Nobody Understands Me
Like You Do, Girlfriend:
Girl's Night Movies
Come on, admit it. Men aren't any fun anyway. It's way more of a hoot to be hanging out with your best girlfriend, doing facials, feasting on popcorn and good white wine, and gossiping about the idiotic thing your date did at the office party last weekend. What a moron! Forget about him. Forget about all of them. Invite your best girlfriend over, crack open a box of blackhead strips and some microwave popcorn, watch one of these Girl's Night movies, and celebrate the sisterhood!
Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)
Stars: Mira Sorvino, Lisa Kudrow, Alan Cumming, Julia Campbell, Janeane Garofalo
Director: David Mirkin
Writer: Robin Schiff
When roommates and best friends Romy White (Mira Sorvino) and Michele Weinberger (Lisa Kudrow) realize that their tenth high school reunion is fast approaching, they're positively giggly at the thought of going back and finding out whatever happened to . . . until they realize that what happened to them was less a tale of two iconoclasts who blossomed under the bright sun at Venice Beach than the story of two ditzes deluding themselves with that California dreamin'. You see, aside from their remarkable ability to accessorize and their talent at finding brightly colored spandex and garish patent leather separates inappropriate for all occasions, their postgrad resumés are, well, pretty damn pathetic. Which is why, before they set off for the reunion, they pad their CVs with the claim that they invented Post-it notes, a fiction inspired by their cranky and neurotic fellow classmate (Janeane Garofalo), who invented another dandy paper product: fast-burning cigarette paper for "twice the taste in half the time for the gal on the go."
This one's a hilarious romp about best friends who love you enough to overlook the fact that you have a big L for loser branded on your forehead. Watch it with an old high school buddy and afterward, even you might find the inner strength to crack your yearbook.
Soul Food (1998)
Stars: Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Nia Long, Michael Beach, Mekhi Phifer, Brandon Hammond, Jeffrey D. Sams, Gina Ravera, Irma P. Hall
Director and Writer: George Tillman, Jr.
Just how long does it take for a warm, loving family to disintegrate into a roiling stew of overly spiced accusations once the family matriarch takes a leave of absence? As quickly as you can wolf down them chitlins, apparently. Even a find spread of southern cooking can't restore the ritual Sunday night dinner gathering without Mama (Irma P. Hall) there to play Jimmy Carter to the warring factions. Oh, everyone's got a valid point, but they're too busy backstabbing, calling some hoodlums to rough up an errant in-law, and engaging in Jerry Springeresque affairs to remember that we must accept our families as they are, not as we wish them to be. Final Thought for the Day: We must all learn to leave the past behind us, embrace the family rituals that have warmed our hearts over the years, and refrain from acting like a ho' when you know he's my man.
With a little luck, this may melt a cold war between frosty sisters. Invite the group for a viewing in a mutually-agreed-upon neutral zone, and be sure to wear a whistle around your neck.
Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
Stars: Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker, Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy
Director: Jon Avnet
Writers: Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski, based on Flagg's novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
Kathy Bates stars as Evelyn Couch (as in "big as a"), who is experiencing a marital slump. She just can't get her husband to look up from his B&M beans and notice her, despite the fact that she's tried everything to catch his eye, including wrapping herself up in a Saran Warp cocktail dress. Guess it comes as no surprise that this Ziploc fashion statement does not put any freshness back in her marriage.
While visiting her carping shut-in of a mother-in-law in the local nursing home, she runs into a kind old woman (Jessica Tandy) who, over the course of the next few months, tells Evelyn the story of Idgie (Mary Stuart Masterson), an irrepressible, unmanageable woodland sprite of a person, whose free spirit and brave heart changed the lives of everyone around her.
The story inspires Evelyn to challenge herself and change her life. She eschews the B&M beans for sushi and sprouts, and begins bouncing for hours on a trampoline in a spandex exercise suit and a terry cloth headband.
