Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Five Best Female Movie Characters To Get Dumped By.

What's the greatest learning or growth opportunity a man can experience?

If you said college, you're way off.

If you said trying to invent a new kind of sandwich, only to have things go awry in a kooky/science-y way, granting you superpowers, which you initially try to use to work your way into replacing Conan O'Brien on "The Tonight Show" only to realize that he's actually a supervillain who got those powers and that job through the exact same kind of accident, resulting in a cataclysmic battle between good (you) and evil (Conan and Andy Richter), a battle which takes place live on TV, then you're closer, and also you've been reading my diary.

If you said Getting dumped by a female movie character, then you are right on point and also you can read headlines to posts and put two and two together. But you still can't recreate The Sandwich Experiment, so I'm one step ahead of you.

Getting dumped by women is on my mind not because of any troubles with Sweetie -- things are great on the home front, and will be so long as I continue to do the bare minimum of household chores while periodically bringing her home a surprise, like when I got her a Rice Krispie bar from the convenience store last Friday.

No, getting dumped by women is on my mind because Sweetie and I saw (500) Days of Summer last week, and while it was a very good movie, it also wasn't anything revolutionary or anything. It's being presented as some sort of indie/counterculture movie because (gasp!) the girl dumps the guy in the movie, which is being marketed as "Not a love story, but a story about love."

Don't get me wrong -- like I said, the movie's really good and I liked it, a lot. But it's not in any way revolutionary to have a movie in which a girl dumps a guy. Those movies have been around for a long time, so long that they're a staple of Hollywood, the red-headed stepchild, as it were, of romantic comedies.

I think, too, that the Girl Dumping Guy movie should be more prominently featured in Hollywood, because, as I began with, getting dumped by Movie Women is an incredible learning experience, perhaps the greatest learning experience a character in a movie can undergo. If you're a character in a movie, and you want to improve your outlook on life, your skills in some capacity, or your life in general, getting dumped is far, far superior to any other method of improvement-via-movie. It beats fighting terrorists in a skyscraper, it beats having adamantium grafted onto your bones, it beats having droids crash land on your desert planet to lead you to a forgotten Jedi who will kind-of train you in the ways of the Force but who will ultimately not be able to explain why, if "midichlorians" govern the Force, he's able to stick around as a ghost even though as a ghost he wouldn't have any "midichlorians" in his body anymore.

All of those are valid ways to experience an improvement in your life, but they all have some detriment to them -- they take a long time, they require you to walk over broken glass, they require you to be in yet another crummy, overrated movie about a crummy, overrated team of mutants from a crummy, overrated stupid emo comic book, etc.

Getting dumped by a movie girl, though, doesn't have any of those downsides. Get dumped by a movie girl, and you'll go through about two months (four minutes, film time) of heartbreak, but you'll pull out of it pretty quickly with maybe nothing worse to show for it than a hangover or a new moustache, and you'll probably get to go through that montage to a cool song that will be uplifting and kind of bouncy.

I nominate this song, in fact, for the next such movie moment:

It would work perfectly, wouldn't it? Listen to that song play and picture this: A guy -- let's say a guy who's about a day away from discovering that his hot-dog & liver sausage sandwich with sweet relish on it has given him superhuman powers -- discovers that his girlfriend is cheating on him. He goes home, depressed, taking the day off from work and wondering where his career, and life, went wrong. Pondering why he's never broken into the big time in his broadcasting career, looking at a People magazine with Conan O'Brien on the cover, he makes that aforementioned sandwich and microwaves it, realizing about halfway through the song that it's given him superhuman powers and then beginning to test those powers by, say, cleaning his house at superspeed, then helping some little kids get their kite out of a tree, then foiling a bank robbery. At the end of the song, we think he's standing in his living room, looking at a picture of the now-ex-girlfriend, but it turns out that he's in fact flying outside her apartment, and he sees her turn towards him but he flies off towards... destiny.

The Sandwich Experiment. Call your local movie studio and tell them to option that story right now.

Learning stuff via a girlfriend dumping is better, in fact, even, than simply learning stuff via love in the movies. Love in the movies is no panacea. Nobody really improves their situation through love in a movie, they just get back to where they were in the first place. If you're in a movie and you fall in love, you're bound to find your life getting a little worse, and then it'll get a little better -- but because it got worse first, you're only ending up just where you began. (In that respect, Movie Love is just like Movie Christmas.) Matt Dillon in You, Me & Dupree barely kept his job, didn't he? Seth Rogen in The Movie That Katherine Heigl Pretended to Hate To Try To Boost Her Career had to go through all kinds of trouble only to end up... married to Katherine Heigl. Molly Ringwald got Jake in Sixteen Candles, but what happened after that? Nothing, that's what. She was still a nerdy girl in high school with parents who didn't pay any attention to her and a weird younger brother.

