More than just ‘chick flicks’

I have long desisted the so-called genre of cinema, pejoratively named by an unknown and no-doubt Hollywood studio executive as the ‘chick flick’. A few years ago, no less than Gloria Steinem derided the term and the related phrase ‘chick-lit’. Now, I have no truck with labels and watch movies for what they are, not what they are supposed to be. Not so long ago, I was presented with and challenged to watch a list of the greatest films in the genre. Many of them, including some fancied ones that I will decline to name here, prompted a gag reflex, but many others were sharp and funny, and those I shall indeed name — Mark Waters’ Mean Girls (2004), Amy Heckerling’s Clueless (1995), Jason Moore’s Pitch Perfect (2012) and Robert Luketic’s Legally Blonde (2001), amongst others.

Recently, I was on a long transcontinental flight, and as is customary, I fired up my tablet that was pre-loaded with entertainment for the journey. I was quite tired after a gruelling few weeks of travelling and was looking for some light entertainment. The trusty tablet, alas, was mostly full of worthy stuff, and so I turned to the in-flight entertainment system and began flicking through the comedies. I came to rest at the Italian film Assolo (2016), which means solo and nothing vulgar, directed by and starring Laura Morante. I have long been an admirer of her work as an actress, especially in Nanni Moretti’s The Son’s Room (2001) and John Malkovich’s The Dancer Upstairs (2002). I had seen her directorial debut Cherry on the Cake (2012), a bittersweet film where a woman’s friends help her find the perfect man, only to realise that there is no such thing.

Assolo takes the same theme and runs with it. The previous film had hinted at the fact that the problem might be with her rather than the men. A psychoanalyst character from Cherry on the Cake is carried over into Assolo, and now almost baldly states that she is indeed the problem. In Assolo, the men, whether they are Morante’s character’s ex-husbands, current lovers or sons, are depicted as selfish, and Morante herself is described by one of them as the perennial victim. So, rather than a comedy as described in the in-flight magazine, the film is a grimly gentle look at what it means to be an older, lonely woman in contemporary Italy.

Much in need of lighter fare, I switched to Christian Ditter’s How to be Single (2016), chiefly due to the presence of Rebel Wilson, the gifted Australian comedienne and actress, who I had first encountered and delighted in, in Pitch Perfect. The film, again listed as a comedy, began as a standard-issue New York-set rom-com. However, after the initial fun and games, it settles into a searing tract of what it means to be single in a big, bad, city, for both men and women. Just goes to prove how thought-provoking cinema could be packaged as shiny entertainment baubles.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 3:48:28 AM |

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