Evelyn starts making other changes too. She starts talking back to her husband, making herself a priority, and gradually reclaims herself.
This movie is a sweet reminder of how well women do when there aren't any men around to make a mess of things. Nobody fights, everybody is in touch with their feelings and up front about expressing them. It's, like, a female functional paradise at the Whistle Stop Café.
Career Girls (1997)
Stars: Katrin Cartlidge, Lynda Steadman
Director: Mike Leigh
Writers: Mike Leigh and the cast
You can't remember what it was about, can you? There's just the vague, uncomfortable memory of nasty little barbs as you each separated out your books, pretended to give a damn about who got the extra ceramic cup and saucer, and slammed your possessions into cardboard boxes. And now, as you look back, what comes to you is how she insisted on cutting the onions because you couldn't do it without crying, or the time she tried desperately to deflect your boyfriend's advances toward her, or your secret manipulative plan to dump your third-wheel roommate so you two could get your own flat.
Now that their Human League records have been long since misplaced and their twentysomething determatological problems are behind them, these two best friends get together for a weekend. Only then do they realize how much they meant to each other, and Annie (Lynda Steadman) and Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge) rediscover their mutual admiration, loyalty, and appreciation.
Watch it with an old friend, and leave plenty of time afterward for reminiscing and hauling out those godawful records you actually used to think were profound.
World Class Wrecks
He's a real gentleman. I'll bet he takes the dishes out of the sink before he pees in it.
Shirley MacLaine as Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias
Waiting to Exhale (1995)
Stars: Angela Bassett, Whitney Houston, Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine
Director: Forest Whitaker
Writers: Tom Bass and Terry McMillan, based on the Terry McMillan novel
Did you ever notice that all of the good ones are taken? Then again, maybe it's just that there are no good ones. Well, at least it seems that way when you consider the various liars, manipulators, sad sacks, and snakes these four girlfriends have to sort through. Not even one worth burying in the back of a little black book when everything's tallied up. There's the guy who dumps his wife for a younger woman and starts secretly sheltering all their money, the guy who dumps Whitney Houston but thinks she should still sleep with him after he's married another, the guy who tries to rape Thelma in the parking lot--oops, wrong movie. Anyway, you get the idea: lots of despicable men, gals bonding over bottles of wine and tears and laughter, and a hilariously incendiary woman-scorned rampage of fury featuring Angela Bassett. And just when you've about given up on men entirely, the girl with the biggest booty ends up with the one great fellow (Gregory Hines). Now that calls for a toast!
Faking It: Phony Gal Films That Really Piss Us Off
The Women (1939)
"A little motherly advice--don't trust in your girlfriends."
With lines like those, you know The Women is not a girl-bonding film. Of course, Julia Roberts will be starring in a remake of this 1939 classic about a group of bitchy, shallow New York women with too much time and money on their hands--she sure has a penchant for picking offensive premises (see Pretty Woman and My Best Friend's Wedding). Don't be tempted by the strong female cast (Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Joan Fontaine, etc.), the famed "woman's director" (George Cukor), or the female stage and screenplay writers (Clare Booth Luce and Anita Loos, respectively), all of whose talents are wasted on this nasty little film. Of course, if your idea of a real woman is Ru Paul, you'll appreciate this bitchfest and the Paulette Goddard/Rosalind Russell catfight. Otherwise, do you really need to watch a movie that depicts female friendship as inherently shallow, defined by jealousy, cruelty, and backstabbing?
We'll forgive fashion fanatics who rent this on a discount night and fast-forward to the goofy Technicolor fashion sequence, which features a lot of high-quirk couture and some of the perkiest chapeaux this side of Myrna Loy (see The Thin Man series). Otherwise, it's a must-miss.
Excerpted from Cinematherapy by Nancy Peske and Beverly West. Copyright © 1999 by Nancy Peske and Beverly West. Excerpted by permission of Dell, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.