Welcome to Friday Five, a new column dedicated to all things pop culture. Every week, we’ll put together five recommendations for you from the worlds of film, television, books and music, each curated to a different theme.
Ah, the chick flick. The words no doubt conjure images of clumsy architects, stammering Englishmen and witty bon mots. But there’s more to a chick flick than watching Hugh Grant woo Julia Roberts for the 47th time in Notting Hill.
Some of the following films are traditional romantic comedies, some you might not even think of as chick flicks, but they all have one thing in common: centering female characters and providing them with the narrative arcs and development they deserve. So, if you’re tired of hearing “Pretty Woman” or have grown a little bored with petticoats and picturesque picnics, here are five underrated chick flicks you may not have seen or are worth a second look.
- Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
Lorelai (Marilyn Monroe) and Dorothy (Jane Russell) set off on a cross-Atlantic voyage, courtesy of Lorelai’s smitten and wealthy fiancé. During the voyage, the two showgirls have to navigate private detectives, stolen tiaras, precocious eight-year-olds and the occasional Olympic-level athlete.
It sounds strange to label such a well-known film “underrated,” but truthfully, Gentleman Prefer Blondes rarely makes it onto lists of the best chick flicks, and it’s honestly a shame. Despite some of the unavoidable dating such an old film runs into, it holds up rather well. The two leads play excellently off each other, with Russell’s witty cynicism balanced by Monroe’s materialistic idealism. And though “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” holds pride of place as an undeniably iconic scene, Russell’s Dorothy absolutely walks away with the MVP award, whether she’s ogling barely-clad male gymnasts or pulling off a pitch-perfect Marilyn Monroe impression. With its embrace of the female gaze and unabashedly sexual heroines, this is one film that deserves a re-watch.
- The Cutting Edge (1992)
A former ice hockey player (D.B. Sweeney) is sidelined by an injury but is so desperate to get back into the rink, he agrees to partner up with a talented but difficult figure skater (Moira Kelly) in order to compete in the Olympic pairs competition.
It’s a completely absurd premise, but The Cutting Edge benefits from leaning into it, balancing its romantic sincerity with a breezy script and a great supporting cast, including Roy Dotrice and a pre-Lost Terry O’Quinn. Though it had a big following in the ‘90’s (enough to warrant three (!) direct-to-video sequels), the film has become a little forgotten over time, but absolutely deserves a second or third viewing, especially for fans of series like Yuri!!! on Ice or films like Blades of Glory. And though the movie is told from Sweeney’s perspective, it works to make Kelly an equal partner-in-crime (partner-in-pairs?), giving both solid character arcs.
- Ginger Snaps (2000)
Two morbid sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger (Katharine Isabelle), have their familial bond put to the test after Ginger finally gets her period and starts her long-delayed adolescence. Oh, and she’s also turning into a werewolf.
“Chick flick” isn’t exactly synonymous with “horror film,” but Ginger Snaps is just as much an exploration of female puberty and teenage sexuality as any other coming-of-age movie, even if its view of them is considerably more twisted. Although most teenagers don’t experience as extreme a change as Ginger’s slow transformation into a monster, the movie’s use of werewolves works as a way to explore very ordinary adolescent fears of confusing change versus their own, newly-awakened desires. Add to that two great performances by its leads and some awesome werewolf make-up, and you’ve got a fantastic, if atypical, girls-night-in film.
- Jennifer’s Body (2007)
Two high schoolers, nerdy Needy (Amada Seyfried) and cheerleader Jennifer (Meghan Fox), find their friendship forever changed after a botched human sacrifice ends with Jennifer possessed by a demon, giving new meaning to the term “man-eater.”
A horror film written, directed and intended for women but unfortunately marketed toward 14-year-old boys, Jennifer’s Body flopped when it was first released. However, it has experienced a bit of reassessment in the last decade, especially in the LGBT community, and should get a closer look for its examination of codependency, toxic relationships and queer sexuality. The movie was relatively early in Seyfriend’s career, and she gives a typically great performance, but Fox is the real revelation here, showing what she’s capable of doing if she’s given a script that treats her like a person instead of a sex object. If Ginger Snaps is the dark side of family, Jennifer’s Body is the flipside of friendships gone bad, all while providing some gory and darkly funny sequences.
- Lost in Austen (2008)
Amanda (Jemima Rooper), a massive Jane Austen fan, suddenly finds herself transported back into the events of Pride and Prejudice, while Lizzie Bennet is trapped in modern-day London. As Amanda tries to navigate the events of the novel, she finds herself confronting some pre-conceived notions of her own.
Alright, so this one is a bit of a cheat, as it’s actually a miniseries, not a film. And though it’s hardly the first piece of successful fanfic set in Jane Austen’s mannered world, it is the one that most directly engages with and comments on the material. Amanda is a funny, engaging narrator, working to adapt to early nineteenth-century England and reconcile what she knows of the fictional characters with now very much alive flesh-and-blood people, many of whom are more complicated than she first assumes. A celebration of Austen’s work while unafraid to critique it, Lost in Austen doesn’t quite stick the landing, but boy, is it ever a fun ride to get there.
So, that’s the list, but what are your thoughts? What other chick flicks are out there that you think got unfairly ignored the first time around or are struggling in obscurity? Comment below and give us your thoughts!