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Chick Flicks for the Pajiba Mindset

By The Pajibettes | PaEHba Day | November 18, 2009 |

By The Pajibettes | PaEHba Day | November 18, 2009 |

Chick flicks get a bad reputation. In essence, any film marketed towards women, starring large groups of famous women, gets labeled a chick flick, and it is judged by the harshest terms the name brings to mind. More often than not they’re the cheap, forgettable romcoms, the saccharine family dramas, or the “empowering” tragedies that are anything but. They’re vomited forth upon the world in the expectation that women will flock to them in giggling groups as they watch Kate Hudson or Katherine Heigl whine about not being able to get a date and keep up with their work. And, almost universally, they disgust and embarrass women who want a little bit more from their movie experience. They cheapen relationships between women, and promote lazy stereotypes about both women and men. They are, in a word, pure bullshit.

But every now and then the rare gem shines among the cheap plastic stuff. Every now and then a movie aimed at women, focused on women, does it right. Sometimes a movie will come along that appeals to the rest of us; the ones who know that women want more than just shoes, money and marriage. They feature women we want to root for, the bitches and the good ones, the mothers, sisters, friends, and daughters we all recognize. Some we even want to be like. They break through the cliches and stereotypes, some even using the same old formulas and turning them on their heads. These are the movies that make us glad to be kickass girls, the ones that get the relationships and the reality of being women just right. And yes, some of them might be sappy and cheesy, but we love the hell out of them anyway.

Each Pajibette picked their favorite chick flick or two, from all genres and all decades. We gathered a great, varied list and I hope some of you guys out there decide to look past the “lame, it’s about chicks” and check them out. And really, the best thing about all these movies is that they’re not just for the girls. — figgy


chick flick -- hedwig.jpgHedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Screenplay: John Cameron Mitchell

It’s not a stretch to call Hedwig and the Angry Inch a chick flick. This balls-tucked 2001 juggernaut of a rock musical somehow manages to lack a natural vagina for miles while packing a Double Duggarload of womanly joy and creationism.

John Cameron Mitchell attacks Stephen Trasks’s excellent songs like Evel Knievel in stilettos, and still manages to bring tenderness and uncommon storytelling to the only decent movie Michael Pitt will ever make. Any woman who has gotten naked for someone new can understand the bravery of the moment Hedwig sighs to Tommy’s question.

“What is That?”
Under her skirt.
“It’s what I have to work with.”

It’s what we all have to work with. We come into this world naked, and we leave in clothes someone else picked out. In the hours between, we have a choice. We can joyfully get naked with what God gave us, or even become our own Gods. —Stacy D

chick flick -- bring it on.jpgBring it On (2000)
Director: Peyton Reed
Screenplay: Jessica Bendinger

Bring It On tells the story of reigning National Cheerleading champions, the Rancho Carne Toros. Their leader, Torrance Shipman (Kristen Dunst), takes over as captain just before finding out that all of their winning routines created under cheerany of her predecessor were stolen from the East Compton Clovers, led by Isis (Gabrielle Union). Since the Clover’s plan on competing in the national tournament that year, the Toros need to create a new winning routine to keep their title. The film takes the typically female-dominated sport of cheerleading and showcases the truly athletic and competitive side of it (“We’re gymnasts too, except no beams, no bars, no vault.”). The Toros are the best in the country and their school’s pride. People go to football games to see them cheer, not to watch their football team lose. But it isn’t afraid to lovingly mock itself either (“Cheerleaders are dancers who have gone retarded”). Torrance and Isis are strong, determined leaders who just want to compete fairly and do right by their respective teams. While there is a small romantic element, it hardly drives the story or motivations of the characters. The cheerleaders themselves are anything but brainless bimbos, their verbal quips fly fast and their SAT-laden cheerisms are a cut above the mindless text-speak that dominates the sequels. The movie is a light, snarky little gem that combines teen comedy, sports, and chick flick elements into a fun way to spend 98 minutes. -jM

chick flick -- dangerous beauty.jpgDangerous Beauty (1998)
Director: Marshall
Screenplay: Jeannine Dominy

Dangerous Beauty is much more than a love story. Loosely based on the life of Veronica Franco, a Venitian courtesan in the late 16th century, the film depicts her transformation from a young girl in an declining noble family into a courtesan who mixed with the elite of Venetian society. Veronica Franco was known for her wit, satire and explicit sexuality in a society where most women were viewed as little more than shadowy, inconsequential creatures. The film plays on these aspects with comedy, innuendo and plenty of sex scenes, as well as the more romantic and tragic aspects of her impossible love for Marco Venier and her trial by the Inquisition.

