Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't tell Steve Guttenberg about my blog. (I'm just being coy. Please do!)

There was a movie on TV last night called The Boyfriend School. However, that's just its cable/video title and the name of the Sarah Bird novel it's based on—when it came out in theaters (briefly) in the fall of 1990, it was called Don't Tell Her It's Me. The revised title threw me.

"Don't Tell Your Boyfriend He's Watching a Steve Guttenberg Movie" features the Reagan-era superstar as Gus, an overweight cartoonist and Hodgkin's disease survivor whose hair hasn't grown back from the chemotherapy yet. His sister, Lizzie (Shelley Long, probably regretting her decision to leave Cheers by this point), is a romance novelist who wants him to start dating again, so when a pretty magazine writer named Emily (Jami Gertz) interviews her for a story, she invites Emily and Gus over for dinner so they can meet. Magical screen chemistry between the Gute and the Gertz does not ensue.

"Don't Tell Anyone This Movie Is on Their Resum├ęs" is a typical romantic comedy, with the Gertz not being interested in the Gute at first because he's fat and hairless. But once Long, sporting a red dye job, turns him into a chopper-riding, blue-contact-lens-wearing, hair-extensions-sporting, New-Zealand-accent-affecting hunk, the Gertz can't wait to get in his pants, even though she already has an on-again, off-again boyfriend—her editor, Trout (only in the movies ...), played by Kyle MacLachlan. Too bad Trout's a typical movie jerk who's cheating on the Gertz with Madchen Amick, the hot young thang at the office. (MacLachlan and Amick were both cast members on ABC's Twin Peaks when Don't Tell Her It's Me was released, but this movie is a long way from David Lynch country.)

Emily doesn't know it's Gus when she first sees "Gus 2.0" since he's no longer wearing a bald cap and a fat suit. She also apparently has no clue what an authentic New Zealand accent sounds like, because the Gute's is terrible! All you had to do was effectively fake an Australian accent and she wouldn't have known the difference, Gute. You're lucky she's so sheltered.

Gus eventually tells Emily his true identity, but only after he sleeps with her. High five, Gus! After all, he probably hadn't had sex since before he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's, and even before that he probably wasn't attracting the attention of women who looked like the Gertz did in the late '80s. Every man could use a Shelley Long-supervised makeover.

"Don't Tell Me How This Movie Ends in Case I Ever Want to Rent It" ends with the Gertz rushing to the airport to stop the Gute from leaving town. (C'mon, you know you're never going to rent it.) You've seen it all a million times before, though at least it's revealed that Gus is simply leaving town for the weekend to attend a friend's wedding; that redeems the stock romantic-comedy ending somewhat.

When I was in a film-school program during my freshman year of college, I couldn't think of an ending for the romantic comedy I was trying to write for a class, when it suddenly hit me that the protagonist should chase down his girlfriend at the airport in Chicago. Genius! Why I didn't realize what a giant cliche that already was, I have no idea. (I don't think I knew back then that there are two airports in Chicago. My research wasn't painstaking, to say the least.) But at least my screenwriting teacher said, "I'm glad you're not writing a road-trip comedy about three friends finding themselves. I've heard too many of those pitches already." Score one for the 19-year-old writer with no life experience!


The most interesting thing about "Don't Tell Me You're Still Talking About This Movie," at least in my opinion, is that it was filmed in Charleston, South Carolina. Dude, I've been there! Several times! I've even been to the Charleston International Airport. I totally recognized it, dude!

I missed the beginning of the movie the first time it was on (yep, I made sure I caught the rerun), so I didn't hear Long's character mention Charleston, but as soon as I saw her house and the Gertz's, I thought, "These look like southern homes." Do the locals still speak of the Gute's hair extensions in hushed tones? I asked my friend Beau, who's lived there since the late '90s, but he says no. I think he's just too embarrassed to admit it.

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