The Sweetest Thing (Roger Kumble, 2002)
The success of Bridesmaids aside, the raunchy female comedy is still a fairly rare subgenre in American filmmaking. To further muddy the waters as to what constitutes this genre, a lot of these films are written by women but directed by men—Bridesmaids fits this category, as do Dirty Love (John Asher, 2005), What's Your Number? (Mark Mylod, 2011), and the charmingly playful The Sweetest Thing (Roger Kumble, 2002). There are many things to like in Bridesmaids, but it does still lumber along with the same old Apatowesque narrative bloat that infects a lot of mainstream US comedy. But The Sweetest Thing is breezy. It tries on different forms of genre and realism as though the entire movie were a fitting room. (There's even a scene that virtually literalizes this interpretation, if you've seen the movie.) Impromptu musical, buddy movie, romantic comedy: The Sweetest Thing is like a tour.
This scene is set-up like a sitcom or a cartoon. In a period where women are often encouraged to embrace their own objectification as a form of empowerment (see debates concerning Spring Breakers), it can be refreshing to see examples of women in comedic roles who can toy with the possibilities of sexual attraction without simply subordinating themselves to them. Here, Cameron Diaz goes looking for the lip gloss on the car floor, ass end up. The biker who passes by presumes some erotic activity, which Christina Applegate takes as an opportunity to have some fun. The biker, by the way, seems a reimagination of the Wolf from Tex Avery's 1943 Red Hot Riding Hood. His manner is animated in multiple senses of the word—he hops on his seat, he grinds his pelvis, he howls. When he crashes, he survives. In this brief sequence, the three actors are performing characters in three different “realities”: Diaz as innocent friend, biker as an energized onlooker, Applegate as ludic puppetmaster. There are three degrees of knowledge corresponding to these realities: Diaz knows nothing, the biker thinks he knows something, and Applegate actually knows something. It is simple, elegant, and what's more it is light and disposable. On to the next! Much of The Sweetest Thing is built around these connections where characters misread what they encounter, underlining the importance of context for constructing the meaning of a sound or an image.
Part of our on-going video series, The Last Place You Look