There are genres (e.g., Action, Comedy, Drama). Cross genres (e.g., Action-Thriller, Comedy-Science Fiction). Sub-genres (e.g., Romantic Comedy, Action Adventure). And then there are what we may call movie story types. In Hollywood development circles, people use them as shorthand. If you go here, you will see several that we’ve featured on GITS including Contained Thriller, Road Pictures, and The [Blank] From Hell.
This week and next, we look at more movie story types. Today: Chick Flick.
Per Wikipedia: “Chick flick is a slang term for a film mainly dealing with love and romance designed to appeal to a female target audience.”
Some examples of chick flicks:
Love Story (1970): Harvard Law student Oliver Barrett IV and music student Jennifer Cavilleri share a chemistry they cannot deny – and a love they cannot ignore…
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974): A recently widowed woman on the road with her precocious young son, determined to make a new life for herself as a singer.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981): Dual love stories of two actors and their relationship as they play the roles of fictional lovers from a novel adaptation.
Dirty Dancing (1987): Spending the summer in a holiday camp with her family, Frances (‘Baby’) falls in love with the camp’s dancing teacher.
Steel Magnolias (1989): A close-knit circle of friends whose lives come together at Truvy’s Beauty Parlor in a small parish in modern-day Louisiana.
Ghost (1990): After being killed during a botched mugging, a man’s love for his partner enables him to remain on earth as a ghost.
Thelma & Louise (1991): An Arkansas waitress and a housewife shoot a rapist and take off in a ’66 Thunderbird.
Sleepless in Seattle (1993): A recently-widowed man’s son calls a radio talk show in an attempt to find his father a partner.
The First Wives Club (1996): Reunited by the death of a college friend, three divorced women seek revenge on the husbands who left them for younger women.
How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998): On a vacation to Jamaica, a successful businesswoman falls in love and rethinks her life priorities.
Love Actually (2003): Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely and interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England.
The Notebook (2004): A poor and passionate young man falls in love with a rich young woman and gives her a sense of freedom only to be separated by their social differences.
Sex and the City (2008): A New York writer on sex and love is finally getting married to her Mr. Big. But her three best girlfriends must console her after one of them inadvertently leads Mr. Big to jilt her.
One key to understanding the psychological draw of chick flicks is this: relationships. Whether romantic, friend, or family, the relationships in these type of movies are central to what makes them work. It is the power of those relational connections that underscores and shapes the meaning of the events in the story’s plot.
As with all relationships, there are ups and downs, joys and conflicts, and so chick flicks put a premium on exploring the heights and depths of the emotional journey of key characters.
Another dynamic: Possibilities. In chick flicks, chance encounters can turn into life-altering opportunities. Consider this tagline for Sleepless in Seattle:
“What if someone you never met, someone you never saw, someone you never knew was the only someone for you?”
One interesting aspect of chick flicks is they can work across genres: Drama (Terms of Endearment), Romantic Comedy (Four Weddings and a Funeral), Sports (A League of Their Own), Thriller (The Hand That Rocked the Cradle), Action Adventure (Romancing the Stone). It’s possible to argue that one of the biggest movies of all time Titanic, an epic historical drama, is at its heart a chick flick because of the centrality of the romance relationship between Jack and Rose. As writer-director James Cameron said in this interview: “All my films are love stories… but in Titanic I finally got the balance right. It’s not a disaster film. It’s a love story with a fastidious overlay of real history.”
By the way since there is no hard and fast rule as to the definition of ‘chick flick,’ you can visit this website and vote on whether a movie actually qualifies or not.
What other qualities and dynamics do you think are present in most chick flicks? What other movies of note belong in the list?
[Originally posted October 24, 2011]