What keeps me coming back to watch it over and over is that it has everything. It’s romantic, dramatic, funny, sad, passionate, triumphant, and sexy all at the same time. Watching Veronica match wits with noblemen in poetry contests or express her disdain with a cold turn of phrase never ceases to entertain me. Every time I watch it, I catch some new little moment that makes me smile or gasp. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Catherine McCormack and Rufus Sewell are so pretty. So very pretty. —Blonde Savant

chick flick -- shirley valentine.jpgShirley Valentine (1998)
Director: Lewis Gilber
Screenplay: Willy Russell

Ever have one of those moments where you stop and say, “How did I get here? Where did the person I used to be go?” Shirley Valentine is having one of those moments. In the movie adaptation of the Tony-nominated play, Shirley, a much put-upon middle-aged wife and mother of two, has been stuck in a rut of suffocating domesticity. One day, a friend invites her to travel to Greece on holiday, and she accepts, despite objections from her husband and children. Once she reaches Mykonos, her friend disappears with a fellow traveler, and Shirley is left to fend for herself … until she meets a Greek tavern owner who shows her that it is not too late for her to find herself and start again. This movie has all the hallmarks of a chick flick — a smart, funny woman who has lost her way, a sassy friend, a life-changing romance — but one thing elevates it into a classic: Pauline Collins’s fantastic performance. She turns what could have been a stereotypical portrayal of a housewife into someone with whom even I, watching the movie for the first time as a 16-year-old girl, could identify. And she reminds us all that it’s never too late to be ourselves and embrace life. —MelBivDevoe

chick flick -- ever aftere.jpgEver After (1998)
Director: Andy Tennant
Screenplay: Susannah Grant

Everyone knows the story of Cinderella. Poor girl is tortured by her evil stepmother. With the help of a fairy godmother she disguises herself as a rich woman and meets the Prince. Masked ball, glass slipper, happy ending, etc., etc.

This movie takes the fairy tale, sets it in France in the 16th century, adds some sparkles, a fantastic script and a perfect cast, and makes one of the most charmingly romantic movies out there. Drew Barrymore plays Danielle as a cheerful intellectual with a socialist streak, who first impresses the Prince (Dougray Scott) by quoting Thomas Moore. Their chemistry is the second best part of the movie, as they talk like a modern girl and guy in gorgeous settings and in pretty costumes. They’re helped along by a pretty random Leonardo da Vinci (yes, that one) as the weirdest fairy godmother of all time. But best of all in this parade of quirky romance is Dildoscar winner Anjelica Huston as the best evil stepmother that there ever was. She’s so perfectly, deliciously mean in the part that she easily steals every single scene she’s in. No one ever smirked so perfectly.

It’s impossible not to be won over by this movie. It has love, humor, gypsies, a costume ball, an intellectual heroine, great dialogue and, most important of all, it has Anjelica Huston. —figgy

chick flick -- the craft.jpgThe Craft (1996)
Director: Andrew Fleming
Screenplay: Peter Filardi

