My favourite quote about Katherine Heigl is on the cover of the 27 Dresses DVD:
'Katherine Heigl is the new Bridget Jones'.
What? So you're saying this real person is now a FICTIONAL character? How does that work?
But it's indicative of how sloppy a lot of thinking about chick-flicks can be. I'm a big fan of rom-coms - my friend at the screening last night accurately described my feelings thus: 'You LOVE this shit!' - but there's also a laziness with a lot of criticism surrounding them. Of course, so much of loving this genre is all about familiarity and feelgood. But that shouldn't stop basic things like realism coming into play.
The Ugly Truth plays big on familiarity. Once again (as in Knocked Up), Heigl is a TV producer and once again (as in 27 Dresses) we're meant to believe that despite her stunning looks and shiny, A-list styling, NO MAN WOULD EVER DATE HER.
Such a premise is classic Sandra Bullock. Remember in Miss Congeniality when her cop colleagues photo-shopped a bikini onto a picture of her? Judging by their reaction, this was meant to be THE MOST DISGUSTING IDEA EVER. Balls. Sandy may not be Megan 'The' Fox but she's still all Hollywood glam. Sticking her in a few chunky knits and giving her a cat doesn't make her a minger.
Still, The Ugly Truth travels this well-worn route and we're meant to go with it. After that, the cliches come thick and fast:
1. The love/hate relationship. Heigl and her new sexist presenter (Gerard Butler) hate each other at first but slowly the ice melts. WELL, WHO'D HAVE GUESSED.
2. The playing out of that relationship in front of an audience. The setting of a live television studio offers characters the chance to, out of the blue, reveal their true feelings, watched by thousands of wooping and clapping viewers in their living rooms. Stressed TV execs in the gallery take 'phonecalls, saying things like: 'That was corporate on the line! They love it!' Seriously, it's like Anchorman never happened. THIS IS NOT HOW TV WORKS.
3. The Bedingfield. Has some research been done that says chick-flick consumers are all obsessed with Natasha Bedingfield? That's the only thing that could explain her warbling presence on the soundtracks of...**deep breath**...Miss Congeniality 2, Sisterhood Of The Travelling Pants, 27 Dresses, Bride Wars, Confessions Of A Shopaholic and now The Ugly Truth.
I know, like I said, chick-flicks are all about a warm, familiar feeling. But there's a difference between cleverly twisting our expectations (Judd Apatow's speciality) and just churning out the same ol' cack. I predict in interviews Kat and Gerry will say stuff like 'it's a movie like those old Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy films' which it categorically ISN'T. You might as well say 'Prisoner: Cell Block H' is like The Shawshank Redemption.
The Ugly Truth does attempt to stamp its own personality on things by being a bit dirtier. The funniest moment 'comes' when Heigl's character puts on a pair of vibrating knickers (seriously). It's actually not as bad as it sounds because KH really is very good at ditzy rom-com, despite her Exec Prodcuer credit for this film suggesting she's anything but flaky. Gerry Butler and his weird, forced American accent on the other hand...
The Ugly Truth is undemanding and that's no bad thing. It's not that terrible. But as a lover of this genre, I'm getting so tired of lazy portrayals (often of the media) that bear no relation to real life. Film-makers seem to think that's okay because 'hey, it's only a chick flick' (similar things are often said about kids' movies).
But why be half-hearted? Why just coast along? A great rom-com can tick all the boxes you expect (incl. Bedingfield) but can also take us to new places along the way. Meryl Streep's turn in The Devil Wears Prada was a classic of understated mystery. I've watched that film UMPTEEN times and still haven't entirely worked her out. Reese Witherspoon's performance in Legally Blonde was a masterpiece of the tongue-in-cheek, an acting lesson in sending-up a cultural type, making someone utterly vacuous totally lovable. Somehow, The Ugly Truth is directed by the same guy.
And then there was Renee Z in Bridget Jones' Diary, brutally sticking two fingers up to cliche at the same time as being, hopelessly, beautifully romantic, thanks to some cheekily acerbic Richard Curtis one-liners. God bless you Bridget. She's the old Katherine Heigl, don't ya know...
The Ugly Truth is out 7th August.