Thursday, January 3, 2008

At least Nathan Pinkerton didn't pull the canard that a certain film critic of a major weekly tried to hustle last summer: that Knocked Up reneged on the three-dimensional roles offered to women in screwball comedy. After seeing about twenty minutes of Bringing Up Baby on TCM at my parents' house this New Year's Eve, I wondered if Meghan O'Rourke or He Who Shall Remain Nameless had Katherine Hepburn -- squeaking lines in an impossible falsetto and acting like a dingbat -- as a paragon of feminine independence. When will dissenters realize that Animal House didn't cast a Leslie Mann, much less give a Leslie Mann the chance to blast her smiling cad of a husband? Since one of those dissenters is none other than Katherine Heigl, someone needs to remind her that the guys come off as badly as the women -- maybe more so. Someone needs to remind them of the oddly forgotten Irene Dunne, who was maybe Hepburn's best foil -- quiet, dignified, reasonable -- but rarely given funny moments, despite being capable of physical comedy and delivering zingers (The Awful Truth). I'm not suggesting that Mann is anywhere in Dunne's league; but she and Judd Apatow understand the value of the arched eyebrow, the dumbfounded expression, the cold look when Mann has to put up with more shit from Paul Rudd. So does the audience.

As for Heigl, she was right the first time:
“I think that what she realizes pretty early on, when they kind of start dating to see if it's going to go anywhere and if they can make it work, is that he's a really nice guy with a big heart. He means well. He's a bit of a doof and he makes some sort of silly and stupid choices, but ultimately he means well. I think she starts to get his sense of humor. I think in the beginning they're kind of off, they don't get each other and she doesn't get his jokes and thinks he's serious and is offensive and whatever. Then she starts to realize, 'Oh he's actually really funny and charming in his own way and a very kind, good person.'”
Isn't Heigl's empathy enough?