The Craft is an unconventional chick flick. It’s more of a supernatural thriller about a group of girls’ dalliance in witchcraft. It came out during that mid-’90s period when Wiccans were thrown into everything and it seemed like everyone was named Willow or Sage. Sarah Bailey (Robin Tunney) has just moved to L.A. with her dad after a failed suicide attempt and starts attending a Catholic high school. When she turns down the advances of Chris (Skeet Ulrich), the popular guy in school, he starts spreading rumors about letting her ride his broomstick. Ostracized by the rest of the school, Sarah falls in with a group of fellow outcasts who happen to practice witchcraft. Nancy (Fairuza Balk) is gothy and intimidating, Bonnie (Neve Campbell) is shy and covered in burns from the neck down, and Rochelle (Rachel True) is, well, the minority. But when these girls get together, they don’t share same pair of crusty Levis, they share spells and a common desire for retribution against those who have wronged them. The movie explores the girls’ shifting dynamics as they gain more and more power. They start innocently enough, but things soon spiral out of control. The real tension is between Sarah, who’s worried about the consequences of their actions, and Nancy, growing more menacing and unhinged as she obtains more power. It all culminates with a witchy catfight complete with a spell-off and a shit ton of insects and snakes. Fairuza Balk is excellent as the wild-eyed Nancy. She and the rest of the cast help to elevate this movie to something better than what anyone would expect from a movie about teenage witches. —jM

chick flick -- sense and sensibility.jpgSense and Sensibility (1995)
Director: Ang Lee
Screenplay: Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson earned an Academy Award for her adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel, which focuses on two sisters as different as night and day, who are yet completely devoted to one another. Thompson’s Elinor is sensible, patient, and self-sacrificing, while Kate Winslet’s Marianne is impulsive and recklessly passionate. Throughout the sisters’ trials, the film skewers the greedy, the elitist, cads, and frenemies (apparently they existed in Austen’s day, too) with shrewd insight and acerbic wit. On the other side of the coin, the movie celebrates patience, forgiveness, integrity, genuine friendship, and unconditional love. Most refreshingly, the film makers understand that love is not about the Grand Sweeping Gesture, nor is it about making yourself over to please the other person (though sometimes a bit of growing up helps). Rather, it is a meeting of the hearts and minds, strengthened over time with patience, faith, and understanding. Writers responsible for the likes of 27 Dresses and The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past would do well to take some lessons from Austen. In fact, we’d all be better off. —shinykate

chick flick -- muriel's wedding.jpgMuriel’s Wedding (1994)
Director: P.J Hogan
Screenplay: P.J. Hogan

While there’s no denying this is a chick flick, it’s more like a car wreck than a love story — and that’s my kind of chick flick. Muriel (Toni Collette) is that girl who thinks her life will start when she gets married, but she’s also a very odd, fucked up duck. I love that Muriel isn’t an adorable, America’s Sweetheart type, nor is she the gorgeous girl hiding behind a messy hairdo, nerdy glasses and bad clothes (well, she does wear bad clothes). She’s wholly bizarre, stays in her room listening to Abba and daydreaming; with her cheating, domineering father and dysfunctional family, who can blame her? But Muriel recognizes an opportunity (blank check) and she manages to get herself and her best friend the hell out of Porpoise Spit and on to a fabulous vacation. Muriel’s partner in crime, Rhonda, is played to perfection by a young (and totally go-gayable for) Rachel Griffiths. Rhonda takes on the mean girls, cheers on Muriel, and the two gals find their way through living on their own, dating, tragedy and friendship. With Abba providing the soundtrack there is plenty of cheese, a few serious moments and uproarious laughter. In the end, Muriel realizes her life without a man can be “as good as an Abba song; as good as Dancing Queen.”—Cindy

chick flick -- a league of their own.jpgA League of Their Own (1992)
Director: Penny Marshal
Screenplay: Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel

A League of their Own is about more than just baseball. It’s in essence the story of a group of vastly different women coming together to kick ass and show the world that they’ve got some talent. It’s about the relationships between them — like that of sisters Dottie and Kitt (played by Geena Davis and Lori Petty), or best friends Mae and Doris (Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell in their best performances). It’s about fathers and daughters, poor women and rich, ugly and pretty, men and women coming together to break through the strict boundaries that existed in the 1940s. It’s about using stereotypes to break through them, about using your talents to outdo expectations. It’s about Tom Hanks in one of his most hilarious performances to date — as the drunken loser of a team manager who very slowly comes to appreciate these women. And it’s about one of the best rants of all time: “Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING?! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” —figgy

chick flick -- passion fish.jpgPassion Fish (1992)
Director: John Sayles
Screenplay: John Sayles

