep your gross nonsense to yourselves, you guys!) It's exactly the kind of thing a real parent would do: protect their child. And mostly movies don't bother with stuff like that because they're too worried about how it would look that a grown man is telling a six year old to sleep in his room. And of course they would trust the trustworthy stranger! Why not? Also: the very first scene where we meet Dempsey's daughter, he's picking her up from Karate and gives her a book on great women, like Marie Curie and Rosa Parks. My feminism's all a tingle! Bravo, "Enchanted;" you did two things that were both surprising and charming.

ANYWAY... Because "Enchanted" makes it so abundantly clear that the "ever after" part is a long time and "happily" is going to take some time and consideration even if you do fall in love at first sight, I was surprised that it so closely followed the usual story arc for a romantic comedy. The big climax is that she falls in love with him, and "ever after" is glossed over in a "dancing around the apartment as a family" montage as the credits begin to roll. I wish that it had condensed the current plot down to 30-40 minutes and then spent an hour showing us how that relationship works.

I mean, this woman made me think of the first verse of Ben Fold's Five's "Kate": "She plays wipe out on the drums / The squirrels and the birds come / Gather 'round to sing the guitar." I mean, she called all the rats and pigeons in New York to clean a dirty apartment... with song. (And yes, the singing is very, very annoying. VERY ANNOYING.) How long is her unworldliness appealing? How do they get her a social security number? How did she start her little clothing business? And did she steal it from Dempsey's former girlfriend who accompanies the prince back to fantasy land? There are so many questions! It could have been a kind of brilliant surrealist mystery- the detective or IRS man nosing around the apartment, assuming her dress company is a money laundering front. Her saying, "I bested the evil Queen of Andalusia or wherever I claim to be from: I think I can handle the IRS." Cut to Gisele sitting in a little office in a bland government building, drooling with boredom, muttering "You're the evilest queen!" before passing out. Then the IRS man hates her because he thinks she's anti-gay! Hilarity ensues!

Okay, so that last bit was a terrible idea. I can own that. My point is, I really wanted to see what life was like for a pragmatic, cosmopolitan divorce attorney and single parent who (ostensibly) marries (and certainly at least moves in with) a magical virgin with all the wide-eyed optimism and sophistication of a small child. I wanted to see how she did as a parent; did the little girl ever get to be a little girl, or did she have to keep giving her step-mom advice, like, "don't wear too much make-up or you'll look like a slut." (That is really a piece of advice she gives Gisele in the movie, though not in those exact words.)

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