Sunday, October 10, 2010

Katherine Heigl dreck

I'll say what everyone else has been thinking about the latest Katherine Heigl movie:


Katherine Heigl has been making dreck for some time now, a fact pointed out by a character on one of the sitcoms I watch. I wish I could find the exact quote -- the internet is not obliging me, either with having the quote or having a place to re-watch the episode -- but on FX's The League, Heigl was roundly dissed recently. The character named Ruxin (Nick Kroll) is ranting about current trends in movies, and suggests Hollywood do such-and-such instead of releasing "the latest Katherine Heigl dreck."

I wouldn't have needed a character on a sitcom to point this out to me, but I did feel like I could use this quote as my "news peg" to finally roundly diss Heigl myself. Her latest, Life as We Know It, seems to be keeping with this trend of awfulness, if Lisa Schwarzbaum's D- review in Entertainment Weekly is any indication.

It wouldn't ordinarily seem charitable to pick on an actress for having a losing streak. In fact, I wouldn't dream of doing that to Jennifer Aniston, even though she's basically had a career-long losing streak at the movies. (She'll have her Blind Side and get her charity Oscar one day, I imagine.) But Heigl is a little different. When you open your big mouth on such a regular basis, the price is that you have to be accountable for what you say.

When she was still just a (nurse? doctor? I don't watch the show) on Grey's Anatomy, Heigl was more famous for having an opinion on anything and everything than she was for her admittedly fetching appearance, her acting skills, or her fitness for comedy. Sometimes, this was debatably a good thing, as when she jumped into the fray to defend her fellow actor T.J. Knight against a gay slur from fellow actor Isaiah Washington. Other times, it debatably wasn't, as when she told the media that she didn't want to receive an Emmy nomination because she didn't think the writers had given her character anything good to do that season.

But this is a movie blog, so her TV indiscretions can be left on the sidelines. Her comments on Knocked Up are really what's germane to this discussion. Although she admitted to having a fun time filming the movie with Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, she went on to call the movie "a little sexist," claiming that the film "paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys."

Now that more than three years have passed since Knocked Up was released, and Heigl has made four subpar rom-coms in the wake of what was clearly her best film to date, it seems ridiculous that these were the movies Heigl thought she should make as some kind of response to the "sexist" Knocked Up. Let's take a look at them:

1) 27 Dresses (2008, Anne Fletcher). Uninspired "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" comedy in which Heigl is in the bridal party for a comical number of weddings. Not only would it seem impossible to be close enough to 27 different women that you would serve as a bridesmaid for all of them, but the woman she pals around with most is actually not one of those 27 -- an acerbic single best friend played by Judy Greer, in what I described in my review as "the Judy Greer role." But what's most disconcerting about this film from a feminist perspective is that it's basically one big advertisement for the wedding industry, and a covert message that a woman's life is not complete until/unless she has a man. Which Heigl's character does eventually find, in the person of a newspaper reporter who writes about weddings (James Marsden), with whom she initially butts heads (naturally). Even more disappointing: Heigl's character is initially in love with her boss (Ed Burns).

2) The Ugly Truth (2009, Robert Luketic). More butting of heads here, this time with an overt gender political agenda on the table. Gerard Butler plays the sexist shock jock hired to elevate ratings at a Sacramento (I think) TV station; Heigl plays his feminist producer who's supposed to manage him. So, points to Heigl for choosing the role of a woman who describes herself as a feminist, but then, subtract those points and then some for her failure to realize that the script is actually designed merely to enforce the "opposites attract" status quo. It's clear that Luketic's film wants to be like a Hepburn-Tracy screwball comedy in which the sexes battle throughout, and there's no clear winner at the end. This movie may not have a winner at the end, but it definitely has a loser: Heigl's character, who lamely falls for the shock jock's charms. There's no way this can be considered a feminist victory, especially when the film also requires her to appear in a fantasy sequence in which she plays a nude weather girl (you don't see anything of course), and a When Harry Met Sally-inspired scene in a restaurant in which she has a vibrator in her panties, forcing her to act out various concealed throes of passion. She's a deft enough comic actor to pull it off, but if you listen closely, you can hear Gloria Steinem weeping quietly somewhere in the distance.

3) Killers (2010, Robert Luketic). Luketic and Heigl match up again for a film I have not seen, but which received some of the most unreserved negative press of any film released this year. What I can tell you is that this seems like more female debasement for this outspoken feminist. The ads show her appearing in skimpy outfits and holding a gun like you'd hold a dirty diaper, dangling between her thumb and forefinger. Hardly empowering. Besides, the "former contract killer going straight" movie is about the most tired gimmick in Hollywood these days.

4) Life As We Know It (2010, Greg Berlanti). Obviously haven't seen this yet as it only came out yesterday, and if I'm actually permitted to get to the theater in the baby era, I can't waste it on drivel like this (even if it has some potential interest for me because it involves caring for a baby). In addition to having a generic, forgettable title, Life As We Know It seems to be another instance in which Heigl is matched up with a rakish lout (Josh Duhamel) that she eventually falls for. What's more, it has another sitcom-y premise, in which two godparents of an orphaned girl -- who also once went on a disastrous blind date -- are charged with raising her after her parents die. Ho hum.

And just look at this logline on IMDB for her next film, 2011's One for the Money, directed by Julie Ann Robinson: "Unemployed lingerie buyer Stephanie Plum becomes a bounty hunter to make ends meet."

Ugh. Another chance to see Heigl in skimpy clothing with guns. Feminism out the wazoo.

Knocked Up isn't looking so bad, is it, Katherine? For Heigl, life as she knew it may have been best then, but the ugly truth is that her subsequent choices have been potential career killers. And if she's not careful, she won't need 27 more dresses to appear at gala premieres and award ceremonies in the future.


TS Hendrik said...

Well put.

It's a been a quick and steady downturn since Knocked up. which just looks like a fluke compared to her other career choices. I liked her at first, now I'd like her to go away.

Vancetastic said...

Thanks, TS!

The thing is, she really does have great comic timing, she just can't pick a script for shit. She's got that statuesque Amazon look that I think could make her an excellent choice to play Wonder Woman. In any case, she needs a major shift in her career trajectory if she wants to have any hope of sticking around.