Posts Tagged romantic comedy

The Philadelphia Story

DVD (1940) Written by Donald Ogden Stewart/Directed by George Cukor           STARRING: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

(image: MGM Studios)

The story  A writer and photographer for a tabloid magazine concoct a plot to sneak into the fabulous and private wedding of Tracy Lord, a member of one of Philadelphia’s oldest families. The young and beautiful Tracy is a cool, self-righteous socialite who is determined not to marry another husband with as many flaws as her first one (she and her first husband C. K. Dexter Haven had “married on impulse and divorced in a rage” two years ago). Refusing to ever let passion control her again,Tracy thinks she is very much in control of her world now. But when the tabloid reporters — along with her ex-husband and her estranged father — show up at the Lord Mansion just 24 hours before the nuptials, the cold and seemingly unfeeling goddess finds her marble exterior is starting to crack.

This is the role that made Katharine Hepburn’s career (prior to this she was referred to as  “box office poison”). Hepburn as Tracy Lord is the master of aloofness as she floats about the great Lord mansion like a partial deity. Her home is full of classical Greek and Roman statuary and architecture which seem to add to her mythical force. Katharine is brilliant as she slowly softens throughout the film. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of watching Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant on screen, this is the exact right film in which to do it. Both are super charming as C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) and tabloid writer Macaulay Connor (Stewart).

The Philadelphia Story is more than 70 years old, but it feels very fresh. Despite the annoying depiction of two female characters turning a blind eye to their man’s infidelity, it’s a wonderful comedy and a strong female role for 1940s Hollywood. And there’s nothing like 1940’s film dialogue, is there? “Oh, Dext,” despairs Tracy Lord, “I’m such an unholy mess of a girl.” In romantic comedies like The Philadelphia Story, the dialogue clips along at a wonderfully entertaining pace. Some of the greatest dialogue in film history comes from films of this era.

The envelope, please The Philadelphia Story was nominated for six Oscars, and won two: James Stewart for best actor, and Donald Ogden Stewart for best adapted screenplay.

Sweet extras Best opening scene of a rom-com ever. Forty seconds of genius. 

Good for who? Call up the Baptist minister’s wife! The language is clean, and although there are numerous adult themes, this is 1940 filmmaking so sexual innuendos are heavily veiled. Children wandering into the room while you watch won’t be a problem either: they won’t have a clue what’s going on. This is an excellent choice for any adult, as long as he or she likes classic films (be mindful that it’s black and white, which drives some people to drink).

Where can I get it? Netflix doesn’t carry it yet, but you can buy from Amazon or rent the DVD from a place with a good classic film collection. In Halifax or Bedford, Nova Scotia, you’ll find it at Video Difference.


Love this movie? Live this movie! Bathing baldies … I mean, beauties. 

“My, she’s yar!” Tracy Lord says of the model yacht True Love. Well yar swim cap is pretty yar too, we want to say in return! It’s true, ladies — bald can be beautiful. If you too want to be a stone-cold retro goddess,  a bathing cap is where it’s at. Here, Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord takes a dip in the large pool on her estate, sporting a plain white cap.  Keira Knightley showed off the same look (with chip strap) in Atonement, a 2007 film set in 1930’s England. Similar caps can be purchased at Amazon.com and Speedo.com.



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Made of Honor

(Columbia Pictures)

DVD (2008) Written by A.Sztykiel, D.Kaplan, H.Elfont/Directed by Paul Weiland   STARRING: Patrick Dempsey, Michelle Monaghan

The story: Hannah and Tom meet at Cornell University when he mistakes her for her roommate in the middle of the night. Hannah maces Tom in the eyes with Eternity by Calvin Klein and they are BFFL ever since. It’s now 10 years later, they’re living in New York, and they’re just as tight as ever. Tom (played by Patrick Dempsey) is a wealthy, heartless womanizer and Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) is a loveless art conservator geek. She says “I love you” too much and he has a bizarre need to only say those words to strange dogs. He’s been with so many women but Hannah has never been one of them. She’s his best friend and that’s good enough for him. Hannah, meanwhile, seems to have hidden feelings for this man-child but Tom is oblivious.

