The chick flick is much derided as one of the most formulaic and unoriginal of genres. It is effectively a derivation of the male version, the buddy cop movie, which, like the Lethal Weapon series, normally has at least some cross-gender appeal, and is often spliced with that other much-hated genre, the romantic comedy.
Chick flicks always tend to revolve around two or more women who shouldn’t really be friends, who have some kind of – usually relatively minor – obstacle to overcome, and who eventually end up bonding over one or more men, be it through love or hatred.
Even on the rare occasions that a chick flick gets wider critical praise, as with Ridley Scott’s 1980s classic Thelma and Louise, it is rare that anyone male can bring themselves to see what all the fuss is about.
This could be the exception. Directed as it is by Curtis Hanson, the man responsible for one of the best films of the past decade, La Confidential, you’d expect something fairly special. His last two movies, 8 Mile and Wonderboys were both surprising and original in their own way just as LA Confidential was, and once again he has managed to do something different with a subject matter that could, in lesser hands, come off as little more than jaded and derivative.
Centered on two excellent performances by the often underrated Cameron Diaz and the often forgotten Toni Collette, best known for Muriel’s Wedding but one of the best young female character actors in the business, while following the chick flick formula much as LA Confidential followed the film noir manner, Hanson and his leads have managed to transcend the restrictions of the genre. What they have produced is a chick flick that, amazingly, will also manage to appeal to the boyfriends who will inevitably get dragged reluctantly along.
Diaz is the glamorous sister, Collette the plain one – putting on a lot of weight again for the part as she did for Muriel’s Wedding and then losing it during the shoot to reflect her character’s evolution. After a breach of sisterly trust, Diaz finds it expedient to get away from it all, tracking down a long-lost grandmother – a now rare screen outing by the near-legendary Shirley MacLaine, on form again after her disappointing outing in the recent Bewitched movie. As the sisters embark on their separate lives, this could so very easily have turned into a bog-standard film about family responsibility and the nature of friendship.
Somehow, however, almost all of these kinds of genre pitfalls have been skilfully avoided. This is something that the trailer has little chance of convincing anyone of, coming across as merely the usual opposites clashing nonsense that we’ve all seen countless times.
Thanks to some skilful direction by Hanson, some perfectly on-the-ball acting by Diaz and Collette, an attentive supporting cast and a great script by the woman behind Steven Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich, this is much more than any trailer could lead you to believe. An engaging, entertaining and intelligent movie about life and love that will leave you more than satisfied.