It’s been a long journey from cinema to my brain, but I finally watched 27 Dresses.
Katherine Heigl is an odd figure for me. She’s a well-known individual in certain circles, starring in only two films that I would consider memorable, but everyone knows who she is due to her reputation for being an on-set diva. It basically destroyed her career, but it doesn’t destroy the work she did for Judd Apatow in Knocked Up. That was where she broke onto the scene, but after that she spent a brief amount of time as a rom-com queen (Knocked Up is a rom-com, fight me) and she delivered one performance that I would state has become a legendary entry in the canon of romantic comedies.
It ain’t no When Harry Met Sally, but 27 Dresses is truly charming.
Anne Fletcher’s 2008 film follows Jane Nichols (Katherine Heigl), a wedding-obsessed nutjob that is so uptight I’m afraid she’ll become a black hole for most of the story. She’s constantly a bridesmaid and a doormat, taking on wedding-related tasks so that she can live vicariously through these other women. The hall closet of her apartment is basically exploding with bridesmaid dresses, most of which are ugly as sin. She’s in love with her boss, George No-Last-Name-Listed (Edward Burns), but the guy falls for her shallow and annoying sister Tess (Malin Akerman). When she meets wedding columnist Kevin Malcolm Doyle (James Marsden), she starts learning to have fun and embrace her quirks while standing up for herself. Judy Greer plays her sassy best friend, Casey, who enters this movie hoping to get drunk and bang a groomsman and is later shown to have been successful. Casey also apparently has a two-day sex marathon with the guy and then goes to work without changing or, if I heard right, showering.
This thing is by the numbers and makes no apologies for it. Romantic comedies are a dead genre, one that is currently on Netflix life-support and something I only began to appreciate recently. It’s odd, this mid-range film that is just about pretty people falling in love with each other. Jane is meant to be mousy and non-descript, but Heigl is neither of those things and it left me chuckling each time she tried to be a hot mess. Marsden, he of the cool X-Men laser powers, got his shot to be a romantic lead and I’m bummed that this was the last time anyone would truly be given this shot.. The guy’s charming, his jawline is solid enough to build a house on, and creates enough dork energy that he could fill a hall at Comic-Con.
I only came to the rom-com recently. It’s not a genre I had a lot of respect for, but I’ve been making headway on that recently and I’ve got a good hold on it now. The tropes are beaten to death, but they’re fun when played right and Anne Fletcher knows her instrument. In a film that requires an uptight woman, a loose and fun-loving guy, and at least one outfit montage, she makes everything seem comforting instead of fresh. Sometimes I want to try something new and weird, but here and there I just want a nice bowl of chili with cornbread that’s cooked perfectly. This is where 27 Dresses comes in. It’s not a Nora Ephron comedy or something from Nancy Meyers, but I think Fletcher might be the last of her kind that got to work on the scene with this level of confidence and creativity. And I mean that with all sincerity! So many romantic comedies contain a dress-up montage, but have you ever seen one that’s all ugly bridesmaid dresses? It’s ridiculously cute and I was cracking up despite myself.
This isn’t so much a work of brilliant innovation as it is a tune we’ve heard a thousand times played to perfection. Do you get pissed when “Sweet Caroline” comes on? No, you join in with the other 100+ people at the bar and shout “bah bah bah” like your lungs will give out. 27 Dresses is like that. Something about it is cute, soothing, and like a nice hit of dopamine right before being lulled into a deep sleep. It was like a nice sunny afternoon, just crisp enough to have a cup of hot tea and yet not cold enough for more than a nice sweater. I dig it, and I hope we get a return to this kind of film at some point. I’m feeling nostalgic for a genre I didn’t partake of until it was dead, and that’s my mistake.