Common sense may suggest that a global recession and an unemployment rate of near ten percent would likely wreak havoc at the box office – but no, not true. In fact, there is evidence that suggests quite the opposite, that financial hardship actually drives audiences into movie theatres in droves. Since Hollywood realized this bit of unintuitive logic, industry bigwigs have learned to exploit it; by appealing to a depressed and fiscally squeezed audience’s desire for escape, they turn the cinema into an oasis of stability. Grandiose and half-witted escapades like Paul Blart: Mall Cop or hope-cum-nausea-inspiring yarns like The Blind Side earn spectacular profits for this very reason, despite their obvious lack of cinematic quality.

Packing celebrities into a film like sardines into a tin is yet another strategy that Hollywood has often employed in an effort to attract an economically forlorn viewership. It is that very strategy You Again attempts to capitalize on with its all-star cast of Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristen Bell, Odette Yustman, Victor Garber and Betty White – all very familiar names (except for Yustman, a newcomer who fulfills the role of ‘hot chick,’ a wildcard attempt at attracting the ‘bro’ demographic to a genre that would normally have them running in the opposite direction).

Like other films aimed at relieving the somber masses this slapstick romcom is bursting with easy to understand comedy at the severe cost of quality. Of laughs, there are plenty, and Bell’s all stops go approach to physical humor pays off. Bell plays Marni, a high school dweeb turned sexy public relations executive. The make-up crew responsible for Bell’s transformation deserves ample praise; pimpled, greasy and bespectacled, her bumbling, stuttering younger self is unrecognizable from her glimmeringly lovely elder iteration. Early in the film, we learn that her success was a direct result of her traumatic high school experience; bullied relentlessly by the sadistic and narcissistic cheerleading archetype Joanna (Yustman), Marni became pathologically driven to succeed post-high school.

The thrust of the plot takes place years after high school. Marni has moved past her difficult schooling days and found a sense of confidence in the professional workplace – a move that seemed, for a hot second, to celebrate a feminist conceptualization of womanhood. Marni is initially proud to discover how successful she has become in comparison to the ex-bully turned nurse, Joanna. Indeed, Marni’s success is mirrored and reaffirmed by the success of Ramona (Weaver), Joanna’s aunt who in an ironic twist was bullied by the Marni’s mother, Gail (Curtis), in their high school days. Ramona has now become a tremendously successful real-estate mogul, while her once prom queen nemesis who tapped out at motherhood.


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At the outset, the success scale seems to favor the mold-breaking entrepreneurial women, but as the film progresses and those women eventually break down into hysterics of envy, it is revealed that they are the ones who are lacking. Joanna’s sweet homemaker nature, doing the stereotypically tender ‘women’s work’ of helping others, shames Marni, and Ramona confesses her unhappiness in comparison to Gail’s at failing to attach herself to a man after a series of divorces. Women, the message would seem to say, will never be truly happy unless they stay in the kitchen and do what is expected of them. This tremendously offensive retrograde perspective is only exacerbated by the ugly depiction of ‘those crazy women’ that unfolds as the plot breaks down into a cat-fighting frenzy. And when you compare the film’s characterization of crazed women to its depiction of ever cool, ever rational, ever commanding men, the insult to feminism is complete. In one poignant scene, you have Marni and her mother sitting before Mark (Garber), the man of the family, and from his God-favored position, he lectures the two of them about their inappropriate, commotion-causing behavior, putting them properly in their place – egad, please excuse me while I reset my clock 100 years.

This film follows in suite with a series of similar movies that have emerged recently, films that flirt with the idea of female empowerment but that ultimately abandon their progressive bent in favor of tried and true tropes of crazy, inane women who will forever befuddle men with their unreasonable dramatics. They abound: The Women, Bride Wars and Sex and the City 1 and 2, to name a few. Why can’t any of these films about female empowerment follow through? We see women in high powered jobs, women going out on their own in the world, women taking control of their sex life. But in the end, every single one retreats back to a vision of women as insane, trouble making nincompoops who are better off leashed to some supremely rational man.

Perhaps Hollywood is well intentioned, perhaps they would love to be progressive. Perhaps that’s why they start out these films with a forward-looking mindset, but when it comes down to it, they are still too cowardly to risk loosing the audience. But then again, when their audience is primarily women, who are they afraid of confronting?

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