Soap opera star May-Alice’s ( Mary McDonnell) career is cut short by a car accident, which leaves her paralyzed. She returns home to Louisiana to get out of the spotlight of New York City and to recover. May-Alice’s bitterness over her paralysis makes her a difficult patient and she goes through a series of home nurses, until she meets her match in Chantelle (Alfre Woodard). Chantelle has her own issues and her determination to keep the job means that she must stand up to May-Alice. The two women eventually form a tentative friendship and watching them get there is why you want to see this movie.
David Strathairn and Vondie Curtis-Hall provide romantic interests for our ladies, but this is no rom-com, so do not expect any traditional relationships. In addition to these gentlemen, various folks from both May-Alice’s and Chantelle’s past drop in and those visits bring humor, as well as insight into both characters.

Beyond the story, Passion Fish includes beautiful images of Louisiana that convey the languidness that can only be found in a place of such heat and humidity. The soundtrack, which is mostly Zydeco, helps to perfectly to ground the film in its location. —Tamatha

chick flick -- soapdish.jpgSoapdish (1991)
Director: Michael Hoffman
Screenplay: Robert Harling

Soap operas are often ridiculed for their overwrought dialogue (“Give me a little credit, will you? Credit for being someone who tried … to love you the only way she knew how!”) and absurd storylines (Brain fever! Homeless mutes! Dialogue for the previously decapitated!). But this sort of mania lends itself perfectly to Soapdish, a hilarious ode to daytime television and egotistical celebrities. Sally Field is at her weepy best as Celeste Talbert, the narcissistic yet fragile soap star coping with conniving producers, an ingénue niece, and the return of her on and off-screen lover Jeffrey Anderson. Kevin Kline portrays Jeffrey with mustached glee and washed-up charm; he’s the sort of character you want to punch in the face while riding like a pony. Yet the movie’s strength is its reliance on the rest of the cast, who steal every scene no matter how small their role. Cathy Moriarty, RDJ, Elizabeth Shue, Whoopi Goldberg, and Gary Marshall have such fun with their characters that it’s difficult to pick a favorite. Whether they’re explaining a one-man Hamlet show, bitching about Tweety Bird turbans, or running off set after the discovery of a SECRET, each packs every moment with a contagious joyful madness. —Julie

chick flick -- my girl.jpgMy Girl (1991)
Director: Howard Zieff
Screenplay: Laurice Elehwany

Vada Sultenfuss. Eleven years old, hypocondriac, obsessed with death, dealing with dead bodies in her house, a tuba-playing dad who’s more comfortable with corpses than living beings, a crush on her dreamy poetry teacher, a chicken bone stuck in her throat, and Thomas J., her best friend. Dare I say it? Is this … perfection? This not-a-girl, not-yet-a-teenager story will speak to women of all ages, if only for the fact that we all had to welcome hormones and reality at some point early in our lives. What makes this movie so special is that it captures that age when childhood is slipping away in a very organic way, showing the confusion, denial, hilarity, pain, and finally the acceptance that your life is changing and you’re never going back to that time when kissing a boy was odd and not romantic. Oh, and if you don’t cry with the line “he can’t see without his glasses!” then you need to return your ovaries. - Sofía

chick flick--swing shift.jpgSwing Shift (1984)
Director: Jonathan Demme
Screenplay: Nancy Dowd

This movie has all the hallmarks of a chick flick: a largely female cast, a romance, a sexual reawakening, and Goldie Hawn.

But I don’t find it sappy. I find it sweet and intriguing. It’s like peeking behind a Rosie the Riveter poster—all these women trying to find their way in a male-dominated environment, unsure of what to say or even how to look.

And Goldie’s romance, of course, is the antithesis of all the other men in the movie. Kurt Russell’s Lucky is cool, sensitive, sexy. He’s new and exciting and willing to accept women in their new roles. He’s THAT guy, the guy that’s too tempting to turn down. What breaks the chick flick formula is the fact that Goldie doesn’t choose Lucky in the end. Her husband returns from the war and she stays. They choose to reconnect as the new people they’ve each become. To me, that is the most interesting aspect of the movie, and a more realistic, heartfelt approach. It’s not a a windswept happy ending, but it’s a better one. —myysharona

chick flick -- auntie mame.jpgAuntie Mame (1958)
Director: Morton DaCosta
Screenplay: Betty Comden and Adolph Green

Rosalind Russell stars as “Auntie Mame,” a wealthy, eccentric, single lady, but there’s no mistaking her for an Old Maid. She’s exuberant, vibrant, quick-witted, flashy, flighty, charming, and wacky, and she’s surrounded herself with a cabal of close friends who share her sensibilities.