Hannah is suddenly called away to Scotland on a paintings acquisition trip for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She is gone for six weeks, and this is when Tom realizes just how much he misses her. It’s a total Ross and Rachel moment (almost eerily so) when Hannah finally returns and Tom meets her at the airport with a bouquet of flowers and the intention to confess how he feels. But she’s met a new man and he’s come back to New York with her to announce their engagement. “Tom,” Hannah asks, “will you be my maid of honor?”

It’s a 6 Made of Honor is nothing near genius, but there’s something about this little story that pleases me. Perhaps it’s the Scottish scenery that woos me, or the lead characters, or the humour in watching Patrick Dempsey hanging with the girls as he carries out his MOH duties? The movie should have spent more time up front developing Hannah and Tom’s friendship, and I wish Tom’s moments with the dogs didn’t feel so obviously plopped in just to build the theme. But still, I refuse to abandon it. I think it’s cute, even though critics have not been kind (it received a 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and phrases like “bonehead plot” have been thrown around like wedding confetti.)  Several of my girl friends, however, have watched Made of Honor and enjoyed it. It’s not a movie you should buy to own, but it does make a good cheapy weekend rental.

The envelope, please Made of Honor should win a prize for Most humiliating attempt to win back a girl.  Patrick Dempsey in a mini kilt with white briefs underneath. I needn’t say more.

Sweet extras The scenery is worth the watch. Fiancée Colin lives in a Scottish castle and the last third of the movie takes place here. It’s actually the beautiful and haunting 13th-century Eilean Donan castle, which rests in the Scottish highlands just outside Dornie. The Eilean Donan castle was also featured in several other films including Highlander (1985), Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007), and the James Bond film The World is not Enough (1999). Interior castle shots are a mishmash of other locations, including Dunvegan castle on the Isle of Skye.

Good for who? Watch this movie if you like Patrick Dempsey, wedding-related rom-coms, or the sublimity of castles by moonlight. But watch out: there’s coarse language and sexual references scattered steadily throughout. Don’t even bother inviting the Baptist minister’s wife over for this one because just when you think you’ve heard the word “balls” enough, you’ll hear it again. I suppose if one doesn’t like the movie, one could make a drinking game of it?

The movie is rated PG-13 for language and sexual references. Here’s a full breakdown of the content on Screenit.com’s review of the movie.

Paula Jane


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Notting Hill

(Image: Polygram Filmed Entertainment; from HookedonHouses.net)

DVD (1999) Written by Richard Curtis/Directed by Roger Michell         STARRING: Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant

Poor William Thacker! The handsome but lonely bloke lives in Notting Hill, London with a perpetually semi-nude roommate and no hope of ever giving himself to love again. He was once married, he tells us in the opening narration, but this woman left him for someone who “looks exactly like Harrison Ford.” William (played by Hugh Grant)  is content to work by day in his travel bookshop and spend his evenings at home. Life is uncomplicated for William — uncomplicated, that is, until American actress Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) walks into his shop. What follows is one of the best romantic comedies of the past 20 years.

I watched 10 Hugh Grant films back-to-back last June.  I began with Notting Hill, and in hindsight that was an error as I had set the bar too high and the likes of Nine Months and Bridget Jones (both one and two) could not compete.  I have not been a Julia Roberts fan since after Pretty Woman, but Notting Hill reminds me of Julia’s strengths as an actress. She and Hugh present the tale of a rather charming relationship yet there are moments of extreme emotional intensity which play out in a very real way. The final act of Notting Hill includes a scene reminiscent of the end of Roman Holiday (Gregory Peck could even rival Hugh for floppiest hair if Gregory hadn’t greased it back like that).

A few questions arose for me while watching Notting Hill: How does William make a living in a bookstore that nobody frequents? Why doesn’t his naked roomy catch cold? Why did William’s wife leave him for someone who reportedly “looks exactly like Harrison Ford” when William looks exactly like Hugh Grant? Equally as cute, I should say.

Sweet extras William brings home actress Anna to supper in one of the best meet-the-family scenes in all of film.

