Monday 18 February 2019

What makes a chick flick click

Patrick Swayze in a tight black vest, sizzling dance scenes, sing-along music - yes, the ultimate chick flick, 'Dirty Dancing', is back. SARAH WEBB shares her guilty celluloid pleasures

What are chick flicks? They're films you can watch over and over again without getting bored; comforting films with a happy ending, that complement huge tubs of ice cream or boxes of chocolates, and lift your spirits even on the bleakest February day.

When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and Bridget Jones's Diary are obvious chick flicks, as is Dirty Dancing, soon to be rereleased on DVD to mark the 20th anniversary of its premiere. And what about films featuring strong, subversive women? They're not classic romantic comedies, but do have strong girl appeal.

So what makes the perfect chick flick? I asked 30 women to list their five favourite movies in this genre.

Author Sheila O'Flanagan suggested Aliens for its strong female heroine and the love scene with a cat (the mind boggles!).

Actor and fellow writer, Claudia Carroll picked the classic saga Gone with the Wind, followed by the wonderfully atmospheric Rebecca. Columnist and girl about town, Marisa Mackle chose Pretty Woman and The Devil Wears Prada.

Tina Reilly suggested any film with Johnny Depp in it, as "he does it for me", and many women suggested the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice - "the one with Colin Firth in the wet shirt". Many chose 1991's Thelma and Louise, a stirring tale of friendship with the added bonus of Brad Pitt's pecs.

Why do women like chick flicks? Clare Dowling, Fair City script writer and author, has a theory. "I think women like chick flicks because we like to see how other people manage their relationships. How do you know if you've met the right person? How do you make it work? There's nothing nicer to watch than a really good love story."

Based on my own favourite chick flicks ( When Harry Met Sally and Steel Magnolias) and those selected by my 30 closest friends (ahem!), here it is - my definitive list of the perfect ingredients for a winning chick flick:

The everywoman heroine First of all you must have the right heroine: an everywoman that most women can identify with, a woman with as many flaws as the rest of us, who eats chocolate in bed, gets dumped by her boyfriend, but still manages to conquer all by the end of the film. A strong, feisty heroine is good; but a kind and honest one who's a good friend is even better. If she can get one up on the nasty girls/boys in the film, using her wit and charm, a la Clueless, better again.

And the heroine must learn something during her journey. Andy in The Devil Wears Prada discovers that being top of the fashion pecking order doesn't make you happy; Baby in Dirty Dancing learns how to stand up for herself and how to dance, too. Added bonus!

Cute hero Then comes the hero. Let's not beat around the bush - he has to be cute, cute, cute. But not necessarily in a conventional way. Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and his floppy hair may do it for some, but for others it's Colin Firth, Christian Slater, Rob Lowe, Johnny Depp or, yes, even Jack Nicholson.

A bad boy with a good heart is great, like Swayze in Dirty Dancing. And if he also happens to have a good body, even better. Tom Hanks is an unlikely romantic hero but his star turn as distraught widower in Sleepless in Seattle could melt even the most hardened, cynical heart.

A cast of friends (and I don't mean the sitcom) Mix in one, or even better a whole slew of best friends, a la Four Weddings or St Elmo's Fire. Beaches deals with the close friendship between the over-the-top, brassy CC Bloom (Bette Midler) and the classy Hillary (Barbara Hershey), and manages to be tender and funny while staying just the right side of mawkish. Thelma and Louise is the ultimate girls' road movie but it's the close friendship between the two women that makes for the drama

Lights, cameras, tissues... the top five

When Harry Met Sally, 1989 Written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner, it's full of clever dialogue and 'will they, won't they?' plot teasers. And who can forget Meg Ryan's fake orgasm, which made Katz's Deli in Manhattan famous? As the lady said,"I'm having what she's having!"

Pretty Woman, 1990 A guilty pleasure if ever there was one! Despite its rather rose-tinted view of the sex industry, it's a classic Cinderella tale. Richard Gere and Julia Roberts are perfectly cast, the Mr Big and Carrie of their day. It won Roberts an Academy Award nomination for her sassy portray of Vivian Ward, the hooker with a heart.

While You Were Sleeping, 1995 An interesting one, as it's often overlooked. A sweet, feelgood film about loneliness, it stars Sandra Bullock as a fare collector on the Chicago elevated railway. Also featuring Bill Pullman, it's highly watchable and very romantic.

Bridget Jones's Diary, 2001 Based on the book of the same name by Helen Fielding (heralded by some as the first ever chick lit novel, which is nonsense as we all know our own Marian Keyes got there years earlier). Bridget gets everything wrong, including her choice in men. Of course there's a happy ending. Huge nods to the Austen classic, 'Pride and Prejudice', which also rated highly on the poll.

Sleepless in Seattle, 1993 Meg Ryan and Nora Ephron team up again, this time with Tom Hanks in the male lead. Essentially a reworking of the 1957 romantic classic 'An Affair To Remember', Meg plays Annie, a journalist from Baltimore who is engaged to the mild-mannered Walter (Bill Pullman again!). She hears a widower called Sam on the radio, becomes obsessed with him and, with a lot of help from Sam's eight-year-old son Jonah, travels to Seattle to find him. What happens next is one of the most sweet chick flick endings ever.

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