Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why "The Town" is an Action Chick-Flick

I found it odd that although on the face of it, "The Town" seems to be a guy-centric crime/drama/thriller I seemed to enjoy it much more than the two guys who were with me. James gave it a solid B and Sam gave it a "meh".

I started thinking about the reasons it appealed to me and not James and Sam. We were pretty much in agreement about the movie's flaws yet somehow I seemed to have gotten a lot more enjoyment out of the movie overall than they did. Normally I'd just chalk it up to individual differences but when I thought about what I enjoyed in the movie, it seemed to reveal a disturbing truth.

I came to the conclusion that "The Town" is actually a well-disguised chick-flick heavily tinged with many elements that naturally appeal to woman:

-Ben Affleck gets more naked than either of the two female leads. There's a lot more eye-candy for women in this movie than men, even including the nanosecond nipple shot during the millisecond stripper scene. There are a lot of shots of Rebecca Hall looking goddessy and sweet but not to the level of raw objectification palpable in Ben Affleck's work-out scene.
-One of The Ultimate Female Fantasies is meeting a man and then inspiring him through love to change and better himself. This remains a fantasy because it rarely happens. However, meeting and connecting with Hall's character is clearly the impetus for Affleck to give up his life of crime.
-That brings us to another fantasy/unlikely scenario. A romance between a hostage and her captor. Although this isn't high on the list of female fantasies it's a well-known fact that unlikely couplings are stock element of the chick-flick and romantic comedy genre.
-When presented with two competing examples of womanhood: "the floozy" played by Blake Lively and Hall's yuppie good-girl, its no contest. Affleck picks the good-girl who is definitely the girl every sister would want for her brother. I can't speak for what men want but I know there were definitely hoots of approval in our theater after Lively's "efficient" hi-and-goodbye love scene.
-Affleck lacks the sense of moral ambiguity and heartlessness that seems to characterize true action/crime thrillers. The main character never really does anything to jeopardize audience sympathy and while this isn't what defines a chick-flick it does make up the sort of fake-edgy character that women love. A gritty anti-hero who isn't very gritty at all.

I admit "chick-flick" is a little bit of a polemic label. I do believe that Ben Affeck was just trying to make a crime movie that was infused with some sensitive performances. However, thinking about all these points all together I do think it's surprising how many things about this movie seems to fall under our idea of what appeals to women. It definitely has potential as a date night movie compromise and if anything proves that gender preferences certainly blur more than we think they do.