Good for who? This is rated PG-13, so it’s not for kids at all. There are several sexual references and some colourful language. It’s Hugh Grant and it’s a British film so what can I say, people? The f-bomb drops twice. I would not watch this with my 13-year-old daughter or the Baptist minister’s wife. For a content review, visit Screenit.com: Notting Hill.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Marc Chagall

William Thacker has a print of a Marc Chagall painting hanging on his kitchen wall. Anna Scott admires it. “It feels how love should be — floating through a dark blue sky,” she says.

“With a violin playing goat,” adds William.

“Well, yes,” says Anna. “Happiness is not happiness without a violin playing goat.”

The colourful painting is La Mariée (The Bride), a now-famous work by Jewish-Russian artist Marc Chagall. The image depicts a young bride, her husband, and yes a violin-playing goat (although let’s not overlook the lovestruck fish, leaping over houses as he celebrates either the marriage or the fact that he has been granted human arms.)  Much of Chagall’s paintings, lithographs, and stained glass work contain images of, or were inspired by, his love for deceased wife Bella Rosenfeld Chagall who died in 1944 of an infection. This fact makes Chagall’s work both beautiful and haunting, as well as deeply romantic.

A reproduction of La Mariée was made for the film (the original painting by Chagall is in a private art collection in Japan). To avoid the reproduction one day being mistaken for the original, the fake Chagall was destroyed after completion of Notting Hill. But don’t despair! You can have your own fake Chagall with just a few quick clicks at Allposters.com.

My favourite work by Marc Chagall is Les Amants au ciel rouge (Lovers in the red sky), 1950.



Paula Jane

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Housesitter

DVD (1992) Written by Mark Stein / Directed by Frank Oz                               STARRING: Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn

(Image: hookedonhouses.net)

Housesitter is a movie I always recommend to those who want a rom-com that’s heavy on the “com” and not so much the “rom.” This movie is sort of the antithesis of Sleepless in Seattle, which we all know is a masterpiece of ooey-gooey emotional goodness.  That’s not to say that Housesitter is not moving or romantic, because it is. But the development of the relationship between the lead characters sort of sneaks up on you in a conclusion that’s cute and satisfying yet relatively painless for the viewer who gets wigged out by heartfelt monologues or too many girl tears.

Steve Martin plays architect Newton Davis, a man who has been in love with the same woman since the 9th grade. Now he is  finally popping the question — not with a diamond ring but with a beautiful house he designed and built himself, wrapped in a huge red bow. “You are so nuts!” Becky exclaims upon seeing the house, to which he replies “And you are so sane! It’s perfect!”  But will she marry him?  “No!” she retorts, and three months later, Newton is still broken-hearted and the engagement house sits in the country, unlived in and empty.  But after a one-night stand with a fakey Hungarian waitress named Gwen (Goldie Hawn), Newton decides it’s time to move on and he heads to his hometown to put the house up for sale. Much to his surprise, the house is now being  inhabited by the one-night stand, and she’s been presenting herself around town as Newton’s wife. She is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, Newton is certain, but he allows Gwen to stay when he realizes he can use her to win Becky’s love once and for all.

Goldie Hawn is  funny and beautiful, and quite a different physical specimen from the rom-com leads of the past decade or so. Housesitter was made in 1992, back in the days when it was okay to have some junk in the trunk, and Goldie strikes me as a cross between Jenn Aniston, Madonna, and perhaps a half-baked aunt we like to visit every summer. Gwen seems to be a con-artist at first glance, but when we  realize that all she wants is a place to belong,  it puts a soft edge on an otherwise manipulative character.

As for Steve Martin, I could sing his praises all day (brilliant comedic banjo-plucking art-collecting writer/actor/Renaissance man) but for now I will stick to the subject at hand and say that no one but Steve Martin can slide back and forth between gentleman and supreme nitwit with such ease. If you like Transition Steve (post-Jerk but still maintaining a healthy dose of goofball), you’ll like Housesitter.

Sweet extras Steve singing “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral.” You can’t live without it.

