romcoms, funny non-jews and bruce springsteen (again)

by anzya

A while ago I blogged about Bruce Springsteen and how us Jews, understandably so,  like to claim him as one of their own. Another couple of famous people whom I’ve often heard claimed as part of the tribe are both members of the comedy duo  Tina Fey and Steve Carell, who starred in Date Night which came out earlier this year. Sadly, though both are so frigging funny (unfortunately we can’t lay claim to ALL the funny ones, sigh…) and have vaguely, kind of,  Semitic features… neither are yids. Indeed, besides Mark Wahlberg’s criminally attractive Israeli supermodel girlfriend there was nothing particularly Jewish about this movie. But, I’m still going to flog it here, because a friend has recently written a fantastic article about it on the Screening Liberally blog.

Like the blogger, I have to admit that I too kept quiet about how much I enjoyed this film. It’s a sad fact that romcoms must be harboured as a secret guilty pleasure when your social circle consists of queer feminist lefty artsy intellectual types.  But in this piece, Bec Zajac challenges such a narrow view of the much maligned, but misunderstood romcom genre. Particularly as its played out in Date Night:

Unlike your standard Megryan-esque flick, where the women and men often play very defined gendered roles, Date Night, portrays the husband and wife in a more gender-fluid fashion. Usually female leads in romantic comedies fit into one of three categories: the uptight workaholic who, though they are totally high-achieving at work, seem unable to get a date (think Sandra Bullock in The Proposal); the crazy, stalker type (think Sandra Bullock in All About Steve); or the really clumsy, hippie, who keeps being referred to as “dowdy,” even though she is drop-dead gorgeous (think Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice). Tina Fey’s Clare Foster is none of these. Instead she plays a ballsy, confident woman who works hard, but is able to see the humor in her job–as a real estate agent selling houses during the worst housing crisis ever. She has time for kids and friends but is not portrayed as a superwoman…  She loves Phil, but, in her flirtation with the infamous, eternally shirtless Mark Wahlberg, shows her sexuality to be about more than just her marriage.

Likewise, unlike the usual studly, macho man portrayed in romcoms, who seems permanently calm, detached, and philandering, Carrell’s Phil is vulnerable in a way I found refreshing. He takes the initiative himself but also defers to Clare to make decisions He clearly makes an effort to impress Clare, and worries about not being good enough just as much, if not more than she does. And when he notices Clare flirting, he’s able to poke fun at it.

So if you’ve avoided this film out of fear that your lefty hippy guilt-inducing friends would look down at you, send them a link to this article, and sit down with some popcorn to enjoy, if not the entire Sandra Bullock collection, to this gem of a romcom at least.