«The idea of ​​you» and the idea of ​​a hot mom

Sandwiches make sure of that. In Michael Showalter’s new film «The Idea of ​​You,» Hayes Campbell, a twenty-four-year-old global pop star, is visibly attracted to Solène Marchand, a divorced, forty-year-old mother living in Los Angeles. . He shows up at her gallery and buys every piece of art on display. He accompanies her to a friend’s warehouse in the middle of nowhere and asks her probing questions about her college major. But it’s not until the pair head back to Solène’s tasteful home, partly to avoid the paparazzi, that their romance crosses the point of no return. Flexing her maternal superpowers, Solène gives herself and Hayes sandwiches she declares to be «legendary». A few more bites, a few more pauses of mutually vulnerable conversation, and the deal is sealed: moments later, Hayes and Solène are frantically chewing on the side of her piano.

The Last Season»True detective” he asked: What if moms made the best detectives? The final season of «Fargo» asked: What if moms made the best MacGyvers? Some trendy contemporary novels ask: What if moms made the best artists? Beyoncé recently asked: What if «mom» was the best personal brand for a culture-defining creative genius? Now romantic comedies are asking: What if moms were hot?

This is the level of radicalism offered by «The Idea of ​​You». Which is not to discount the film’s pleasures or its good intentions, but merely to advise viewers not to seek it out for its political bravado. Its strengths lie elsewhere. The film breathes life into the genre romantic comedy, which has been languishing lately, drawing on a fan culture that is very much alive. It is based on the novel by first-time author Robinne Lee, who named Harry Styles, Prince Harry and Eddie Redmayne as inspirations for the character of Hayes. As an indication of the surrounding stigma fan fictionLee also said that applying that label to her book «is both reductive and dismissive» — a way to demean women’s art. But a story written by Lee and edited by Showalter Yippee fanfiction in the classic sense: it spins a wish-fulfillment fantasy around a thinly veiled celebrity (or chimerical celebrity hybrid). Showalter’s version is also a classic rom-com with all the technical tricks and delicious tropes that the genre entails.

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Solène Marchand (Anne Hathaway) is not like other mothers. For one thing, she looks like Anne Hathaway: dewy, graceful, with shiny streaks of hair flowing down her shoulders and back. She wears beautiful clothes. The owner of an art gallery in Stříbrné jezera is professionally characterized by good taste and social values. («I really admire you. You’ve built a community around art and inclusivity,» says one suitor, before nervously inviting Solène to join him for «a meal.») Solène has a funny, smart, and supportive best friend named Tracy (Annie Mumolo). . He has a close, loving relationship with his sixteen-year-old daughter, Izzy (a bubbly Ella Rubin, who does her character’s job well – reflecting Solène well). At the same time, she is wonderfully friendly and vulnerable: she likes people who rarely put themselves first. She’s waiting to be swept off her feet, but she doesn’t know it yet. Solène is basically a slightly dull rom-com lead, someone who can be counted on to adorably make sure her daughter has enough sweaters, but who also spends an oddly large amount of the film in front of a mirror.

When Solèna’s ex-con Daniel (Reid Scott) takes a trip to Coachella with Izzy and her friends, Solène agrees to take his place. Have her cutely reunite with Hayes (Nicholas Galitzine), a British heartthrob and member of the world-beating boy band August Moon, who is headlining the festival. After mistaking Hayes’ private trailer for a bathroom, Solène failed to recognize the star and then admitted that her daughter had outgrown his music. Naturally, he’s smitten, and before long he’s slyly dedicating songs to her and whisking her away to villas in the south of France.

«The Idea of ​​You» is, in part, about the intense, cruel and often sexist scrutiny that celebrities and public figures endure, not only from the mainstream press but also because of social media. Photos of Hayes and Solène eventually find their way online, triggering a digital feeding frenzy and putting Solène in the crosshairs of «Moonheads.» She endures a stream of misogynistic abuse, headlines screaming she’s a «cougar» and «Yoko Ono 2.0» and anonymous trolls writing about how dirty she is.

