I recently re-watched a movie that is noteworthy for being quite good and for featuring a female lead who is, in my always-nuanced opinion, totally grating and charmless. The film is Four Weddings and A Funeral, and it is generally charming enough that one forgets that Hugh Grant received sexual favours from a prostitute in his car and can overlook the fact that the climax of the film involves Grant's character jilting a fish-faced, but well-meaning, woman during what's supposed to be their wedding ceremony.
It is even charming enough that, if one concentrates enough on the cheerful buoyancy of Grant's hair and the quippiness of Grant's quips, one can overlook the presence of Andie MacDowell.
She has to be one of the least charismatic, least believable, least likable female characters in any romantic comedy EVER. Grant trips about being hapless and delightful and pining over a woman so unredeemed by anything appealing that ones questions whether he's really a man worth pining over himself, seeing as how he's gone mad. Plus, Kristin Scott Thomas is in love with him, and any man who chooses a drawling automaton over Kristin Scott Thomas is depraved or mentally defective.
Usually when I really and truly loathe one of the leads in a romantic comedy, I find myself really and truly loathing the movie overall. But I have come across the MacDowell effect before; in fact, to honour my first experience of it, it should really be named after Ione Skye. Any woman of my generation and my general cultural background who does not hold Say Anything's Lloyd Dobler up as the standard of boyfriendness to which all other men should be compared is either lying or as crazy as a man who'd pursue Andie MacDowell while himself being pursued by Kristin Scott Thomas.
Lloyd Dobler yearns and babbles, and then yearns and babbles and kick-boxes, and then proves the depth and selflessness of his love with a ghetto-blaster. The problem is that his deep and selfless love is directed toward a girl so irritating and so whiny that you keep expecting her to announce that she has to go into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters. Ione Skye's Diane Court does well at school and looks clean, but that's about all that can be said for her.
The male leads in these movies helped me realize that I like handsome Englishmen who banter and that I like handsome American men who banter. They also helped me realize that even if I did run across such a man and he wasn't busy (a) getting a blow-job in the front seat of a car, or (b) appearing in Con Air, he probably wouldn't like me anyway because (a) I'm not unusually successful or good-looking, and (b) he'd be too busy losing sleep over an attractive head of lettuce.
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