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Laura Reviews: What a Girl Wants

A couple of years ago, I went to see the hit film What Women Want, in a vain attempt to discover the answer to this question and perhaps get myself in good with the chicas. I was unsatisfied with the results of this experiment (the movie offered little to no information, despite the title), but recently, I had a chance to reinvestigate this particular question (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) with a little film called What A Girl Wants.

     The truth is that there were no other movies playing in the next few minutes, save House of 1000 Corpses, and we had to be back in time to see some Greek tragedies. Plus, the Providence Journal had misprinted and given the film four stars. So now I'll proceed to tell you more than you ever wanted to know about this film which you rightfully decided not to see.

     What a Girl Wants (which, despite the title, did NOT feature the hit Christina Aguilera song of the same name) is basically as you would expect from the previews. In case you are reading this after the memories of said previews have passed blissfully from your mind, allow me to refresh your memory. Amanda Bynes (the annoying one from Nickelodeon's All That and The Amanda Show) plays Daphne, a girl whose life is all dandy except for one thing: she has no dad. Well, she has one, but he's Lord Henry Dashwood, a wealthy British politician who doesn't know that Daphne exists. (And he's played by Colin Firth, who after playing Jack in the weird recent version of The Importance of Being Earnest and Mr. Darcy in the TV miniseries of Pride and Prejudice--parts, like Jesus, that any actor would die to play--really shouldn't be doing this sort of thing). Anyway, Daph Daph feels empty and incomplete without a dad. So, instead of writing, calling, or setting her mom up with one of the hunky Chinese restauranteurs downstairs, Daphne decides to leave home and make an unannounced visit to England and her dad's estate with what can only assume was her college money.

     After the obligatory riding-the-double-decker-tour-bus, looking-at-the-guidebook, exclaiming-at-the-sites montage scored with the Clash hit "London Calling", Daphy decides to break into the Dashwood manor. When she is caught and brought inside, she unabashedly announces her parentage in front of everyone--Lord Henry, his mother, his fiancee, his future stepdaughter, and the butler. A photograph of a hunky younger Henry and a birth certificate proves to be enough to convince everyone she's the genuine article, and, to the dismay of Fiancee and Future Stepdaughter, it is decided that Daphne will spend the summer at the estate.

     Of course, Daphne is too spunky and original to fit into highbrow London society--attributes which are communicated to the audience by having Daphne dance constantly--and so she is looked down upon by everyone but Daddy, who seems to want to capture the rock-music-liking, motorcycle-riding, leather-pants-wearing persona that charmed Daphne's mother; and Ian, a musician boy who rides motorcycle and who is Daphne's low-class love interest. Because of Daphne's inability to amuse people who don't ride motorcycles, Lord Henry's poll standings drop steadily, until Daphne decides to try and "fit in". She does this by wearing formal clothes and being miserable. Luckily, like Daphne's happiness, Lord Henry's electability seems to hinge solely on Daphne's wardrobe, and he begins to gain ground again. Of course, she alienates her new boyfriend by having to go to a ball instead of a Strikes concert (didn't they break up in 1957 when Willie Jacobs was drafted?), but it's all good.

     Of course, wearing nice clothes and behaving properly "isn't her," and, after a disastrous coming out party, Daphne heads home.

     Back in England, Lord Henry resigns from the political race, claiming that certain things are more important than politics. Apparently, he doesn't mean "family," since he breaks up with his fiancee and disappears to New York, where he patches things up with Daphne and, tritely, gets back together with her mom (barf, barf, barf). Also, he brings Ian, who apparently has no family or friends in England. Except that I think then Daphne goes back to England to attend Oxford (wait. She's smart?) and Ian is there too. So yeah. The end.

     Wow, that took a long time! Let's just do a quick rundown of the most glaring problems I have with this film.

  • That's right. Teach kids their lives are incomplete. Wake up, production company and writers: Plenty of kids don't have dads, and it's really not a big deal. In this day and age, when non-traditional families are supposed to be an OK thing, you'd think "a dad" wouldn't be touted as such a basic, essential need. Whether it be through divorce, death, single adoption, artificial insemination, lesbian parents--there's a host of totally valid reasons a kid would be dadless, and those kids shouldn't be made to feel like they are missing something fundamental; especially if they are, like Daphne, brought up by at least one completely responsible, loving adult. In the movie, Daphne claims that she feels "incomplete" without her father. Oh, get over yourself. I can see, maybe, if you remember your dad from your childhood, missing him and wanting him back in your life. But Daphne didn't--she'd never met the guy. How was she supposed to know that he wouldn't be a total jerk? His not wanting her in his life was a very real possibility, and she's goddamn lucky he did.
  • Just get your estranged parents together, and they'll fall in love again! Kids, try it at home! Yyyiiikes.
  • English politics works how? I'm by no means an expert on the politics of even my own home country, but I'm pretty sure everything in that movie was total bunk.
  • What exactly is "originality", again? The plot hinged on Daphne being an interesting person. "Why fit in," asks hunky Ian, just before they kiss in a boat, "when you were born to stand out?" So, what exactly about her is so enthralling? She seems like a pretty normal teenager, if by "normal" you mean "lacking in personality or motivation". She likes dogs. And she wears black nail polish, sometimes. Does that make her a worthwhile human being? According to the movie, yes.

Okay. I think we've all spent enough time on this particular film. See you next time a film comes out that promises to help me score chicks! Ciao!


- Laura