Good for who? This is a funny one for both guys and girls, and will make a great rental for a date night at home. For the content conscious among you (you know who you are), there’s a bit of mild language and a few sexual references but nothing graphic.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Wrapping it up with a big red bow

The big red bow is great for unwrappable gifts like a car or a piano or Newton’s engagement house to Becky. But many of us can’t afford to give the gift of shelter or transport, so does that mean we’re doomed to never partake in the gentle beauty that is the big red bow?  Nonsense! I recall the last time I bought a shower gift: the gift was $20, and the wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon came to $15. Obscene, but what are my choices? Re-using old paper or giftbags is a great idea, but sometimes they can look too worn. I like the idea of presenting a small gift with all of the splendor of a huge one — tied up with nothing but a red bow.  It’s cheap and stylish and it looks so cool that others will assume they should be doing it too. Yes, it can be said that giving an “unwrapped” gift is ruining the surprise, but chances are the person has demanded the gift through their registry or Christmas list and already knows what’s coming. Not only does a red bow scream class, but it also says “I know you already knew what this gift was going to be so let’s just cut the crap. Happy wedding shower, your majesty!”

Below I demonstrate with household items just how great a red bow can look on a little gift.

Books are perfect for this simple yet classic treatment.  Adorned with this fine red bow, painter John Singer Sargent’s Madame X looks even more stuck up than she apparently already was.

No, that’s not a gemstone from King Tut’s burial collar. That’s a yard-sale rooster.

You ask: “What on earth IS this?” I say: Who cares! It’s wrapped in a big red bow so it MUST be valueable!

Even a week-old container of red onions looks like a gift from the Queen when presented with a velvet red bow.  If you hand over this gift and the receiver says “Snooty much?” before sauntering away, you’ll know you’re working it.

Try the red bow idea at the next birthday or shower you’ve been invited to. If you are a clutz and absolutely cannot tie a decent bow, check out this great little quickie tutorial.

Paula Jane

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Something’s Gotta Give

DVD (2003)  Written by Nancy Meyers / Directed by Nancy Meyers     STARRING: Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Frances McDormand, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet

(McDormand, Keaton, and Peet in “Something’s Gotta Give.”   Image: Columbia)

We first see the house of our dreams as the male lead and a female secondary character pull into the driveway. “The perfect beachhouse,” he says, in awe of the expansive cedar-shingled oceanfront home. We too are in awe, and giddily await the architectural delights beyond the front doors. The characters say a few more things — things that are probably pertinent to the plot — and then enter the “fabulous two-storey livingroom” which oozes both comfort and New York chic. We ooo, we ahhh, we don’t notice that the female character is removing her pants. 

Okay, yes, we do notice she’s removing her pants, but I just wanted to stress how gorgeous this beach house is. Just being able to admire the film’s set and settings for 128 minutes was, for me, worth the theatre ticket price for Something’s Gotta Give.  The script and the cast in this sophisticated romantic comedy by Nancy Meyers are unbeatable to begin with, and the addition of such a glorious set is like warm caramel sauce on an already delicious bowl of Ben & Jerry’s. It’s borderline indulgent, but I love it.

This Hamptons beach house belongs to divorced 50-something playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton).  Erica and her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand) had hoped to spend a quiet weekend at the beach, but that plan goes out the window with the unexpected arrival of Erica’s daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) and her 63-year-old boyfriend Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson).  Erica is put off by the age difference between her 30-ish daughter and the new boyfriend, and she and Harry clash. Things get weird when Marin and Zoe must return to the city, leaving Erica to spend a few days alone in the house with the cigar-smoking rap-pushing girl-chasing Harry. The situation is so tailor-made for laughs and romantic encounters that only a couple of chumps like  J-Lo and Alex O’Loughlin could screw it up.  The fact that Jack Nicholson’s charm is in the mix makes Something’s Gotta Give my top-of-the-heap romantic comedy favourite.

My friend J. says she doesn’t usually like Keaton because she is just so over the top when she’s acting. Yes, Keaton has really rubbed me the wrong way a few times, like in 2007’s  Because I said So, but in Something’s Gotta Give she seems to be in the zone. Keaton is at her best when she seems to be playing herself, and it’s been said by critics that she’s doing that here. I’m not suggesting Diane Keaton should be a one-trick pony, but if the saddle fits…

Anyway never mind all that. Did you get a load of Erica’s freaking kitchen? And her office. My lord, her office.

Sweet extras  Two words: Keanu Reeves. He appears throughout the movie as Dr. Julian Mercer, and as a love interest for Diane Keaton. Also to note is Frances McDormand: she’s the coolest romantic comedy sidekick, and I wish there had been more of her in the film, but alas, more time given to her would have probably meant less time for Keanu, and that is unthinkable.

