Should I Watch..? 27 Dresses
What's the big deal?
27 Dresses is a romantic comedy film released in 2008 and was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, the screenwriter behind The Devil Wears Prada. The film is centred on office worker Jane who has been a bridesmaid 27 times and is forced to plan the 28th wedding between her sister Tess and her boss George, whom Jane secretly loves. Directed by Anne Fletcher, the film received mixed reviews on release but it was hugely successful among female viewers with studies showing that some 75% of the film's audience was female. It went on to take over $160 million worldwide but has been seen as symptomatic of the chick-flick roles lead actress Katherine Heigl became associated with and the subsequent struggle of her movie career.
What's it about?
Jane Nichols is everyone's best friend and an unintended consequence of this is that she has been a bridesmaid 27 times. Attending her most recent, she bumps into journalist Kevin Doyle and shares a drunken taxi ride home with him despite their disagreements over the value of marriage. However, he finds her Filofax as she retires for the night. The next day, Jane is determined to tell her boss George how she feels about him but is staggered to find George besotted instead with Jane's sister Tess, who plays along with his feelings to get him to like her. Jane misses her opportunity and is stunned when Tess and George announce their engagement - and want Jane to help plan the wedding.
Going along as she always does, Jane bumps into Kevin once again who has decided to write a story about the perpetual bridesmaid - much to Jane's annoyance. Can Jane bury her feelings long enough to see Tess and George get married and can she fight her growing attraction to Kevin, whose ignoble intentions seem to deliberately wind Jane up?
Aline Brosh McKenna
Release Date (UK)
27th March, 2008
What's to like?
Female viewers crying out for something that doesn't have explosions, car chases and superheroes will be delighted to find 27 Dresses devoid of all of these things. Indeed, my wife was won over by the trailer and asked to see this at the cinema and like a fool, I agreed. Sure enough, there are a couple of amusing moments such as the discussion about the lyrics in Elton John's Bennie And The Jets. But mostly, the film is about Heigl's character who soon learns the error of her ways - by neglecting your own needs in order to be popular with others, you inevitably lose the things you love. You've got to admit, that's pretty deep for an otherwise forgettable rom-com.
Heigl smiles and pouts her pretty head off through the movie while Marsden has little to do besides look handsome in a weird "smug-but-not-showing-off" kind of way. Far more interesting to me was Malin Åkerman who once again suggests that she has more to offer than these rent-a-part pieces in rom-coms. The film feels like an extended episode of Sex and The City with beautiful people struggling with their first-world problems. But then again, I'm not the target audience for this movie - my wife is.
- During the scene in the bar, a Josh Kelley song can be heard in the background. In real life, Kelley is married to Katherine Heigl.
- The wardrobe department reportedly had to redesign many of the infamous bridesmaids dresses for Heigl's character because they looked too good on the actress. Designing dresses to look bad took far more effort than they first supposed.
- In the film, Åkerman plays Heigl's younger sister by several years. In real-life, Heigl is actually a few months younger than Åkerman.
What's not to like?
Trouble is, she didn't like it either! Expecting a feel-good rom-com, what we got instead was a bunch of unlikeable people completely failing to engage with us in the audience. There wasn't any genuine feelings of romance - Heigl and Marsden had as much chemistry as a turkey has with Christmas - and worse, hardly any laughs to be had at all. At no point did I even raise a smile and my wife broadly felt the same. It's simply too implausible to take seriously.
The film also failed to deliver any surprises or deviation from the well-worn rom-com formula and the story doesn't exactly make it a secret which way it's going to go next. It doesn't even stop to ask itself questions like why this sad-sack of a woman is so obsessed with getting married but can't even tell the object of her affection her feelings - or even dispose of the hideous dresses taking up valuable wardrobe space. Like a lot of these implausible rom-coms like The Bounty Hunter or The Accidental Husband, the film exists in its own microcosm where it only has to deal in its own logic and nothing like reality.
Should I watch it?
Only if you want to see why I really don't like films like this - 27 Dresses perfectly encapsulates all of my least favourite things and puts them into one pretty but underwhelming package. Heigl needed to take a leaf from Åkerman's book (she would go on to play Silk Spectre II in Watchmen the following year) and try to reach for roles a bit more demanding than this lightweight fluff. As it is, it's perfectly serviceable chick-flick material but don't expect me to be singing its praises in future.
Great For: single women, forgiving rom-com fans, bridezillas
Not So Great For: husbands, boyfriends, men of all ages
What else should I watch?
There are far too many rom-coms released and many of these are unquestionably awful. The Accidental Husband is so moronic that I felt insulted and while Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler make an attractive couple in The Bounty Hunter, it couldn't be more by-the-numbers if it tried - which it probably did. Other misfires include the Drew Barrymore vehicle Never Been Kissed, the Sandra Bullock disaster All About Steve and the sickeningly cloying Valentine's Day which is so saccharine, it would probably poop rainbows.
Thankfully, there are diamonds to be found in the rough like Notting Hill which has an equally unlikely premise but genuine performances from rom-com stalwarts Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Love, Actually just about manages to escape its dizzying blend of Christmas lights and soppy subplots with an extremely talented ensemble (also featuring Hugh Grant!) while Sleepless In Seattle is the sort of timeless masterpiece they just don't make any more, although it is a bit light on the comedy. One last thing - Heigl has had more than her fair share of rom-com disasters like this and The Ugly Truth so unless you hear otherwise, stay away.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox