“So, like, what’s your favorite movie?” People LOVE to ask this question – especially in LA – and you’re supposed to be able to rattle off a few favorites without much explanation or embarrassment. There are a lot of really good movies out there. You know, good movies that make Top 100 lists of the Best Movies Ever. Movies you’re supposed to see, that you would study if, say, you were trying to be a screenwriter. And hey, good movies are great! We can talk about them and sound smart at parties, almost as smart as if we were talking about a book.
I like good movies, I really do (not that I’d tell you if I didn’t), but if you’re someone of sophisticated taste and you happen to look over my shoulder while I’m updating my Netflix queue, I’ll probably shriek, shove you out of the way and slam my computer closed. Most of my favorite movies are not “good” movies, they’re banana split freaking awesome, but they’re definitely not good. However, I have extremely good reasons for loving these movies and if you make the mistake of engaging me on this topic, I will try to sprinkle their magic fairy dust on you, too. Behold, three examples of movies I love so much that my heart is pounding right now as I type:
Housesitter – No, not the Sinbad movie. That’s Houseguest. Housesitter is the one with Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin where they have a one-night stand at the beginning of the movie and when he blows her off after. Then she moves into this house he built in the country that’s sitting there empty because the woman he built it for said no when he proposed and so Goldie’s able to live there quite comfortably, posing as his new wife to the nosy locals until Steve returns to put the house on the market and finds her there. WHAT A PLOT!
They don’t make movies like this anymore. Seriously, this is a gem of a romantic comedy. Goldie is at her scrunchie-wearing best as a pathological liar so charming you won’t even care that she’s a mental case. In fact, you’ll love it. When Steve discovers what she’s doing, he’s horrified but realizes he can go along with it and use this opportunity to make aforementioned ex-girlfriend (the one who said no to the house-proposal) jealous. Together, Steve and Goldie create an elaborate web of lies, posing as a married couple and maybe some real feelings for each other develop along the way. That little twist of Steve deciding to go along with it puts this movie squarely into my absolute favorite genre of movie: Two People Pretending to Be in Love Fall in Love. There is no genre greater than this. These movies unfailingly include a moment where the two leads kiss (usually to make someone jealous but occasionally due to mistletoe or a similar contrivance) and something sparks between them but they can’t admit it yet because we’re only at minute 45 and there’s a lot of confusing feelings and misunderstandings left to go. Housesitter has the added bonus of a very peaceful country setting full of small-town charm and beautiful old houses with a few scattered city scenes set in Boston to mix things up. Oh, and Steve Martin’s character is an architect with a dream. Classic!
Baby Boom – One of the greatest movies of Diane Keaton’s illustrious career. For most of college, I had a floor-to-ceiling Baby Boom poster facing my bed. This movie is that good. Diane plays J.C. Wiatt, a powerhouse of an ad exec nicknamed “The Tiger Lady” because she’s so tough. The new-at-the-time idea of the female executive is a HUGE element of this movie. J.C. wears Reeboks to power-walk to work. She eats fancy yuppie food without batting an eye (quick memo from the Times Have Changed Department: we’re supposed to laugh at a scene of a waiter listing specials that include “dandelion greens” and “pumpkin pasta”). Her coworkers – male and female alike – cower in fear when she enters the building. She really does have it all… or does she?
When some distant cousins she’s never met die in a car accident and leave her their child, everything she thought she knew about herself turns upside down. Nice! Did I mention Harold Ramis plays her crotchety businessman boyfriend? We know they’re equally work-obsessed because they have separate phone lines on either side of the bed and sex takes them under a minute. Oh, and their apartment is a cold, carpeted, geometrically furnished, paintings-of-triangles-on-the-walls, white lacquered palace. Saddled with the baby, J.C. quickly finds that she can no longer be the Tiger Lady, enjoy the crotchety boyfriend or feel okay about all the sharp edges in her living space. Turns out you can’t have it all… or so it would seem. A whimsical move to the boondocks of Vermont redefines the question of how to balance career and family (cue requisite city-mouse montage, followed by a solid J.C.-can-still-be-a-businesswoman-even-in-the-country third-act epiphany). Added bonus: much like Housesitter, the pastoral setting of the second half of this movie is to die for. Her rambling farmhouse and small-town neighbors are brimming with charm, but it’s especially pleasurable because the entire first half of the movie takes place in the mean streets of New York City. To watch this movie is to experience the best of both worlds – some might say, just like J.C.
Drive Me Crazy – This is by far the toughest sell when trying to convince smart, normal humans to like the movies on my list. But let me give it a shot. Drive Me Crazy is a seemingly-forgettable teen comedy starring Melissa Joan Hart and a pre-Entourage Adrian Grenier. Those of you who are familiar with this film know that it falls into the same genre as Housesitter. Melissa Joan is the most popular girl in high school, and Adrian is her rebellious, alternative next-door neighbor. They were childhood best friends but then, as Melissa Joan puts it, “Junior High happened” and now they kind of hate each other.
Of course, when they both get dumped on the same day and neither has a date for the really important upcoming dance, they see that the ideal solution is right next door: pretend to date and drive their exes crazy. Hence the title (sort of. I actually don’t really get the title. Shouldn’t it be Drive Them Crazy? Maybe it makes sense because they supposedly drive each other crazy, but as I’ll explain, they actually like each other a lot, so… no. It did allow for a glorious tie-in with the Britney Spears song, though, so let’s move on). This movie has quirks, particularly when it comes to the dialogue: Melissa Joan’s best friend speaks in fake-tabloid headlines and it’s not always clear the actors understand the meaning of the words they’re saying. It’s all part of the atypical charm we’re dealing with here.
The story plays out with the usual teen hijinks and amusing side-plots, but what is really special about this movie for me is that it is one of the only teen comedies I have ever seen that accurately depicts modern high school cliques and their members. It was a brilliant choice on the part of the screenwriter to make Adrian alternative instead of a classic nerd. He’s too hot for us to believe him as a loser anyway. Plus, this way we get a smart, confident male lead who has edge (by teen comedy standards). The second impressive decision was in the crafting of Melissa Joan’s character. Shocker of all shockers – she isn’t a bitch! At all! She’s a cool, nice, smart popular girl. Yes, she’s a bit shallow, and yes, she cares too much about a stupid dance, but she’s also industrious, funny, and extremely self-assured.
She has real problems, too – a deadbeat dad, played with aplomb by Seventh Heaven‘s very own Reverend Camden. Oh, and she’s nice to the other kids in her grade, including the not-so-popular ones. She’s the type of girl who can pal around with whoever she’s seated next to in class. There’s none of that movie-cliche mean-girl stuff going on which, frankly, I never found that realistic. It’s not like my high school was all sunshine and holding hands – people mostly just hung out with their own friends. And that’s how Drive Me Crazy depicts it, too, but in such a way that you still buy the fact that it’s a really big deal that two kids from different social groups would date each other. Finally, Melissa Joan and Adrian actually get along. The movie doesn’t waste time having them hate each other. The second they agree to this ruse, they’re old friends again. Throw in binge-drinking, pranks, and a childhood treehouse, and you’d be “crazy” (see what I did there?) not to love this film.
The moral of the story: any movie involving an elaborate plot to get back your ex or an unexpected move to the country is a wonderful movie by my standards. Ideally, some combination of the two. Now go update your Netflix queue! In private!