Retrospective Film Review: 27 Dresses

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27 Guesses …

(27 Dresses, Anne Fletcher, USA, 2008, 111 mins)

[WARNING: Major spoilers ahead, ending revealed.]

… Is what I’d give you to guess the plot of this American rom-com, and twenty-six of them are unnecessary. I expected to watch a light-hearted, yet uplifting, romantic comedy that was easy to watch and enjoyable in that not-having-to-concentrate way. I did get a light-hearted, yet somewhat uplifting, romantic comedy (heavy on the romance, but not so much on the comedy), but one where every single major plot point was predictable. It was almost like I’d seen the film before (which I hadn’t).

Having said that, the film was nevertheless enjoyable due to the acting talents of Katherine Heigl (Jane, ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’) and James Marsden (Kevin, who ‘didn’t lie, I just didn’t tell the whole truth …’), and particularly their chemistry together. However, having said that, Heigl’s character starts off as a typical tragic-romantic heroine – pining pathetically for the boss she’ll never have, secretly hoping he loves her back, and so on. Annoying, but that’s OK, you think, that will change – she’ll get some balls and get over him soon enough, having found out he is not really The One.

Wrong. This is the one bit of the film that I did not predict, which was even more annoying than if what I expected had happened as and when I predicted it. Jane does not get over her boss, even when he starts dating her younger sister Tess, who doesn’t know Jane is in love with him, and instead carries on pining and being generally pathetic. It doesn’t help that she is his assistant – she does everything he asks and is so happy to do so – so not much of an empowering portrayal of women in love.

Jane and Kevin’s chemistry, however, is amusing to watch and makes you want to yell at her ‘he’s The One, can’t you see? Stop rejecting him!’, which I suppose is the point, but it nevertheless paints her a lot more positively than her pitiful behaviour around her boss does. However, there is one, rather important, event which manages to portray Jane as the unintelligent ditz she seems when around her boss: having met Kevin and rejected his advances, but striking up a friendship with him, Jane then finds out that he is the writer of all the amazing articles about (other people’s) weddings that she collects. He lied (‘omitted the truth’) because he didn’t tell her that was his job. She is aware he will be writing a piece on her sister’s wedding to her boss (yes, they’re engaged, and yes, that was quick) and agrees to be interviewed about how she feels about this by Kevin (lying through her teeth, she smiles ‘I’m so happy’). This ends with her giving him a fashion show of the twenty-seven hideous bridesmaid dresses that she has worn at twenty-seven weddings that were not hers, letting him take pictures of her in every single one. Later on in the film, she has the gall to be surprised when the pictures of her appear in a newspaper along with an article of how she isn’t married but goes to weddings (how odd). What did she think he was taking them for? For his own personal viewing pleasure? And if that is what she thought, then that is surely more disturbing and less socially acceptable than him writing an article about her and attaching pictures of her without her permission?

But don’t worry, Kevin is the good guy – he had asked his boss to give him time to change his article as he got to know Jane more, but she decided to go through with what he had already written, and hey presto – the climax of the film!

The film isn’t all pathetic women with crushes, betrayal and occasional comedy – there are a few morals there. One of them is: don’t just take care of everyone else, take care of yourself, too (although I doubt that this sort of anti-altruistic attitude is what the world needs, I understand the sentiment). Another is, if you have a lot of repressed feelings, do not let them all out in one night (especially when it is the night celebrating your sister and boss’ marriage in a few weeks, and you decide to reveal your sister lied to her fiancé about a lot of important things). There are probably a few more, but these are the two which stuck out the most.

The twenty seven dresses themselves worked fairly well, if pretty obviously, as a symbol for Jane’s inability to take control of her own life, but her twenty-nine bridesmaids at the end of the film at her own wedding (to Kevin, of course. Who else?), twenty-seven of them wearing the hideous bridesmaid dresses she was forced to wear at each of their weddings, while her sister and her friend wear cute, sexy yellow dresses seems rather petty. But it got a smile out of me, so I suppose I shouldn’t think about it so much.

As a rom-com, you don’t expect 27 Dresses to make you think. It did make me think, though – mainly about how annoying Jane was when she was around her boss, as well as how predictable the film was – but it also made me consider relationships, not only romantic ones, but familial ones, too. And a bit of thinking while being entertained really isn’t so bad.

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