Judge Christopher Kulik knows that Michelle Pfeiffer could never be his woman, though he can still dream.
When it comes to love, it's never too late to take a chance.
And, when it comes to distribution, it's never too late for a gem to find an audience.
If you've been to the video store in the past couple months, you might have seen I Could Never Be Your Woman sitting on the shelf, little realizing it only received a slightly better shelf than before. Filmed in 2005, this film fought for years to reach theaters but was always just missing the mark due to studio screwing and inconceivable decisions; originally, it was supposed to be released during the summer of 2007, but then it got pushed to November. A theatrical trailer was even produced.
Taken at face value, I Could Never Be Your Woman looks like an unoriginal romantic comedy. However, Amy Heckerling, the incredibly witty woman behind Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Look Who's Talking, and Clueless, has a gift for turning the familiar into the fresh, the silly into the irresistible. Everything may not work, though its flaws can be forgiven due to an exceptionally charming cast and a sharp screenplay. Thanks to the Weinstein Company, this film is finally being released on DVD.
Facts of the Case
Michelle Pfeiffer (Hairspray) returns with a comic vengeance as Rosie, a sexy single mom in her mid-40s. Her ex-husband, Nathan (Jon Lovitz, The Producers), left Rosie for a girl in her 20s, and he's a narcissistic jerk who thinks wearing athletic clothes will make him look like a bench-presser. Rosie's precious daughter, Izzie (Oscar-nominee Saoirse Ronan, Atonement), is knocking on the door of womanhood. On top of that, her love-life is nonexistent, and occasionally she gets tips from Mother Nature herself (Tracey Ullman, A Dirty Shame).
Rosie's life isn't much better at work. She writes for a sitcom called You Go, Girl!—think of a cross between Clueless and Saved By The Bell—produced by the smarmy Marty (Fred Willard, Epic Movie) . The show's in a desperate need of a ratings boost, and Rosie finds it in Adam (Paul Rudd, Knocked Up). He's cute, sexy, boasts a winning smile, and has a dynamic sense of humor, both physical and verbal. Rosie has never entered cougar territory before, though she boldly begins a relationship with this 29-year-old charmer—even while he's becoming a rising star.
Don't let the awkward title or shaky plot fool you. Positive test screenings confirmed the film's appeal, and many solid reviews since the DVD release have given it a chance to find an audience. (For a more specific description of the troubled distribution history, read Missy Schwartz' article for Entertainment Weekly in the Accomplices section.)
I Could Never Be Your Woman is the most personal project of Heckerling's career, as it spotlights her experiences as a working woman and mother in the mid-1990s. After Clueless became a runaway hit, it was developed into a sit-com, and working on it, Heckerling encountered lots of industry sexism.
Hecklerling's screenplay is full of feminine blisters. She takes a ferociously comic slant at how younger women are worshipped for their youth, while older women are pushed aside for being over-the-hill. Unfortunately, this is how it's always been for women playing the Hollywood game, and it's sad that Heckerling is one of the few women writer-directors working today.
I love how Heckerling satirically depicts the L.A. scene. She makes the younger girls appear as if they have enough silicone in their bodies to kill a small elephant. Naturally, they also mock Rosie for dressing maturely.
Heckerling also playfully attacks pop culture and industry groupthink. One of the running gags in the film is Izzie's slashing of music lyrics by such crooners as Alanis Morrissette ("And isn't moronic, don't you think?") and Britney Spears ("I dance like a whore. I'm un-talented"). She also writes some juicy dialogue, which comments on widespread celebrity misperception regarding appearance, with nods at plastic surgery, liposuction, and body fat enhancements. She makes Izzie a virtual victim of shameless advertising regarding fashion and cereal.
There's also a bitter irony when the star of You Go, Girl (nicely played by Stacey Dash, who was in Clueless and its TV spin-off) gives a public service message on smoking, and yet she smokes as soon as she hears "cut." Some will not be able to catch all the Hollywood in-jokes, though there are plenty to look out for. Plus, blink twice and you will miss some cool cameos by Henry Winkler and Sally Kellerman.
Pfeiffer's a pleasure to watch here. What I love about her is that she doesn't disintegrate into a Mrs. Robinson imitation, although she does briefly allude to Mike Nichols' classic with a knowing wink. Her chemistry with Paul Rudd doesn't obliterate into superficiality, but remains sweet and endearing.
Rudd's endless charisma is another drawing card, as he wildly bounds from scene to scene with the energy of a puppy dog. Willard is a crack as a guy who cares more about computer solitaire then his boob tube product. And, of course, Lovitz never fails to generate laughs while making a slimeball character somewhat lovable.
The Weinstein Company ultimately ended up with distribution, and they give us I Could Never Be Your Woman in a satisfactory DVD. The colors in the 1.85:1 Anamorphic widescreen print are rich and deliberately oversaturated. Heckerling makes it clear on the commentary that she intended the film to evoke a 1930s color production, such as Becky Sharp or The Adventures of Robin Hood. As a result, the visual style makes the actors practically glow on screen to give them a larger-than-life quality. Also on hand is a 5.1 Surround track, along with subtitles in English and Spanish.
Extras include three deleted scenes, the trailer, and a commentary track with Heckerling and producer Cerise Hallam Larkin. Both are pretty much hush-hush about the ordeal they went through, which explains their somewhat restrained enthusiasm. At best, the commentary has a bittersweet aura about it, and you get the impression they will unleash frustration at any time; even the closing remarks register a feeling of sadness. Despite some gaps, they do provide insight into the casting and location shooting, and have a good-natured attitude on the dated references that plague the production.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The film has some flaws. One of them is the location shooting, which had mostly taken place in London, even though the film is set in L.A. This was due to budgetary problems and, as a result, the film looks as if exists in some alternate universe, with the clash of American and British accents especially evident throughout.
Tracey Ullman is funny in anything she does, though her role as Mother Nature felt awfully out of place. She's amusing, but also a bit distracting at the same time. Every time she pops up, she changes the tone of the picture by adding an unnecessary mystical element. It's not so much her dialogue that's irritating, just her character. Still, she is not a major liability, and Ullman fans should have nothing to complain about.
Controversy aside, I Could Never Be Your Woman scores highly, both as comedy and satire. Despite its tragic road to being dumped on DVD, it's one of the best romantic comedies to come out in years.
The court finds the film not guilty, and thanks Heckerling and Larkin for
their hard work and combined efforts in making the film, despite its failure to
make it to theaters.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
• Commentary by Writer/Director Amy Heckerling and Producer Cerise Hallam Larkin
Review content copyright © 2008 Christopher Kulik; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.