I love movies. I love going to the movies, I love renting movies, I love reading about movies, I love talking about movies … I really just like the whole thing. I’m also an awards show junkie, so I like to see the films that are nominated for awards. Generally, I like to think that I have good taste in films, actually. However, I will admit that, like most women, I do have a soft spot for chick flicks. I think that the chick flick is a very misunderstood genre in general, but I also believe that there are certain female-targeted films that men are simply incapable of really understanding in any meaningful way. Hence this piece, which I like to call: Misunderstood Chick Flicks Explained.
There is, of course, one truly classic example of this. I remember seeing this particular film when it came out with a group of girl and guy friends. We walked out and every male had the same reaction, which was exactly the opposite of the way the females saw the film. That movie? My Best Friend’s Wedding. Any guy I’ve ever spoken to about that film always says the same things – “Julia Roberts was a complete psycho. Dermot Mulroney obviously should end up with Cameron Diaz. How can anyone feel sympathy for Julia after all the crazy stuff she did?” etc. etc. Men see My Best Friend’s Wedding in a very black and white way: Julia did morally reprehensible and borderline psychotic things in the film, therefore, Julia should lose. Plus, I also think that most men have never really understood the appeal of Julia Roberts. She’s one of those women that is clearly beautiful, but men aren’t attracted to her the way that women are. Anyway, when viewing My Best Friend’s Wedding, men see a woman who seriously screws with her best friend and his fiancé and they see, on the other side, Cameron Diaz, a rich, cute, perky blonde. For most guys, that is an obvious choice. Also, I’ve never met a man who ever found the movie really interesting or compelling anyway.
Women, of course, see this movie completely differently. For most women, myself included, this film is clear in a totally different way – Julia and Dermot have been best friends forever. They have one of those friendships that is super close and intimate and is totally fraught with sexual tension. He’s that guy that you’re best friends with, but you also could see yourself with maybe at some point in the future. Only, you don’t want to mess with the friendship (because it’s so great), so you just leave things the way they are. Usually for a long time, sometimes forever. And then all of a sudden, he’s engaged to some 12 year old that he’s known for about 10 minutes. And she doesn’t know him the way you know him and she couldn’t possibly understand him or love him the way you do. This is the real sticking point for most women I know – it always comes back to the fact that Cameron just didn’t know Dermot like Julia did. Dermot and Julia knew each other and understood each other like nobody’s business and Cameron could not, in any way, compete with that. I guess it’s just the thought that there’s this guy, who you’ve known forever, that you’ve always thought that maybe you could end up with … and then out of nowhere he’s getting married to some girl he’s known for about a week.
There’s another thing about that movie that always makes me a little bit crazy – I mean, people act like Julia was such a wackjob for doing the things she did. And really, I can’t defend most of her actions. She does do some really disgraceful things. But it’s not like she completely invented this whole idea that Dermot was in love with her in her head. He COMPLETELY sent her mixed signals! He tells her she looks good without any clothes on, he shamelessly flirts with her, they have that extremely charged moment on the boat (their song is “The Way You Look Tonight” for goodness sakes!) … I mean, come on, what was she supposed to think?! Granted, she should have just come out and told him she was in love with him, but that’s not an easy thing to do. If he had just been clearer all along about how he was in love with his fiancé and hadn’t flirted with her, then it might have been a different story. He wasn’t though, and since Julia was in love with him, she had to try (although I suppose she didn’t have to do such awful things).
One more thing in defense of Julia – I feel like most guys I know that have seen this film always claim that she just conveniently wanted him when he was engaged to someone else. On some level, I suppose that is true. His engagement was certainly the impetus for her taking some action. But I don’t think his engagement was the source of her feelings. She’d probably had feelings for Dermot all along, but she had pushed them aside in order to keep the friendship as it was. It is sort of intimated that Dermot wanted more with Julia years ago (since they did hook up for like a month or something), but that she shot him down. Well ya know what, that happens! It seems like Julia was a commitment-phobe, and as a commitment-phobe myself, I can say that we sometimes pull away from things that we actually want because we are so freaked out at the possibility of being tied down. People like that usually need something to push them before they’re ready to make the leap. Dermot getting engaged to Cameron was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back – it was the thing that put it all in perspective for Julia. She didn’t suddenly decide overnight that she wanted him; rather, she decided to face her commitment fears because she knew she risked losing him. Personally, I see nothing wrong with that.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who didn’t seriously sympathize with Julia Roberts in that movie. By the end, your heart just breaks for her a little bit. She has to convince Cameron that Dermot wants her (and not Julia), she has to watch them get married, she gives the bride and groom her and Dermot’s song even, and then she has to watch them drive away. She has to say goodbye to her best friend, who she knows she could have been with. That’s some heartbreaking stuff. And for some reason, men just don’t see this. They don’t understand why Julia is a sympathetic character. They don’t understand how she loved Dermot and how she always thought, on some level, that they’d find their way together eventually. They can’t empathize with the pain of losing that option forever. I’m not sure what it is about most men that makes them incapable of understanding this. Maybe men and women are just wired differently in this area. I will say that I have met a number of guys who don’t really value platonic friendships in the way that women do; maybe this is the source of the difference. Girls really value their friendships, with both sexes, and when they have a close, platonic relationship with a guy they always consider on some level what it would be like to be with that guy. Usually, of course, you don’t want to push it and ruin the friendship, so nothing happens, but it can come as quite a shock, I would imagine, when that guy ends up with some other girl. Maybe this isn’t it, I don’t know. All I know is that generally, men and women have fundamentally different reactions to My Best Friend’s Wedding.
I gotta say, I find My Best Friend’s Wedding to be really kind of a sad film. I love it, but it’s sad mostly. However, it does end with one of my all-time favorite movie quotes and the fadeout is a super fun scene of Rupert Everett and Julia dancing at the wedding. In fact, this line is one of my life mottos – something I think we can all live by: “Maybe there won’t be marriage, maybe there won’t be sex, but by God there’ll be dancing!”
Feature image via.