It’s a universally accepted fact that any movie featuring a makeover montage is automatically amazing. Everybody loves a good before-and-after comparison, and with movie magic, wondrous changes can occur. Girls with braces, glasses and frizzy buns on top of their heads can in a matter of minutes be transformed into girls with perfect smiles, colored contacts and glossy manes a la Kyle Richards, all set to the bubbly beat of whatever pop song is most likely to get stuck in your head at the moment.
But what about makeovers where it’s not totally clear that the After is better than the Before? Am I the only one who’s had an awkward moment when somebody who usually wears glasses removes their glasses and suddenly they’re hideous but there’s no polite way of telling them, “You look better with your face partially obscured”? You guys, this even happens in the magical world of movies. A few examples:
For those of you who don’t remember, Jawbreaker is a 1999 dark comedy Heathers rip-off about an evil clique of high school girls who accidentally murder their leader. In order to silence the only witness – lonely, “hideous” Fern Mayo – they give her a makeover, rename her Vylette, and induct her into their group. But let’s be real here – Vylette is completely trashtastic and gross. Her platinum Kate Gosselin hairdo is ‘do-ing nothing for her and I find it really hard to believe that anybody at that school would have found her beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, Judy Greer is totally pretty no matter what, but I way preferred her nerdy-chic aesthetic and hipster bangs.
This Mean Girls makeover is particularly poignant since it theoretically mirrors the tragic demise of Lindsay Lohan herself from adorable freckle-cheeked apple blossom teen pin-up to… less than that, if you know what I mean. And I know that the whole point of the movie is that Cady was better before she fell in with the Plastics, but did they have to give her such tacky outfits and Rave hairspray hair? Especially when her “before” was so freakin’ cute with the plaid shirts and her little fresh face which by the way we will literally never see again.
Oh yes, boys get makeovers, too. And since you’ve all been paying attention long enough to know that the existence of the film Drive Me Crazy is one of the only reasons I get up in the morning, it’s only natural that I give a nod to Adrian Grenier in his most globally significant role to date. He starts the movie as a slacker hottie and with the help of literal-girl-next-door Melissa Joan Hart, revamps his entire look to become a prep. Remember those sweaters from The Gap with the one stripe across the chest? There’s a lot of that, plus a hideous leather jacket and a swoopy hairdo, completing his transition from sexy-stoner-sensitive-bad-boy to loser-frat-guy-who-knocks-you-down-in-the-lunch-line-because-he’s-too-busy-roughhousing-with-his-bonehead-friends-to-pay-attention. I hate that kind of guy. But if I’m being honest, he actually looks really hot in both of the above pictures.
Arguably one of the most famous makeovers of a decade I like to call the 1990s, Rachael Leigh Cook goes from geek to chic with the help of Freddie Prinze Jr., who wants her to be hotter because he has to take her to prom as part of a bet. Super romantic love story for the kids, am I right? There’s nothing exactly wrong with the way Laney looks post-transformation. It’s just that I genuinely like the way she looks before. Sure, as a culture our standards for beauty are currently taking a long, refreshing dive into the nerdy pool, so of course I’m coveting her comically-large glasses and oversized flannel shirts. But I think even then (as evidenced by the easy spoofing of this very character in Not Another Teen Movie) I knew that there was something fishy about the fact that the biggest loser in school needed little more than contacts and a hair brush to become a hottie of the first degree.
Who can forget that miraculous moment near the end of The Breakfast Club when Ally Sheedy emerges from the bathroom having completely shed her goth-girl exterior and become a delicate, feminine flower right down to the bow in her friggin’ hair?! Even crazier, her personality seems to have changed as well?!?! As if the way we dress and speak and do our hair doesn’t actually reflect our true selves and some special secret sorority time alone with Molly Ringwald will prove that inside each and every one of us is a good girl waiting to come out? Um, no. Plus she looked AWESOME before. I love her shaggy rocker hair and that coat with the fur is seriously covetable. Not to be blasphemous against one of the greatest movies of all time, but a more interesting ending might have been Allison making over the Emilio Estevez character to be better suited to her instead of the other way around.
Okay, okay, not technically a makeover, but come on. Beast is so much hotter in beast form than he is at the end with those Jersey Shore muscles and Fabio hair. Gag.
Of course, for every terrible makeover there’s a Tai from Clueless (arguably cute all along, but we have to give Cher props for some of the obvious improvements she implemented), Vivian from Pretty Woman (without which we’d never be able to excessively quote the “big mistake” fashion boutique confrontation), and Andy from The Devil Wears Prada (although it was never quite clear to me whether she was actually buying the clothes she wears for the rest of the movie or just borrowing them? And, like, suddenly she was a hair and makeup expert, too? Bangs take talent, people!).
I think part of what is so attractive to us about makeover montages is the wish-fulfillment of the whole thing. On our worst, lowest, angriest, angstiest days, isn’t it nice to imagine that if we only had the right tools, the right makeup, the right song and the right new friends, we could shed our old selves and become somebody new entirely? I spent most of my middle and high school years wishing for just that. Of course, I’m somebody who’s naturally predisposed to think of my life as a movie anyway. But when my makeover moment never came, I decided maybe our entire lives can be seen as one long, emotional, slow motion makeover montage. And you just have to cross your fingers you’re a Tai instead of a Beast.
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