But learning stuff via dumping? It's incredible. Get dumped by a movie female, and the world will soon be your oyster, as demonstrated by this List of The Five Best Female Movie Characters To Get Dumped By:


In reverse order, from 5 to 1, they are:

5: Libby Odell, Run Fatboy, Run. When Simon Pegg runs out on his wedding day, he runs away from Libby Odell, whose charms remain mostly hidden in this movie but whose charms must exist because they encourage Simon to try to get her back. (Note: there are those who will say that his running out on the wedding means he dumped her, not the other way around, but if you watch the movie, you'll see that he's clearly hung up on her, he just didn't want to marry her, so she obviously, offscreen, dumped him for running out on the wedding. As though that's an excuse.)

What life was like with her: We don't get much information about that -- the movie begins with the wedding day runout -- but it looked boring and kind of weird, with Libby's brother hitting on her or something.

How life improved without her: At first, it doesn't -- Simon works as a security guard at a lingerie store and is frequently locked out of his apartment, but he really wants Libby back and so he comes up with the ideal way to get her back: he'll run a marathon, after training only twenty days. Before long -- twenty days, to be exact -- Simon is fit, healthy, back with Libby, and has encouraged his small group of friends to also be more physically fit. He might still work at the lingerie store, too -- but now as a fit security guard who can chase down that transvestite shoplifter.

Total Improvement: Low to Moderate. Getting fit is important, especially as one gets older, but the fact remains that Simon still has no marketable skills of any sort other than not falling down too much in a 26 mile course.

4. Summer Finn (500)Days Of Summer: Was Summer ever really dating Joseph Gordon-Levitt? It's not actually clear from the movie whether she thought they were dating, but he thought they were, and he takes it hard when she dumps him roughly halfway through the titular 500 days. How hard? Twinkie and Whiskey hard. Shopping for Twinkies and Whiskey in a bathrobe hard. Imagining the city as a set of line drawings hard. Now, that's taking things hard.

What Life Was Like With Her: Joseph Gordon-Levitt worked writing greeting cards, ignoring his architecture degree and his love of architecture (and sketching, apparently) to focus on karaoke, The Smiths, shopping for stuff at Ikea, and browsing vinyl LP stores. Sound magical? It totally wasn't -- even the pancakes at the diner looked kind of sad.

How Life Improved Without Her: The turnaround is remarkable: Joseph learns to bounce a tennis ball rhythmically in time with the inspirational/upbeat song helping him turn things around. He gets better suits (albeit ones that still don't seem to fit quite right) and starts sketching everything, right there on the chalkboard that makes up one wall of his apartment (?), and also realizes that he does, after all, love architecture -- so he decides to get back into it.

Total Improvement: Medium. The Twinkie wrappers are gone, he's a little more self-confident, but when we last see him, he's probably blowing a job opportunity, and falling for Summer hurt his prior job, so he might need to get dumped again to complete the turnaround.

3. Mirabelle, Shopgirl. Meet cute in a laundromat. Go on a date. Don't get a goodnight kiss. Bring the girl some greasy fries. Try to compete with the incredibly wealthy but decades older man who also likes Claire Danes' shopgirl... and lose. That's Jason Schwartzman's lot in life for much of the movie Shopgirl.

What Life Was Like With Her: Messy and disenchanting. Jason Schwartzman lives in a crummy messy apartment and works designing fonts for stencils on amplifiers, a job where his boss totally doesn't get him. He's so out-of-it, so poor, so disorganized, that he doesn't even realize when his phone is knocked off the hook for days, or maybe weeks, on end.

How Life Improved Without Her: Once Mirabelle chooses older-but-way-richer and smoother Ray, Jason can't help but quit his job, go on tour with a rock band for some reason or other (or maybe he didn't quit his job. I don't know. It wasn't quite clear.) He also becomes more polished, in the sense that he no longer refuses to open doors for women and isn't the type of guy who has to borrow condoms from the neighbor. So when he meets Mirabelle at the "Art Walk" later on, he's all fancy and maybe has cleaned his apartment. Plus, he gets to sleep with slutty Lisa before he gets back together with Mirabelle.

Total Improvement: Medium-high. Jeremy has gotten his act together somewhat and got to spend time on the road with a rock band. But at the end, it sort of seems like he's living off of Mirabelle's now-burgeoning art career. Meanwhile, his stenciling passion appears to have died. It's somewhat disheartening to think that creativity is only spawned by late nights at a laundromat.

