Wednesday, February 8, 2017

What Women Want

Year 9, Day 39 - 2/8/17 - Movie #2,539

BEFORE: I suppose I'm a couple days late with this one - the Super Bowl was a few days ago, and I think for a while I was planning to watch this on the day of the big game, because it's all about an advertising agency pitching products to women.  But then I added a few films, and that moved this movie off the most appropriate date. 

I used to watch commercials for a living, or at least that was part of my job at an animation rep company that was tangential to the advertising world - watching ads was considered market research, so we could track the competition's work and identify potential new clients.  And Super Bowl Sunday was sort of like, well, our Super Bowl Sunday, but for different reasons.  These days I just watch the ads once during the big game, then I can thankfully forget about them.  

It seemed this year that there was an abundance of those beautifully-shot vistas, of cars speeding down those beautiful highways, while a very Don-Draper-y voice explained the larger meaning of what it means to drive somewhere, as if we're idiots who only use our cars to get from here to there, without properly understand what it means to "drive on the road of life" or some similar B.S.  Give me a break.  

The one I recall most had that footage of a young girl competing in a soapbox derby race, which was supposed to symbolize the competition between men and women in the workplace, I think, because the voice-over kept asking "What do I tell my daughter when she asks me why she doesn't earn as much as a man?"  OK, fine, valid point, but do you have to man-splain the gender gap to me in such a condescending manner, as if you're assuming that I'd never understand it if you didn't use such simplistic symbolism?   Let's cut the audience a break and assume that they have brains that work.

Marisa Tomei carries over from "The Rewrite" and here's your TCM schedule for tomorrow, February 9:
6:15 AM "G" Men (1936)
7:45 AM Gaslight (1944)
9:45 AM The Gay Divorcee (1934)
11:45 AM The Gazebo (1960)
1:30 PM General Spanky (1936)
2:45 PM George Washington Slept Here (1942)
4:30 PM Giant (1956)
8:00 PM Gigi (1956)
10:15 PM Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
12:00 AM Gone With the Wind (1939)
4:00 AM The Good Earth (1937)

It's probably driving someone over at TCM crazy that they had to choose between putting "Giant", "Gigi" and "Gone With the Wind" in prime-time.  They got two of them into position, but then they have to run "GWTW" in the overnight slot.  Well, anyway, set your DVRs for "Gone With the Wind", if you haven't seen it.  I have, along with "Gaslight", "Giant", "Gigi", and I've got "The Gay Divorcee" with Fred Astaire coming up in about 3 weeks, so I'm counting that.  Another 5 out of 11 moves me up to 44 films seen out of 95.  Something tells me I'm not going to get back up to 50% again.  But hey, we've reached the "Good" films, and tomorrow there will also be some "Great" films. 

THE PLOT: After an accident, a chauvinistic executive gains the ability to hear what women are really thinking. 

AFTER: I'm not quite sure what the biggest character flaw here is - the fact that an advertising executive needed someone to remind him that women were not just put on the planet to make men happy and that they represent, in fact, 50% of the marketplace, or his hubris in thinking that he can understand women just by trying on some mascara and some control-top pantyhose.  Sure, that'll do it - and whatever thoughts come into your head after you wax your legs for the first time, those are just BOUND to be insightful.  I mean, come on, what idiot wouldn't be able to figure out that ripping your leg hairs out would be painful?  And then he has the NERVE to suggest that women are stupid, because they continue to do that - what an ass.  

(ASIDE: I speak from some experience, I did dress as a woman once, many Halloweens ago, I shaved my legs and everything.  The less said about the reasons for doing so, the better.  But I don't feel that dressing this way gave me any special insight on what it means to BE a woman, other than learning that it was hard to find attractive lady-like shoes in my size.)  

To be fair, he's SUPPOSED to be a clueless ass - and his assignment from his new (female) creative director boss is to take these women's products home (in a pink box, that's not TOO symbolic) and try them out.  (NITPICK POINT: But just what was he supposed to do with the home pregnancy test?)  Instead of gaining insight, he has an accident while wearing the make-up and panty-hose, and drops the blow-dryer into the tub he falls into, but instead of being electrocuted to death (the audience should be so lucky...) he gains the ability to read women's minds.  Only women - and female dogs, apparently (bitches, what a nice touch...) so NITPICK POINT #2 - what was that female poodle thinking?  Was she using words, or just barks?  Please explain further...

