Monday, December 16, 2013

The Hot Flashes (2013): Female Power means Men Still Suck

The Hot Flashes (2013)
dir: Susan Seidelman

I hate saying that Susan Seidelman seems to have a problem with men based on three movies, but she kind of has a problem with men based on three of her movies.

In Making Mr. Right, a woman is needed to create a civilized man. In She-Devil, she eradicates any implications that the woman could also be doing dastardly deeds in a male-dominated world. And, in The Hot Flashes, most men suck...unless they're midgets or pot smokers.

The Hot Flashes is Seidelman's attempt at a Calandar Girls-esque comedy for America. The base plot is a rust-belt mobile breast cancer testing unit has become bankrupt for some reason or another, and needs a lot of money. Brooke Shields decides to get together a gang of women to try a fundraiser to get money to save the van. Except, Seidelman doesn't believe in exploiting bodies for sex so she has the old women create a basketball team to play against the high school state championship team.

At first the team is at odds with each other, as Daryl Hannah is a closeted lesbian, or Virginia Madsen slept with Camryn Manheim's then-boyfriend, now-husband years ago, or Wanda Sykes is running for mayor in a white town. But, they all come together to win the games, even through the adversity that happens.

And, there is adversity. The first source of adversity is Brooke Shields' husband, Eric Roberts, who is sleeping with another basketball mom and town Christian. The second source of adversity is Virginia Madsen's ex-husband, Carl Roberts, who is also the coach of the high school basketball team, and doesn't want to help the female team out by exploiting his team. And the third source of adversity is the all-male school board, who wants to cancel the game after receiving a complaint from the basketball mom. Men suck.

And, so does Christianity as the daughter of the town Christian is also a tramp, and both her and the mother hates lesbians. And, of course, the whole movie has to stop when Daryl Hannah finally comes out and brings her girlfriend to the game.


Susan Seidelman actually makes this concoction of cliches go down rather smoothly, and it helps that she has an obviously all-star cast. And, she's really trying to retain the men suck nature of her earlier films, but its just so much that it's ringing a bit hollow by now. Even Camryn Manheim's faithful man is portrayed as too interested in the young bodies on television to be interested in Manheim anymore. But, the only woman who is awful in the whole movie is the Christian woman, because she hates lesbians, cheats on her husband, and also sleeps with Eric Roberts.

I mean, really. Can you get any more obvious?  This whole movie feels like a feminist internet meme list of grievances. Christianity? Check. Homophobia? Check. No good cheating men? Check. Body image? Check. Men controlling the world? Check. Divorce? Check. Racism? Check.

There isn't any grace to it either. While it goes down smoothly, it has all the subtlety of a Steven Spielberg movie, and all the grace of an Adam Sandler movie. Or, worse, a Lifetime Original Movie pre-2005. The dialogue is stilted, the jokes are lame, the games are expected, and almost everything is by the book. Seidelman whittled away all the edges of her jagged little pills in her earlier work to make this more of a mass market movie (though she included enough sexuality, drug use, and foul language to somehow garner her an R-rating) and, in turn, made a movie that was boring and obvious.

It should be noted that this movie isn't just Susan Seidelman either. There is another voice behind this movie, and its a voice of a man. Brad Hennig, a gay man from San Francisco. The initial version of this script has probably been tooling around Hollywood for 8 years at least, as it is mentioned on this website, which celebrates a contest that was won in 2005 for some script called Heavens to Betsy. Now, in the 8 years between when that was out and when the movie was finally made, Seidelman may have made any number of changes, but Hennig is the only credited writer. Of course, gay men are more acceptable as they're not as much of a threat to feminists due to them being an oppressed minority, so that's cool with Seidelman.

Maybe that's the point, though. This might be a movie that is to sell to the rust-belt television watching moms on a Saturday who wouldn't normally watch an obviously-feminist movie (though I think they're the ones who, like me, loved the dark comedy of She-Devil). Maybe this is to push them to rethink their decisions and the world around them.

And its smooth enough to maybe work in that conceit. But, this is the type of movie to watch idly when you're sick and it comes on on a weekday afternoon and its either this, soap operas or trial reality shows. It's a mildly boring crowd-pleaser. And...Susan Seidelman, you can do better than this. I've seen it. Try harder.

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