If you liked this movie, you’ll probably  like  It’s Complicated, also written and directed by Nancy Meyers.

Good for who?  If you’re any kind of adult and you don’t enjoy Something’s Gotta Give, then you should have your head examined by the handsome Dr. Julian Mercer. I will just note that sexual references and scenes are numerous although not graphic, and the f-bomb drops two or three times. I know these things bother a few women who frequent this blog (no matter how artfully placed the cussin’ is), so I’m just issuing a little warning for you, ladies.

 

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Late night pajama-and-pancake party

(Keaton and Nicholson, sharing a late night snack.  Image: Columbia Pictures)

Erica and Harry are night owls and meet up in the beach house kitchen one evening for pancakes and conversation. It’s here in the smiles and looks they exchange that we realize these two really are attracted to each other. Before it can amount to anything (not even the pancakes come to fruition), Marin returns from New York and her lively presence and attention to Harry has a disappointed Erica saying she’s going back to her bedroom to write.  “You don’t want pancakes anymore?”  Harry asks — perhaps the saddest and most sweetly pathetic question ever uttered in rom-com history.  “No,” replies Erica quietly. “I don’t.”  Ouch. Shot through the heart.

Well, Erica Barry may not want pancakes anymore, but I do!  The movie gave me new appreciation for the idea of pancakes as a late-night snack. They’re delicious, filling and easy — plus the world is quiet after midnight and a little cooking and chatting is a great way for you to get to know or re-connect with your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, roommate, child, neighbour, or anyone you might find  hanging around your yard at that time of night.  Keep the work to a minimum by using a good pancake mix instead of cooking from scratch. I use Aunt Jemima  buttermilk mix.

If pancakes seem too cheap and low-brow for your bourgeois tastes, don’t knock it until you try it. Hey,  Erica and Harry shunned leftover coq au vin for pancakes. Plus some toppings can turn pancakes into more of a highfalutin dessert than a breakfast staple.  Here are some quick and easy topping suggestions that require minimal effort (there are lots of fancy homemade syrups and sauces you can make, but the idea is to make it easy — no intensive cooking and boiling and fussing. It’s freaking midnight, afterall). Have the toppings alone, or mix and match with others from the list:

  • Maple syrup, of course
  • Blueberries (that’s what Erica was planning to use)
  • Strawberries
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Whip cream
  • Milk chocolate chips (on top or cooked right into the batter)
  • Chocolate or butterscotch syrup
  • Sugar with lemon juice (recommended on several sites online)
  • Applesauce
  • Jam (spread cold with a knife or warm in the microwave)
  • Yogurt
  • Powdered sugar
  • Peanut butter (cold or warmed and melted over the pancakes)
  • Ice cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Caramel
  • Honey
  • Bacon (quickly cook in the microwave and then crumble either on top of the pancake with syrup, or sprinkle the bacon pieces into the uncooked side of your pancakes while they’re in the pan. Top with a little maple syrup afterward.)

Do you have a favourite quick-and-easy pancake topping that I haven’t listed here? Let me know and I’ll include it in the list.

Paula Jane

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Enchanted

DVD (2007)  Written by Bill Kelly/Directed by Kevin Lima                                   STARRING: Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden

I think Enchanted is a test of the viewer’s ‘goodness’ level. If you watch this movie in its entirety and the absolute sweetness of it doesn’t touch you – even just a little — then clearly you and your heart were forged in the fires at Mount Doom. I am always secretly teary-eyed at the end of this movie. Is it because of the happy endings for all? Is it Jon McLaughlin singing So Close as the lead characters dance together? Is it that the hapless chipmunk finally returns to Andalasia, regaining his voice and perhaps even his status as a woodland sex symbol? I don’t know, but this is such a funny and friendly movie that casting ill feelings toward it in any way would be like running over a box of puppies or strangling the life out of Maria von Trapp.