2. Beth Truss, Better Off Dead. Who doesn't remember how terrible high school life was for those of us who weren't the captain of the ski team, for those of us who had to work at degrading jobs that made us wear pig faces in front of our friends, for those of us who had weird friends that did weird stuff and guaranteed that we'd be social outcasts for four years, if not longer? That's what John Cusack is staring in the face when he's dumped by Beth Truss in favor of the handsome but jerky ski team captain, leaving John to envision suicide scenarios, hang out with his drug-crazed friend, and deal with his weird family and the boiled bacon.

What Life Was Like With Her: Happy, apparently -- John's got pictures upon pictures of all the great stuff he and Beth used to do together, but you know women: They're never satisfied with, you know, happiness. They're all too willing to jettison the happy in favor of social climbing, and who's higher up the social ladder than a ski team captain?

How Life Improved Without Her: A myriad of ways: John, in between comical suicide attempts and apparent hallucinations, fixes up his long-dead car and learns to drag race it, conquers his fear of the K-12 ski hill, quits his job at the Pig Restaurant (maybe? I can never keep track of who's quitting what jobs, but it seems like all of these movies require that the hero quit his dead-end job.)(All but one...)(That's foreshadowing. Take that, T.S. Eliot!). Oh, and John gets a chance to meet and fall in love with the French foreign exchange student living across the street.

Total Improvement: High. In terms of improving your station in life, when you say French Foreign Exchange student, you've said it all.

1. (TIE:) Emily Poule, Rock Star / Brooke Meyers The Break-Up. Topping the list are two Jennifer Aniston parts, both presenting the same sort of incredible life-improvement in vastly different set-ups. When Marky Mark gets the chance of a lifetime, offered the lead singer job in a hugely popular heavy metal band, he brings along wife(?)/girlfriend(?) Emily Poule for the ride... but she gets disenchanted with the wealth, luxury, touring, fame, and sex, and longs for the days when they were poor but in love and he fronted a cover band. Meanwhile, Vince Vaugh tries to settle down to a life of running a mediocre Chicago tour company while playing video games online, but that's not enough for Brooke Meyers, whose background of coming from a family that encourages a capella singing has taught her to demand more from life -- like a guy who wants to do the dishes. The end result in both movies: Welcome to Dumpsville, Guys -- Population: You.*

*Quote Attributed to World's Greatest Philosopher, Homer Simpson.

What Life Was Like With Her: In a word, boring and in no way the life of one's dreams. Marky Mark's belief is that playing someone else's songs for a couple of bucks in a cover band cannot possibly compete with playing someone else's songs for tons of dough. And who wants to spend their time in a fancy apartment in Chicago having dinners with a beautiful woman who has an interesting career and also is able to whip up gourmet meals? Not Vince Vaughn, who's clearly dissatisfied with his life even though he doesn't know it. Both Marky Mark and Vince go through the motions of a life, but never really realize just how unfulfilling their lives are.

How Life Improves Without Her: Left in the lurch by Emily, Marky Mark realizes that a life of empty sex, riches and fame isn't for him -- not when he could be fulfilling his artistic destiny by playing an acoustic guitar in a coffeeshop, maybe even in Seattle. As for Vince, he's the only guy on this list who didn't quit his dead-end job after being dumped. (Foreshadowing! A valid literary technique!). Instead, once he realizes that Brooke is no longer going to be walking topless down the apartment hallway, he throws himself into being the best darn Chicago Tour Bus guide he can be -- and while they don't come right out and say it, the movie implies that each gets rich by throwing their heart into their careers rather than throwing their heart into Jennifer Aniston's corner.

Total Improvement: Super high. In the movies, getting dumped by Jennifer Aniston is about the best possible thing that can happen. Forget just being physically fit, or touring with a rock band. Once Jennifer Aniston dumps you, in the movies, you're on your way to the top.

Just don't try that in real life. In real life, breaking up with Jennifer Aniston leaves you wandering the world with a haggish blood-drinker, collecting third-world children, trying desperately to remain relevant, and ultimately making a bunch of crummy movies while hoping to God George Clooney makes another Ocean installment before you're reduced to doing voice over work for chewing gum commercials.

Click here to see all the other SemiDaily Lists.

Click here to see all the other Movies nominations.


lisapepin said...

"those of us who had weird friends that did weird stuff and guaranteed that we'd be social outcasts for four years, if not longer?"


Briane P said...

(A) How do you know I wasn't the weird friend to everyone else, and

(B) I was really talking about Fred.