"The cinema is cruel like a miracle." -Frank O'Hara

On Terrible Movies with Julia Roberts

So: she’s everywhere, with her big teeth, and I can’t stand it. Eat Pray Love has reared its ugly promotional head. For a non-eating (ok, maybe that part’s not true) atheist-leaning cynic such as myself, I cringe every time I see a poster, a promotion, or goddess forbid, the trailer. Aside from making me question the accomplishments of feminism on a daily basis, I also can’t fathom what exactly is supposed to be entertaining about the plot:

People: THIS IS A MOVIE ABOUT A WOMAN WHO GOES ON VACATION. Go on vacation yourself. Or plan a staycation and eat some Neapolitan pizza. Do not go see this move.

Those who know me probably can picture my face at this moment. But for those who can’t, here you go:

Don’t I look ready for a “vacation” at the insane asylum? Doctor, If I wrap myself in a celluloid, will it go away?

My reaction to the trailer was similar to my response to the advertising campaigns for It’s Complicated and The Ugly Truth,
which — even though I never set foot into a movie theater to see these puppies — made me physically recoil upon looking at them. The posters in particular made me feel so sad for Meryl Streep and wish the oh-so-boring Katherine Heigl would stick to the middling Grey’s Anatomy and JUST STOP doing bad chick flicks that made me avoid fuschia at all costs. Manohla felt my pain too.

I generally have little to no tolerance for these demographically-determined commercial movies, and choose not to see them. (And to those who will criticize me because I obviously haven’t subjected myself to the torture of actually watching the film: you don’t need no weatherman.) But I wondered what the point of detesting them so virulently was, until I came across this quote from the inimitable Andrew O’Hagan:

“Maybe I’m too young in the head and haven’t spent enough time in Los Angeles or psychoanalysis, but I think it’s quite important sometimes to hate things, not to be amused by them, or loftily tolerant of them, but to want to cut off their oxygen supply and mash them into the ground, thereafter to plant something lovely in their place. Maybe a bad novel is just quieter, a bad gallery hanging almost private, while terrible movies starring Russell Crowe seem to come bounding towards you from every space in culture, leaving you no choice but to reach quickly for the elephant gun and fire…” (From his essay “Two Years in the Dark”)

That’s it exactly — bad movies are simply inescapable in our current media environment. You can’t not know about The Proposal or Julie & Julia or [fill in any movie with an aggressive advertising campaign here] even if you avoid all television, as I do. I’ve come to the crotchety conclusion that I find this noise offensive. But this also poses a significant challenge for good films without publicity machines behind them: how do they break through the awful and incessant blathering that these films make? That was once the critic’s role — to convince audiences that taking a risk on art could reap rewards far beyond Oprah-isms applied like a salve to society’s wounds. But can anyone really escape the jaws of Eat Pray Love, and America’s sweetheart’s teeth? Maybe the answer is to fight fire with fire, and mash it up into oblivion. Here’s a parody starring a Tibetan monk for the road. Let’s hope there’s more where that came from.

Category: film reviews, mystery flavor

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses

  1. Usually I do not write-up on blogs, but I need to say that this write-up incredibly forced me to complete so! Thanks, quite nice article.

  2. Daniel Ezra Johnson says:

    “People: THIS IS A MOVIE ABOUT A WOMAN WHO GOES ON VACATION. Go on vacation yourself. Or plan a staycation and eat some Neapolitan pizza. Do not go see this movie.”

    Gee, I’d hate to see you review “Vacation”, “European Vacation”, or “Christmas Vacation”.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Busse and Michael Busse, Cynthia Lugo. Cynthia Lugo said: On EAT PRAY LOVE and inescapably awful movies: #chickflickphobic […]

Leave a Reply