Monday, July 27, 2020

keeping her a little longer

Opening narration:
53% of the American workforce is female. Three generations of women that turned 1,000 years of tradition on its ear. As little girls they were told to grow up and marry doctors and lawyers. Instead they grew up and became doctors and lawyers. They moved out of the "pink ghetto" and into the executive suite. Sociologists say the new working woman is a phenomenon of our time. Take JC Wiatt, for example. Graduated first in her class at Yale, got her MBA at Harvard. Has a corner office at the corner of 58th and Park. She works five to nine, makes six figures a year, and they call her the Tiger Lady. Married to her job, she lives with an investment banker married to his. They collect African art, co-own their co-op and have separate but equal IRA accounts. One would take it for granted that a woman like this has it all. One must never take anything for granted.
Of course the narrator will not return; it's one of those openings. Plus, you know, the usual big city montage shots before we can get to our story.

But, I'm more concerned today with an idea I was trying to research before the film. Because I was sure that housewife turns homemade food item into a business (often with hilarious results, sometimes failure) was surely a thing you'd find on TV Tropes, but even with help, I couldn't prove that it ever happened anywhere but 7th Heaven. And Baby Boom, although JC Wiatt has more success with her baby food business than Annie Camden had with her muffins.
 
 
 
 
 
I remember this movie more for the Vermont part of it, but nearly an hour in, it's spent more time on the not-as-satirical-as-it-could-be city life with JC juggling becoming a mother with remaining in her job. But there was a whole segment where JC's boyfriend put up with having the baby when I remembering him rejecting her right away. I'd forgotten all about the adoption attempt (although as soon as I saw Mr. And Mrs. White I remembered that they wanted to rename the kid Fern, and I forgot about the nannies, but as soon as I saw Victoria Jackson, I remembered her naked behind the couch with the guy she met in that park that day, and I knew James Spader was going to get the promotion JC was supposed to get but all of this city stuff I was sure happened faster. That the film turned into the escapist Vermont countryside story earlier.

Like I was talking about plot points the other day, and now I'm wondering about this movie's plot points. Getting Elizabeth is the inciting incident, right. Plot Point One--and I forgot to check the timing on this one--was when JC decided to keep her after meeting the Whites. I'm not sure now (as JC is freaking out and scaring the plumber a bit after her well dried up) if Spader got the promotion before or after the Whites wanted to name Elizabeth Fern, but I guess JC finding out she's off the Food Chain account and on the Ferber Dog Food account is Pinch One. Moving to Vermont--that would be the midpoint. Then the movie rushed into too many apples, she's making baby food, but the pipes were corroded and then the well dried up and now she fainted and was taken to the local vet (because the nearest proper doctor was too far away)--
on TV Tropes, that's Open Heart Dentistry, by the way
--and then thinks about burning down her new house because it has no chance of being sold, and in come some yuppies to buy the baby applesauce. Pinch Two... Not quite at 62.5% of the way but close enough.


An old reference around here, Phil Dyer describes Pinch Two as
Halfway between the mid-point and the second plot point should be a major plot event that pushes the protagonist in a new direction, usually because of the revelation of new information.
JC sees how the yuppie tourists grab at her applesauce and she's off to the library for some business magazines--looking for updated market information, of course.

Then, a flat tire has her interacting with the local vet again, and yada yada yada, they kiss, and with Pinch Two so early, and a roadtrip selling montage underway, I'm not sure what Plot Point Two is going to be. And, now I'm figuring I should have read my copy of Kristin Thompson's Storytelling in the New Hollywood by now, so I could be writing around the three-act structure already, demonstrating that movies don't always follow it very well. Except, they usually hew pretty close to it, just with a second act that plays a little long, and a third act sometimes that is quite short.

Plot Point Two is supposed to be:
the worst thing that could possibly occur in the protagonist's pursuit of his external goal should happen.
We get a montage of packaging and news coverage marking success at an hour twenty-five.
This usually happens because the antagonist exposed the protagonists' internal flaw for the world to see.
But, JC is at a local dance having a great time and I'm not sure there is an antagonist in this film. At least not a visible one right now. Inevitably, this is leading back to business, back to the city, back to the place she used to work, but no inkling of that yet.
It should appear at this point that the antagonist has won the battle and that it is now impossible for the protagonist to overcome his internal flaw and achieve his external goal.
And then the protagonist is supposed to return to the real world. The "real world" of the film should be the city, but she can't return there. The "real world" could be business, but she's already back there. Or the "real world" is the nice heteronormative relationship she's starting up with Dr. Cooper, who comes to her house after the dance. And, I guess he could be the antagonist. Or in a way, all hes are the antagonists, or rather we've got bell hooks' "imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy" at it again, and JC Wiatt has to stand up against it.

Spends the night with Dr. Cooper, Elizabeth calls him daddy, and phone rings for an opportunity with the Food Chain buying Country Baby. Which circles us back to Dyer's "buildup to resolution":
The protagonist returns to his ordinary world at this point, but he should now be so changed by everything that he has gone through that he can no longer be satisfied living the way he did before.
And the film makes a nice move in filming JC from behind as she enters the place she used to work. She doesn't belong there anymore, even if she hasn't realized it yet.
The protagonist will summon all of his internal resources, often following a visit to a mentor or oracle, and make one final heroic push to accomplish his external goal. This is the real point of no return.
Her old boss Fritz is certainly patronizing and condescending at the table, and a little sarcastic laughter suggests that this meeting will not be simple. Which cinematically means it cannot end the way it was supposed to, which means JC has to say no or we wouldn't be watching this meeting happen.









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