Friday, July 8, 2011

A Decade of Dreck #57: Because I Said So

Charge Shot!!! is celebrating the end of the decade in the most masochistic way we know how - by watching and writing about the 100 worst movies of the last ten years as defined by film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Click here to see RT's complete list, click here for more about the Decade of Dreck project, and click here to see all of the movies we've done so far.

I must have already commented on this, but the Decade of Dreck throws me up against a lot of niche-marketed films I would have zero interest in save their officially-rated irredeemable crappiness. For example, was there ever a chance in Hell that I could have liked The Perfect Man, Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Movie, or Johnson Family Vacation? Of course not. I'm far outside the target demographics on these (and many more) films in multiple quadrants. Sometimes, this knowledge can help one approach the movie they're about to see ("There's no way I could possibly like this, so I'd better settle in and prepare for shit.") but sometimes, nothing can stop the malaise that a film like Because I Said So can inflict on a human being.

If you couldn't tell by reading and/or viewing anything about this, Because I Said So is explicitly aimed at groups of mothers and daughters going out for a girls' night at the movies. Diane Keaton plays Daphne, a mother of three grown women who can't help but meddle in their private lives. Having seen the elder two married off, she now shifts her attention to Milly (Mandy Moore), her youngest. Having just broken up with her boyfriend, Milly is, in Daphne's eyes, in critical danger of dying alone. She thus sets out to set her up with two potential love interests only to find everything crashing down for humorous effect as her terrible interference spurs her brood to rally against her. Jesus, this is bad.

After every laugh line in the trailer, you can tell some Universal executive said "Ok, now the women in the audience should say something like 'OMG, that is totally something Mom would do!'" at a board meeting. Just watch the embedded trailer down there. Seriously watch it. Try not to kill your family afterwards.

I'm not against women or chick flicks or anything like that, I'm a firm believer that every segment of the population deserves it's own easily-digestible cinematic fluff, they just deserve better than Because I Said So: a film that seems to present modern Western womanhood as a neverending Electra-esque struggle against Mother. You can practically hear a disembodied voice bellowing in a Germanic accent over the soundtrack "SHE SHALL KEEP YOU A GIRL-CHILD FOREVER! KILL HER! KILL HER!"

There's no attempt made by anyone involved in the making of this film to differentiate any character in this film from a tired trope. Keaton is the well-meaning but obnoxious everymom that anyone with a uterus can either idenify with or spot in their own family and Moore is the pretty and competent everygirl that the young female audience can relate to. You also have your requisite serious sister and "alternative" sister to balance out the family and the ever-dreadful love interests.

Because I Said So contains a psychosexual fetish/film cliche that I am coining and codifying right now: the Reality Bites Complex. At some point in every young woman's life she is simultaneously confronted with the choice of two mutually exclusive potential mates (as a twentysomething male, I am more qualified to understand this than anyone alive): the brooding, emotional, though somewhat immature artist type (represented in Reality Bites by Etahn Hawke, and here by The Spirit) versus the conceited, superficial, self-obsessed, occasionally emotionally abusive, but ultimately stable and secure and boring career guy (Reality Bites- Ben Stiller, Because I Said So- the drummer from That Thing You Do!). A girl is not a woman until she makes this choice.

Of course Milly ends up with the Spirit, he has a kid! And a good relationship with his dad (who ends up with Keaton)! And he wears vests! And hats! He's a musician after all. While the Reality Bites Complex is essential in the real world, movies that actually feature their female protagonist engaging in such a dilemna are to be immediately dismissed. Some dramas are meant only to played out upon life's grand stage.

I may catch some deservéd flack for this, but the one time I laughed during this ordeal was, sadly, at a rape joke. Before going on a date with one of her suitors, Moore dons a somewhat sexy dress. Keaton cautions "You look like you're asking for it." Moore corrects her mother "I am asking for it." What do you know? A somewhat clever and edgy debate on Third Wave/Post-Feminism in a terrible rom com! There's hope for the world yet!

Oh wait, they promoted this thing by putting that line on panties? As in ladies' underwear? This is a disaster!

In a world that rewards movies like The Expendables, I suppose Because I Said So must be tolerated; civilization demands it. But surely the bond between parent and child can be explored in a better way than this? Annoying mom! Exasperated and pretty daughter! Sex talk! Maaaah-haaaahm!

Because I Said So is ranked #56 on the Rotten Tomatoes Worst 100 list with 5% freshness. Its RT page can be found here.