Hathaway’s casting feels like a bit of meta-commentary on the part of the filmmakers. In her early 20s, she too was ripped on the Internet and accused of embodying the over-the-top stage boy after she co-hosted the 2011 Academy Awards James Franco. Her classic Hollywood look has caused Hathahaters to mock her as Little Miss Perfect, and it’s telling that she’s already been criticized for being «too hot” for the role of Solène. Equally telling are the film’s marketing team’s apparent efforts to pass her off as normal. On their promotional tour, Hathaway and Galitzine proved sweetly related. After some pre-interview footage caught them rooting for English soccer team Arsenal, soccer player Leandro Trossard surprised them with a video on the «Today» show, turning them into breathless fans for a moment. Hathaway brings both subtlety and steel to Solène, the latest heroine to make the leap from fanfic (or commercial romance novels that grew out of fanfic) to streaming. Excessive cuteness aside, she was rightfully praised for her performance, and I entertained my own wish-fulfillment fantasy of her plunging back onto my Southern California couch to bask in the empathy her gifts evoked, not to mention rage. foreign claim.

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To be fair, rom-coms encourage such identification. The Manichaean way in which he constructs heroes and villains reminds us that one of the symptoms of narcissism is the supposed division of the world into idealized angels and evil monsters. Take Hayes. Besides being ridiculously rich and handsome and desired by most of the world, he’s sensitive, charming, generous—»a talented, kind feminist,» as Izzy puts it—and Solène is smitten. He is not deterred from his goal of «trying to get to know (her) better», even though she ignores his lyrics and distances herself from his music. In fact, Solène’s disinterest turns Hayes on—he’s so confident (but also vulnerable because he cares so much about what she he thinks, even though, as Solène repeatedly says, he doesn’t care what people think).

The «people» or «them» or – let’s face it – the fans are the real villains of the film. (Solène’s hypocritical ex-husband, close behind, mostly serves as a public mouthpiece.) He’s jealous of Solène and doesn’t think she deserves Hayes. She thinks she’s rude for dating a younger man, although, as Hayes asks, «if the roles were reversed, do you think anyone else would mind?» «He hates happy women,» as Tracy, who supplies some of the of the film’s best lines, he says dryly. And they have a sense of ownership over Hayes because he gives them so much joy and because he seems to speak directly and intimately to each of them.

When you’re playing piano music by heart, thinking too hard about what your fingers are doing can make a mess. The same goes for watching rom-coms. The activity has a special purpose – to turn shame and insecurity into wish fulfillment – but if you notice it happening, the spell will fail.

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In other words, a rom-com is a machine that performs surgery. One measure of its quality is its sophistication—how well it conceals the fact that it is performing the specific operation for which it was designed. In the case of «The Idea of ​​You,» there are arguments — about age-gap relationships and the double standards that come with them; what it means to be famous; what it means to be a fan; and how it all intertwines with social media—which elevates, complicates, and obscures the underlying pattern. But while these diversions and subversions are where the criticism gets interesting, they don’t explain much of the appeal of the work itself. In the rom-com template, there is very little room for the creators to express themselves beyond the obvious. (For example, «The Idea of ​​You»‘s take on double standards is that they’re bad; his take on being famous is that it’s hard; and his take on haters is that they’re jerks.) At its core is most rom-coms aren’t really about ideas – they’re about feelings.

Affirmation and shame are the two main emotional poles of the film. Hayes gives Solène validation and shame is the weapon of mass destruction that fans use against her. Shame also haunts Solène’s story: we soon learn that her ex, Daniel, cheated on her with a young co-worker, and she finds out in a humiliating way. «You know that feeling when you walk into a room and you know everyone’s talking about you?» Hayes asks. She feels unworthy: “I can’t do that . . . because you’re you and I’m me and we’re just not right for each other.» Elsewhere, her voice shakes because she’s «ashamed.»


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