The Sweetest Thing
review by Gregory Avery, 5 April 2002

The Sweetest Thing initially seems to be trying to usher in a new era of hedonism. The three main characters -- Christina (Cameron Diaz), Courtney (Christina Applegate), and Jane (Selma Blair) -- go out to a nightclub, where the girls, wearing little bits and pieces of nothing, writhe and wriggle around on the dance floor, get the guys to turn-on to them, and then flick them away, whether or not they've actually bedded them or not. Christina says that, for women today, it's "all about preservation" and setting "boundaries:" women should have fun, but they should no longer go out looking for "Mr. Right," but "Mr. Right-Now," and if the right guy should come along, well, then, "eventually the '-Now' part will just drop off."

It's the women who are calling all the shots, here. Then, along comes a scene where Courtney, staring into a ladies' room mirror, regards her ample bosom and starts kneading it. The other women present start staring at her, not because of her unbecoming behavior, but because of her breasts. Can they touch them? "Go ahead. That's why I got 'em," Courtney replies, and she continues her conversation with Christina, uninterrupted, while other hands proceed to fondle her. We're supposed to look at this scene approvingly; instead, the characters come off as boorish and crude, like watching the morons who flash the camera in the commercials that appear on E! Television for the "Girls Gone Wild" videos.

The picture wants to be a breezy, cheerfully raunchy comedy, which is fine -- there's nothing wrong with being cheerfully raunchy, as long as you throw in a few good jokes along the way. Instead, the film is brusque and thuddingly short on inspiration or cleverness. The characters get their clothes wet, strip down to their undies in public, and then waggle their panty-covered bottoms at each other; Christina (played by Diaz with the muzzy features of someone who has gotten too close to the flames of sexual heat) imagines that her perfect man is one who will perform terrific oral sex on her, "on the hour, every hour," while she eats huge bowls of ice cream in bed; a biker mistakes one of the girls for going-down on Courtney while she's driving her car, and instead of looking flustered, Courtney encourages him into thinking that, scowling tigerishly while swinging her arm around in the air. (Applegate tries for a salty, refreshing candor, la Paula Prentiss or Kim Cattrall, that never really surfaces.)

This may be a comedy, but there really aren't any jokes in the picture per-ce: the characters' brand of toidey-talk is the same as where just saying "poo-poo" and "wee-wee" out loud will get instant laughs from kids who aren't old enough yet to attend kindergarten. The filmmakers seem to have sat down and made out on a little piece of paper every nasty thing they could think of -- from "glory holes" to "anal leakage" -- then just plugged in some dialogue and used that as their script.

Christina is after a guy (Thomas Jane, who looks so sandy-colored in the film, he might've just returned from a tour of duty with the Foreign Legion) whom she met for only a few minutes, then let get away, so she and Courtney  pile into Courtney's car and roar out of town to where a wedding is being held, attended by both the guy and his brother (Jason Bateman). The road trip that ensues includes a moment where they get to stop and read the graffiti on a rest room wall, and Christina gets to complain that something in Courtney's car smells like "moldy ass" ( I don't even want to KNOW what that is). Then, after spending a great deal of time celebrating sexual uninhibitedness, the movie reverses itself and says that promiscuity is no substitute for monogamy. It's not terribly convincing. (There are a couple of bright spots in the movie: Parker Posey does a nice bit as a bride-to-be who breaks out in a rash before realizing that she doesn't want to get married. And Georgia Engel, the adorable comedienne who appeared on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," turns up in a small role, and I found her to be still adorable.)

And the picture's ending does not arrive before they manage to pillage Selma Blair one more time. Blair came to notoriety when she kissed Sarah Michelle Gellar on-screen in director Roger Kumble's previous film, Cruel Intentions. I was just beginning to take her seriously as an actress after her turn last year in Legally Blonde, but this movie, I'm afraid, is not a step in the right direction. First, she fumbles around at a dry cleaner's with a dress that has a Monica Lewsinsky-esque stain on it (good grief, just tell 'em it's toothpaste!); then, she walks into one scene rubbing her crotch, sore from having too much sex. She has a quickie at work with her boyfriend while he's wearing a huge plush animal suit. Then, as if in a three-ring circus, comes the topper: emergency paramedics arrive to find that she has a member of her boyfriend's anatomy stuck in her while she was performing an act of pleasure on him. (And if you're still not with us, don't worry, there'll be lots of talk about this from other sources during the weeks to come.) The scene almost becomes humorous in a bizarre sort of way when the crowds milling about this spectacle start singing "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," the song that Aerosmith recorded for Armageddon, to try to get the poor girl to relax. (Or, if that song doesn't get her to gag, nothing will.) Some actors see performing a role with these sort of "daring" scenes in it as a way of both expanding their acting abilities and their career potential. Instead, it seems sad that women today would sacrifice their sense of class and dignity for the attention that can be garnered from shameless exhibitionism.

Directed by:
Roger Kumble

Starring:
Cameron Diaz
Christina Applegate
Selma Blair
Thomas Jane
Jason Bateman
Parker Posey

Written by:
Nancy M. Pimenthal

Rated:
R - Restricted.
Under 17 requires
parent or adult
guardian.

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