Doodad Kind of Town

27 Dresses: Romantic Comedy or Interior Design Tutorial?
January 21, 2008, 5:02 pm
Filed under: Romantic Comedies

First off, let me assure you I didn’t actually see it. Right off the top of my head, I can think of at least 50 ways to better spend $9.50, than to see “27 Dresses.”

But I was very disturbed by this article which greeted me in my Sunday Chicago Tribune.

For some time now, it’s bothered me that the primary pleasure to be derived from recent romantic comedy films is in gawking at the beautiful apartments of its lovelorn heroines.

Apparently this is intentional. Here’s production designer Shepherd Frankel on his goal for Jane’s (Katherine Heigl’s) apartment: “(For) every woman watching the movie to say ‘ I want to live there.’ “


Now, there may be some subtle nuances in Heigl’s character that aren’t communicated in the film’s advertising, but my distinct impression is that Jane is a dowdy doormat who puts her energies into planning other women’s weddings rather than finding a real love of her own. In my experience, caretaker-doormat people do not have beautiful, meticulously decorated apartments where any woman would want to live. They have bare, white walls and very little furniture; they use cardboard boxes for end tables and paper plates for dishes. And that’s because caretakers are too busy looking after other people’s needs to take care of their own needs for comfort and beauty!

It’s not the first time we’ve been down this road. In Nancy Meyer’s 2006 piece-of-crap rom-com, “The Holiday,” it’s Kate Winslet who gets the drab, doormat role – and the storybook English cottage that looks as if its been set up for a photo spread in Architectural Digest.

I suppose someone could come back with the idea that these homes reflect the hidden, inner beauty of their inhabitants – a beauty that isn’t expressed once they cross their thresholds and enter the greater world. I’m just trying to speculate. But that’d be a hard sell for me; I still contend that unhappy, unfulfilled people live in unspectacular homes. (Or at least boring, barren ones. I loathed “The Wedding Planner” with every ounce of my being, but at least we understood that the Jennifer Lopez character was emotionally shut down when we saw her cold, all-white-surroundings.)

The appeal of romantic comedy is in the way it taps into our yearnings for love, romance and connection. But, increasingly, it seems that filmmakers are also trying to tap into our yearning for beautiful, expensive stuff. Or at least the American comedies are. I believe that British rom-coms are far superior in this regard. Think of Bridget Jones’ crappy little apartment, with its bare pantry and beat-up sofa. It was Bridget we fell in love with, not her furniture.

Wouldn’t it be nice if filmmakers spent a little more time coming up with characters that we’d all like to be (or already feel that we are) instead of apartments that we’d love to live in? I watch HGTV, I get Pottery Barn catalogs, I have all the home decorating ideas I can use. When I step inside a movie theatre, I want to be transported in a different way.

I didn’t see “27 Dresses” this weekend, and I won’t be seeing it anytime soon, if at all.


2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Love this post. I agree with your point, but if her apartment was barren and white, what possible product placement could there be? 😉

Comment by Fletch

UGH–I will not see 27 Dresses nor will I see Knocked Up. I just do not get it with Katherine Heigl. She was good with Denny–everything else is CRAP!

Comment by Parisjasmal

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