Romantic comedies have been used as a basis for movies for most of the existence of the art form. The American public has taken to these films often propelling the actors popular in the genre to huge stardom. Without films like this Rock Hudson and Doris Day would not have been as famous as they were. For those younger people out there think Reese Witherspoon. Typically these films are light-hearted, ever so lightly risqué and fun to watch. Okay, they are usually chick flicks but guys, if you want to make points with your girlfriends or wives, learn to appreciate movies like this. While films of this sort where once the bread and butter of the major studios the trend lately has been for the big studios to devote the majority of their resources to big budget blockbusters. This leaves the noble romantic comedy to the independent filmmakers. This is a really good thing. The Indy writers and directors typically can concentrate on human emotions instead of what will make a fast buck at the box office. This is the case with the latest film from writer-director Marc Klein, ‘Suburban Girl.’ While the film has its flaws, it remains a solid entry into the genre. The film is now available in both DVD and Blu-ray formats from Image Entertainment.
Like so many recent romantic comedies the setting for this one is the urban, Upper East Side lives of yuppies. The influence of ‘Sex and the City’ and more recently ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is evident throughout the film. It would appear that the more privileged members of our society are now foddered for every other movie that comes along. As a lifelong New Yorker, I always enjoy seeing my city featured in a film. The thing is there is a lot more to the Big Apple than this one exclusive area. The film’s greatest drawback is characters that much of the audience will not be able to identify with fully. Whatever happened to a good old fashion blue-collar love story? There is precedence for this though. Many of the classic films of the genre dealt with the upper middle class or outright rich. This has to play into the fantasies of the audience wondering how the ‘other half’ lives and loves. In this film, Klein takes the fantasy and nicely grounds it to create a jocular film that is easygoing entertainment.
Brett Eisenberg (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is young, pretty and intelligent. Her ambition is to make it in the fast-paced world of publishing. To further that goal she has a job as an associate editor for a publishing company, Gilbert, and Stern, located in the prestigious Upper East Side of Manhattan. Her days and most nights are filled with Brett going over an endless stream of low-level manuscripts searching for errors. In her boredom she finds herself doodling over the author’s words. When she passes a bookstore one evening, she stops to replace the title featured in the window with one that she helped to edit. She is caught by the store clerk who assures her that the publisher of the book she is replacing, Archie Knox, inspects the window displays of all the books his company publishes and if he finds her ‘insignificant’ in place of one of his she will be editing ‘Teletubby’ books for the rest of her career. Her best friend is Chloe (Maggie Grace) a free-spirited and somewhat wild young woman. The only other people in Brett’s life are her father Robert (James Naughton) with whom she has prolonged phone conversations and her college boyfriend, Jed Hanson (Chris Carmack) who is constantly traveling out of town for work. Chloe is upset that Brett left her waiting in front of a library. When Brett reminded her that back in school she loved libraries, it turns out that was because Chloe had sex in one. They are there for a literary presentation by one of Archie’s authors, but Brett seems more interested in Knox. Brett stops off for the book signing afterward, and Knox wastes no time in flirting with her. They immediately hit it off and go for dinner after a couple of drinks at the reception. Even though he is old enough to be her father, there seems to be no tension between the newly developing couple. Initially, Brett is reluctant to date Archie, but soon the trepidation melts away.
The next day Brett is told to go to her boss’ office. There she meets Faye Faulkner (Vanessa Branch) the ravenously beautiful new boss. The previous boss was fired for the outdated idea of finding the next great American author. Faye has radically new ideas for the company. Brett learns from a co-worker Katie (Marin Ireland) that Faye has a terrible reputation as a boss. Katie had a friend who worked under her who said she would rather work for al-Qaida. Life begins to get worse for Brett when Faye’s assistant takes over her office leaving Brett to work in a tiny cubical. Things are a bit rough at first with Brett and Archie. He can’t have candy because he has diabetes and can’t drink because he is an alcoholic. Yes, he has issues. Still, he is charming, sophisticated and intelligent, just what Brett feels she needs in her life instead of an always absent boyfriend. In one way they are a perfect couple. She has unresolved father issues, and he has lingered in daughter issues. Any couple’s therapist would love to get a hold of this pair. When Jed reappears, it doesn’t take long before she finds an excuse to dump him. Her father comes for a visit to cheer her up but finds Brett happier than he thought she would be. Dad is s little shocked by his age. The thing is Archie is there for her. When Faye dumps a huge amount of work on Brett on the weekend of her first gets away with Archie, he is not only understanding, but he helps her out.
This is a delightful little flick. It is not great and will never appear on any top ten lists or win any awards, but it does what a romantic comedy is supposed to do, put a smile on your face and give you a few laughs. As with most films of this genre, there is a fairly good dose of fantasy. One obvious place is Brett’s office. It was not only huge it had a great window view. I know vice presidents working in a bank for years making much more than she makes and they don’t have the much sought after office with a view. It was most likely done to heighten the loss of it at the hands of Faye’s obnoxious assistant. Klein paces the film a little too fast. The romance between Brett and Archie begins too easily. Usually, love, at first sight, doesn’t work in a romantic comedy; the guy should have to work for it more. Now, this may go to the father above and daughter issues. Both people were pre-set for a relationship. This is Klein’s freshman effort as a director. As such he is still in a learning curve and this represents a very good initial opus. He has more experience as a writer in the genre with ‘Serendipity’ and ‘A Good Year’ under his belt. He based the story on two short stories by Melissa Bank; ‘My Old Man’ and ‘The Worst Thing A Suburban Girl Could Imagine’ from her best selling novel ‘The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing.’ He manages to capture the mood necessary to tell the story of a young woman in court throat world.
This film does have a strange casting, but ultimately it works. Sarah Michelle Gellar has been trying to get away from the vampire slayer image for years now. She has been working her way through light comedies which it is just the latest. She has a likeability that infuses her performance. She can get the viewer to want to know her character’s story and more importantly care about her. She is much better in these roles that her other post-Buffy work which is the damsel in distress in remakes of Japanese horror flicks. Vanessa Branch is great as the overly exertive boss. She is demanding and tries too hard to ooze sex appeal, just right for her character. Maggie Grace plays her role as the total opposite of Brett. She has everything that Brett lacks including self-confidence. The one that makes the film is without any doubt, Alec Baldwin. His natural wit and humor give his character depth that wins over the audience. Without this quality, he might look more like a dirty old man trying to bed a young, impressionable girl.
Image Entertainment has one of the largest and most eclectic catalogs of DVD out there. They have something for just about everyone. This film is for those that want a well-played love story. The DVD is presented in anamorpic 1.85:1 video with excellent color balance and contrast. The Dolby 5.1 audio is robust and shows off the music in the film. There is a director’s commentary listed as an extra, but it w/as not available on the preview copy. This is a nice film for a date night. It is a chick flick that guys can enjoy too.
Posted 01/02/08 Posted 06/18/2018