At first, this ability seems to be a curse - as he walks around the city, he's overwhelmed by all of these women's thoughts - and he's convinced that he's losing his mind.  He goes to see a psychiatrist who's a woman (OK, gotta do it, NITPICK POINT #3, while trying to get away from women, he goes to see a woman therapist.  Doesn't make sense...) and the doctor convinces him that this could be a blessing, he could become the FIRST man to really understand women.  Because, you know, there's just no way to talk to women, or ask them what's on their mind.  Don't be silly and suggest this, you just know it won't do any good...

Again, it's hard to say which gender gets undercut the most here - first of all, it's just silly to approach everything between men and women as some kind of competition.  Aren't we past all of this by now?  OK, I know that there's still a pay gap, and it does need to be addressed, but women have been working in the business world for several decades now, and I never hear anyone saying that they don't belong there.  I haven't even heard the phrase "the battle of the sexes" for years now, except for in news about that movie they're making about Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs.  I think it's the assumption made here that since women aren't capable of speaking their minds, for one reason or another, that gaining the ability to read minds would be the simplest, possibly even the ONLY method of cracking that code.  

It's even more ridiculous to think that an entire advertising agency would, in the year 2000, only be STARTING the process of advertising to women when the ad world has been doing that since at least 1900, if not before.  OK, so there might be a few hold-outs like Nick Marshall who only shoot commercials aimed at men, with bikini-clad Swedish models, and fast cars and such, but I think even 17 years ago, such a man would be regarded as a dinosaur, a dying breed.  What agency would suddenly wake up in the year 2000 and say, "wait a minute, half of all consumers are women, we need to do something about that!  Quick, hire a lady boss!"  Preposterous.  Especially since there appeared to be no shortage of women working at that agency, just (apparently) ones that were incapable of rising up through the ranks?   

Any success that Nick Marshall obtains from reading women's minds could have, SHOULD have been easily obtained through the use of market research and focus groups, which are standard advertising industry practices, and they have been for decades.  What could he possibly obtain from his mental power that wouldn't come up in a focus group?  Absolutely nothing - which is why we never hear helpful details, those scenes where he's (essentially) mind-raping these women are presented without dialogue, with music playing over this montage of privacy invasion.  

But worse, oh, even worse than selling out an entire gender, it's the thoughts that our hero is able to read that provide an even GREATER example of chauvinism.   Far from leading him (and by extension, us) to a more complete understanding of the female thought process, the very stereotypical thoughts of the women around Nick Marshall suggest that all women can be divided into some very simple categories - like the young, possibly suicidal ignored office assistant, the desperately lonely and insecure coffee-house barista, and the two mature copywriters whose minds are apparently blank - and the hit parade of terrible portrayals of women just keeps on rolling.  

Of course, Nick uses his ability to read women's minds for only one purpose - to advance his standings at work.  OK, two if you count reading the minds of his sexual partners to determine what they want him to do - but this is self-serving, too.  He doesn't want to be a better lover so that SHE will feel better, it's all to feed that massive ego of his, to hear her think that he's the best she's ever had.  This guy is simply incapable of being selfless - even in pleasing a woman, it's for his own benefit.  Similarly, he only offers his daughter whatever she wants so that she'll think he's a better father.  Can't anyone explain to this guy that the world does not, in fact, revolve around him?  

The writer in last night's film "The Rewrite" suggested that a screenwriter's story represents his thoughts and fears at the age of an 11-year old.  After seeing this, I'm inclined to agree with that - it feels like it was written by an 11-year old boy that couldn't figure out that if you want to know what a woman is thinking, it might be a good idea to just ask her.  

Also starring Mel Gibson (last seen in "The Expendables 3"), Helen Hunt (last seen in "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion"), Alan Alda (last seen in "Betsy's Wedding"), Ashley Johnson (last seen in "Anywhere But Here"), Mark Feuerstein (last seen in "Practical Magic"), Lauren Holly (last seen in "Sabrina"), Delta Burke, Valerie Perrine (last seen in "The Border"), Sarah Paulson (last seen in "Serenity"), Judy Greer (last seen in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"), Ana Gasteyer (last seen in "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2"), Bette Midler (last seen in "Parental Guidance"), Lisa Edelstein (last seen in "Keeping the Faith"), Loretta Devine, Eric Balfour (last seen in "Can't Hardly Wait"), with cameos from Logan Lerman (last seen in "Riding With Cars With Boys"), Cristine Rose (last seen in "Ishtar"), Adren Myrin, Richard Simmons, Martha Stewart (last seen in "Pixels"), and the singing voice of Frank Sinatra (he'll be showing up again next week, I just wanted to add to his count.

RATING: 3 out of 10 painted toenails

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