When her stuffy and wealthy brother dies unexpectedly, Mame becomes the guardian of her young nephew Patrick. She has physical custody, but his trustee controls decisions about his education and upbringing. Mame instantly falls head-over-heels in love with Patrick and endeavors to raise him to appreciate anything and everything in life that interests him; no limitations, no social constraints, no prejudices and no snobbishness - nothing like his father or the uptight bigots who surround him.

She never compromises her principles, never depends on a man to take care of her and always puts the well-being and happiness of her young charge and created family of friends and servants above any societal restrictions. She raised her nephew, took care of her friends, wrote a book, traveled, challenged the wealthy ignoramuses who strive to keep “those people” out of the neighborhood, always spoke her mind and above all had FUN! She didn’t change herself to land a man and she was the most non-judgmental free spirit around. —Lainey

chick flick -- all about eve.jpgAll About Eve (1950)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Joseph L. Makiewicz

“Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Bette Davis, at her scenery-chewing finest, plays “aging” stage star Margo Channing, who’s just turned 40 (the horror!); Anne Baxter plays the ingénue Eve Harrington, single-white-female-ing Margo’s career, and her life, in this terrific 1950 classic. Eve ingratiates herself with and secures a place amongst Margo’s famous friends, the same friends who doubt Margo’s suspicions of Eve trying to usurp her place on-stage and off. Of course, as it turns out, Margo is right all along, and Eve gets her comeuppance in the end.

Naturally, the best part of the film is Davis, imperiously sweeping through sets in her fantastic gowns and suits, in fantastic voice. Baxter is superb as the sweet ingénue with an ice-cold center, and Celeste Holm is lovely as Margo’s friend Karen. The sets and costumes are glamorous and fabulous, everything a girl could want from a chick flick. And then there’s George Sanders’ Addison DeWitt, a delight as Margo’s cynical critic friend, snarking all over the place. More importantly, it’s a great meditation on women and the difficulty of aging, and even more so on women’s relationships with each other, how we manipulate one another, and how it defeats us in the long run. —Anna Von Beaverpuppet

chick flick -- mike leigh happy go lucky.jpgThe Mike Leigh Friendship Trilogy
Secrets and Lies (1996), Career Girls (1997) and Happy Go Lucky (2008)

Nobody in film portrays friendship between women more authentically or beautifully than does Mike Leigh. The fact that he’s a male director is only surprising if you’re not familiar with his technique: Leigh brings together a troupe of actors and allows them to workshop their characters and stories for up to a year before filming. The aforementioned trilogy takes a visceral, yet comedic glimpse at the lives and relationships of a diverse set of women. In Secrets and Lies it’s the complicated meeting and reluctant bonding between a young, black urban optometrist and her birth mother: a white, wacked-out-of-her-mind, aging shut-in whose own family rejects her. In Career Girls, two estranged college roommates (now in their 30s) naively reunite and eventually stumble into a new friendship, highlighting the changes they’ve both gone through during the decade apart. Finally, Happy Go Lucky and its lead character’s unbridled optimism, is a testament to the intimacy and support that exists among sisters — both those with which we’re born and those we choose. Leighs films transcend gender; they are raw and insightful, always containing a stellar supporting cast of surprising and intriguing characters. —Celery

Honorable Mentions: Mean Girls, The First Wives Club, Steel Magnolias, 9 to 5, The Witches of Eastwick, The Legend of Billie Jean, Thelma and Louise, Ghost World, The Truth about Cats and Dogs, Dirty Dancing.

Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.

This post is part of Paheeba Day 2009. An explanation of Paheeba Day can be found in the Pajiba Dictionary.