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Moments after watching the Michael Lehmann-directed Because I Said So, I quickly flipped through a dozen or so channels looking for something to take my mind off the pain of the previous hour and 42 minutes. Two bowls of chips later I found myself well into My Best Friend's Wedding, with Julia Roberts professing her love in a tacky midriff-baring blouse to a dumbstruck Dermot Mulroney. At that point I promptly switched off the television, but couldn't shake the feeling that those 30 minutes completely wiped the floor with the entirety of the first film I saw that afternoon.
In that sense Lehmann's work fails to fulfill even the lowest of expectations for a modern Hollywood romantic comedy. My Best Friend's Wedding is no The Philadelphia Story, but it does give you a crunchy feeling of satisfaction akin to a greasy meal at McDonalds. It has a nicely wrapped moral with a side of flirtatious humor, and some pretty people in pretty locales to wash things down. Because I Said So is not only confused about its central message, but it's about as funny an episode of 7th Heaven.
Yet what's worse, Because I Said So doesn't just advertise pretty people - these are pretty people who, under normal circumstances, possess at least some level of acting skill. Diane Keaton is a pro, Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) an always-witty breath of fresh air, and Mandy Moore is a young star with more talent than she realizes. The combination of three smart, funny and attractive women should be dynamite in the context of a romantic comedy, and so this movie has every reason to succeed. But these actors (along with Piper Perabo) circle around each other in a forced and unnatural way - even as they play one big family. All the awkward sex jokes and abrupt moments of "sincerity" create a very sitcom-y environment in which character development is always left for the next episode.
I can't criticize Lehmann's intent behind directing a largely female cast in a very open and, what must have seemed, "progressive" story. Yet as he breaks taboos in frankly discussing orgasms and the love life of an older woman, he simultaneously paints a very sad and depressing portrait of female solitude. Nearly every romantic comedy is guilty of placing life's value solely in the pursuit (and capture) of men, but I've rarely seen a film quite as brutally hopeless as Because I Said So. None of the key characters has any friends or social life to speak of, and the only happy women are the married ones. The fact that much of the film is spent glorifying the strength of female bonds only underlines the hypocrisy of the desperation these characters feel when man-less.
The film wants us to feel liberated, but the conformity of everything in the end actually feels suffocating. It isn't just the characters that remain caged, but these actresses deserve so much more than this demeaning work. It seems the director didn't trust the viability of a film centered on a mother-daughter relationship alone, and instead clumsily shifted focus to the silly love triangle. His decision mirrors the most offensive aspect of an otherwise completely forgettable experience; this is a "chick-flick" that doesn't believe in women. SEE ALSO: www.becauseisaidsomovie.com
Imran Siddiquee is a freelance writer pursuing self-expression in all its forms. This includes the occasional contribution to LAS as well as writing blogs, essays, short stories, an unpublished novel and some screenplays. He also creates horribly amateur music with his brother Yusuf.
See other articles by Imran Siddiquee.
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