What I really like about Enchanted is that it pokes fun at itself and of the whole fairytale genre, yet at the same time it embraces the beauty of seeing the world in an innocent, positive way. True love, the movie concludes, really is magical. (Starting to tear up again, people. Talk amongst yourselves …)

Amy Adams plays Giselle, a cartoon fairytale princess who is just moments away from marrying her prince. Worrying that the marriage will end her reign as queen, the prince’s stepmother (she’s wicked, you see) must stop the pair from sharing “true love’s kiss.”  Giselle is then shoved down a wishing well, and sent to a place where “there are no happily ever afters”—a.k.a New York City. The movie begins as animation, but as Giselle crawls up through a manhole in the middle of  Times Square, the film switches to live action and it is here in this bizarre unfamiliar world of the living that Giselle meets her second love interest—Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey). Robert is a divorce lawyer who doesn’t believe in happy endings and doesn’t want his daughter to waste her time believing in them either. Patrick Dempsey’s cynical and serious character is the perfect contrast to the goofball innocence of Amy Adams who skips through the movie with a perpetual deer-caught-in-the-headlights look. Other cast members include Susan Sarandon as the evil Queen Narissa, and the handsome multi-talented James Marsden as the loveable narcissist Prince Edward. He fights ogres and slays New York City transit busses to rescue Giselle.

Enchanted is usually listed as a kids movie, but the movie is very much for adults too. This film has been in my top romantic comedy favourites since I first saw it in the theatre in 2007. If you like Patrick Dempsey, or Amy Adams, this one shouldn’t be missed.

Sweet extras The movie has several musical numbers, and Amy Adams sings three of them. James Marsden sings as well.

Good for who? This is a great pick for families, or for moms looking to watch a romantic comedy without having to worry about content should the kids pop into the room.

My 12-year-old daughter Mei says: I like this movie a lot. It is a fairy tale with a twist of reality (which I really like). It’s really funny and romantic and I think any kid would like it.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Sing a happy working song

And they cleaned happily ever after My favourite scene in the movie comes when Giselle wakes and decides she must clean Robert’s messy apartment.  With a melodic call from the window of Robert’s highrise apartment, she summons an assortment of New York City “wildlife” to help her in the task — including flies, roaches, and filthy rats licking their wee wees. What follows is a musical number called Happy Working Song, and without a word of a lie, I do sing this quite a bit while cleaning. Granted, I don’t usually remember most of the words in order, and end up mixing real lyrics with made up stuff like “…cleaning crud up in the kitchen,  la la la I’m Robert Mitchum…”  But it’s the spirit of the exercise that counts, and the song does put me into a happier mood as I straighten up. The entire soundtrack is actually quite fun to listen to during an afternoon of  housework. So put on your wedding dress or tuxedo, grab a broom, and sing along with me (or the soundtrack), won’t you?  Here are  the words:

Happy Working Song

Composed by Alan Menken/Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Come my little friends
As we all sing a happy little working song
Merry little voices clear and strong
Come and roll your sleeves up,
So to speak, and pitch in
Cleaning crud up in the kitchen
As we sing along

Trill a cheery tune in the tub
As we scrub a stubborn mildew stain
Pluck a hairball from the shower drain
To that gay refrain
Of a happy working song

We’ll keep singing without fail
Otherwise we’d spoil it
Hosing down the garbage pail
And scrubbing up the toilet
Ooh!

How we all enjoy letting loose with a little
“La-da-dum-dum-dum”
While we’re emptying the vacu-um
It’s such fun to hum
A happy working song
Hmmm
A happy working song

Oh, how strange a place to be
Till Edward comes for me
My heart is sighing
Still, as long as I am here
I guess a new experience
Could be worth trying
Hey! Keep drying!

You can do a lot when you’ve got
Such a happy working tune to hum
While you’re sponging up the soapy scum
We adore each filthy chore
That we determine
So, friends, even though you’re vermin
We’re a happy working throng

Singing as we fetch the detergent box
For the smelly shirts and the stinky socks
Sing along
If you can not sing then hum along
As we’re finishing our happy working song!

