Last week on Thursday, Cinecultist and her friend, who also happens to be a children's book writer, Lisa went to see The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. We expected... not much. But as the credits rolled, CC sheepishly wiped away our tears and looked over at Lis. She was also totally bawling. Following, we explain why we're such ninnies for the Pants.
Cinecultist: so, The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants -- best movie of 2005?
Lisa: hmm. Lemme think ...nothing better comes to mind, actually.
CC: Were you surprised at how much you liked it? I know I was. I expected to be mocking it much more than I have been.
L: Yeah, I really was surprised. I expected it to be a much more teen-angsty kind of movie. With cheesy slapstick falls every five minutes. But it really wasn't like that.
CC: I think I expected it be more of a reprise of Now and Then, that horrible movie with the kid versions of Rosie OíDonnell, Demi Moore, etc. There's something about that shot in the gazebo that's in the preview that makes this movie look so incredibly trite. I know that's a lot of burden to put on one shot but when you're scrutinizing the previews, this is the kind of thing one tends to go on.
L: Sadly I never got to see Now and Then. I think I tried to several times, but my VCR was allergic to the video I rented. Now I thank that VCR. But I think I know what you're saying. But I think what was really remarkable about this film was that it didn't just cater to what teens will pay to see, it also tried to accurately depict their world (as much as one can, in a teen movie, I mean). Maybe Iím giving the pants too much credit, but honestly I think it's the most *realistic* teen movie Iíve seen in a long time. In terms of emotions and relationships, I mean, not the part with the magical pants.
CC: Yes, magical pants are totally far fetched. But I guess I like the way that the movie is inherently about teenage body issues without completely hitting you over the head (be happy with your body as it is, dammit!), but also really about the struggles of young girls coming of age. Friendship, divorced parents, family commitments, the difficulties of becoming a sexual being, etc. The book also has this interesting plot element where each of the girls falls into a funk of sorts, a spell of depression which while not completely debilitating (except maybe border-line in Bridget's case) is very real. You don't often see that depicted in movies -- that teen girls can be moody. I remember thinking when I was 13 that the best movie dialogue was from Heathers: "if you were happy all the time, you'd be a game show hostess." I found that idea so hilarious and empowering.
L: Interesting what you're saying about body issues. I didn't see that so much as a theme while I was watching the movie, because I don't think it plays so much throughout -- but I definitely like that idea. After I saw the movie, I was trying to think about what, exactly, the Pants' "powers" were supposed to be. It seemed not entirely consistent through each storyline. Iím not sure it needs to be, but I was just thinking ... so (Dr. Lisa asks), what do the Pants mean to you?? And yes, I definitely agree about showing girls being unhappy but not suicidal or drugged up. Just having teen girl problems. Sometimes it sucks being a teen girl, but most of us get over it okay. I thought this movie showed that well.
CC: I suppose in terms of the Powers of the Pants that they can make you more than you think you can be alone. They're the support of girl friendships; to make you more powerful, braver, more sure of yourself than you could be on your own.
L: I like that. Yes. I saw them as kind of a kick in the butt, if you will -- showing each girl what she needed to do, even when she really didn't want to go that route. I think that fits in with your idea, too, in a way, that friends can be your support in making those difficult decisions. (Now Iím getting a little cheesy, though...)
CC: I know. This movie inspires you to be so darn earnest. Itís scary.
L: Okay, a question: Do you think the movie (or the book, for that matter) could have worked without the magical element? Would it have been as good if they took the pants out of the pants movie?
CC: I think it's the vaguely cheesy catalyst for the plot. It seems to be essential to me.
L: Yeah, I think somehow the Pants really need to be there, even though I can't quite put my finger on why. Itís odd that it's the one magical element of the whole story, though, isn't it? I mean, it didn't bother me while I was watching at all, but afterwards it did start to bug me that everything else is based in reality when that's so off-the-wall fantastical.
CC: Well, that's the children's book writer in you. Either it all has to make no sense or complete sense. As though you were workshopping it or something.
L: I know. Thatís annoying, huh? Okay, Iíll stop doing that...
CC: No, it's interesting. Iím just saying I accepted it easier than you did, because my brain isn't tuned into that element.
L: How do you think the Pants compare to other kiddy lit books of that genre? The first series that comes to mind is Babysitter's Club. A little bit younger target audience, but it still has the whole "four very different girls as friends" aspect. How would you compare this to BSC?
CC: I loved BSC when I was a kid, but I wouldn't say that it made me cry. Though I will say after spending all Friday night reading the book (like a big fat loser with no friends!) it wasn't as moving and emotionally affecting as the movie. I really think those four actors really brought something special to the proceedings.
L: Yes, Iíll agree with that. The blond girl? Whatís her name? I loved her. I felt for her.
CC: Blake Lively. From an acting family apparently, but I read that this is her first film role. She knocked it out of the park.
L: (Although, I personally DID get choked up reading a BSC book once. Claudia And The Sad Goodbye. Man! Mimi was the best!)
CC: But I really liked all the girls: Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrer and Alexis Bledel. I predict big things for all of them.
L: Yes, she really was amazing. And when America Ferrera tells off West Wing dad? Wow, that got to me. I started to wonder at that point if I deep-seeded father-daughter issues. I have to say, of all four stories, I wasn't as into the Amber Tamblyn one. But we already discussed that the little blond girl bothered me. Maybe that's the thing -- I identified with the other three stories very strongly, but had trouble latching onto the one about the little cancer girl.
CC: I suppose if you had to point to a slightly less interesting story it would be hers. Though kids dying of cancer are always a gut-wrencher for me. I didn't identify so much as found it affecting.
L: Ooh, Iím just realizing ... death, love, sex, and family. Four story lines, four gigantical issues of growing up. This Ann Brashares woman is a genius! I can't believe it took me so long. And I call myself a writer.
CC: I don't know if Iíd say she's an expert prose stylist but she does know structure.
L: Do you think it worked as an adaptation? You said you liked the movie better, right?
CC: Yes, I did like the movie better. The book isn't bad. As I mentioned to you, they changed some major in elements in the Lena story (Alexis Bledel in Greece) but I think that was for the sake of shooting all of those great Roman Holiday on Santorini sequences. It is my humble opinion that all movies benefit from cute boys riding around on Vespas.
CC: I guess even though I spent all of that time reading the book, Iím thinking less about it being an adaptation than a movie based on a book. I can see how in Lemony Snicket you became obsessed with how the book was portrayed on screen but I didn't find the characters in the book got so under my skin that I was that protective of them.
L: By the way, I just IMDB'ed Blake Lively and it turns out she's been lying to us all. The Pants was not her first movie -- in 1998 she played Trixie/ Tooth Fairy in Sandman, which sounds like the best movie EVER. The plot summary ends with this line: ďIn the end, both Knapp and the children learn valuable lessons about doing the right thing and the necessity for kids to go to sleep.Ē And there's a character named "Marigold Pixietwiddle."
CC: Sweet! I know what we're renting next weekend! Any final thoughts on the Pants?
L: I guess Iíd just say it was a very surprising look at teenage girl-ism, and it manages to be emotional without being TOO super cheesy. In conclusion, Lisa hearts The Pants.
CC: Cinecultist does too. Itís our official first favorite guilty pleasure for the summer. Weíre hoping Mr. and Mrs. Smith and $2 Brooklyn Lagers at the Havana Outpost round out the rest of the list.
L: Thanks for a most thought-provoking discussion on The Pants! (Go pants go!)Posted by karen at June 10, 2005 8:50 AM