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It’s Complicated

DVD (2009)  Written and directed by Nancy Meyers                                    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin  

(Image: Universal)

We meet the lovely Jane Adler (Meryl Streep) as the last of her three grown children is moving away from home. Considering the lonely days ahead on her Santa Barbara estate, Jane’s biggest dilemma is “Who will I watch The Hills with?”  She’s feeling a bit mopey, but overall, life is great: she owns a trendy successful bakery, and her kids adore her — not to mention she looks ultra-fab in her awesome purple reading glasses. It seems the only thing missing from this divorced woman’s life is a man, and it’s not long before she finds herself with two: her architect Adam (Steve Martin) and her intrusive-but-charming ex-husband Jake (Alec Baldwin). Jake’s married to the younger woman he left his wife for 10 years ago, but insists he never really got over Jane. As for Jane, she’s interested in her architect, but she’s also curious: would things be better with her ex-husband the second time around?

If you liked Something’s Gotta Give (also by Meyers), you will without a doubt enjoy this one too. Music and tiny snippets of familiar-sounding dialogue tie the films together in mood and tone without being too copycat. What I especially love about the most recent films of Nancy Meyers is that she takes me to places I’d love to be: the perfect beach house in the Hamptons (Something’s Gotta Give), a cozy English cottage at Christmas time (The Holiday), or Jane Adler’s terra-cotta tiled estate near the Pacific.  For Meyers, the homes must be gorgeous and the characters must wander about them, eating great meals and MarthaStewart-ing in the veggie gardens and markets. In Nancy Meyers’ world, not even the marijuana stinks. (I know that would have made Carl, my previous neighbour, a lot more tolerable.)

But what really makes It’s Complicated work is that the characters are all so likeable. There was even a moment when I felt for the hard-edged tiger-tattooed Agness (Lake Bell).  And as for Meryl, I never not love her—even when she’s as high as a kite or weirdly thrashing about in her Mamma Mia overalls.  The roles in this film seem tailor-made for the comedic timing of  Streep, Martin, and Baldwin, and the humour of this doomed love triangle is ultimately showcased in a second-act conclusion that is both gut-bustingly funny and deeply horrifying. I shall say nothing more except that it’s great fun.

Sweet extras  John Krasinski (The Office) plays Meryl’s soon-to-be  son-in-law. He’s too cute when he finds himself privy to information he wishes he never had.

If you liked this, you will also like Something’s Gotta Give, written and directed by Nancy Meyers.

Good for who?  An excellent choice for singles and couples, and a great one to watch with your spouse. If you’re watching in mixed company, be warned of the sexual content (frequent though not explicit) and some pot-smoking (though miraculously odourless).

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Croque monsieur

No, I’m absolutely not going to suggest you have an affair  with your married ex-husband, but I WILL tell you how to make a brilliant quick dinner, inspired by the movie. The dish is croque monsieur, which Jane makes for Adam one evening after meeting to discuss the architectural plans for her house.  Jane says she discovered the recipe for this toasted sandwich while living in Paris, and made the dish frequently because it was quick and cheap.

I combined several recipes to come up with one delicious and easy one.  It’s like a fancy-pants grilled cheese and very rich tasting and filling. Try it with a crisp side salad of grape tomatoes and romaine.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • several tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 4 slices firm white sandwich bread—can’t be too soft. (You might prefer fresh bread you slice yourself)
  • thinly sliced Black Forest ham
  • slices of Gruyère cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Gruyère cheese
  • 2 teaspoons chopped green onions

Directions:

Have on hand a small saucepan and a large skillet. Preheat your broiler.

In a small saucepan, melt several tablespoons of butter. Add flour and stir, and gradually whisk in milk for one or two minutes. Bring to a boil on medium-heat until the sauce thickens, whisking constantly, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove the crusts from the bread if you like (I did) and build four sandwiches with ham and a slice of Gruyère between two slices of bread.

Heat a large skillet over low heat. Brush sandwiches with 1 tablespoon of melted butter on each side. Cook in the skillet until golden brown on both sides. Place the sandwiches on a cookie sheet, then smooth a light layer of sauce over the top of each sandwich. Grate cheese over the sandwiches, sprinkle with green onions, then broil until the cheese bubbles and begins to brown (should take about 3 minutes).

Tips:

  • Test sandwiches before you pull them out of the broiler. You want the bread to be toasty, not too soft.
  • To make the recipe cheaper, substitute a cheaper swiss or gouda cheese for the Gruyère.
  • While most recipes called for just a light grating of cheese on the top and slices in the middle, I put less cheese in the middle and more on top to get a nice grilled taste.

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