posted by Mickey on 11/20/02
The last time I went to the cinema to see a Jennifer Lopez film, it was “Angel Eyes,” a turgid supernatural thriller (if you can call a movie containing no thrills a thriller) in which Jennifer Lopez turned out to be the embodiment of human virtue. If Mother Theresa had gotten around the slums of Calcutta dressed as a policewoman wearing trousers that were slightly too tight, she couldn’t have presented as more of a paragon of goodness. With the possible exception of “Quills” it was the worst movie I saw last year, and that is saying something. At the same time I was watching the movie, or maybe a very short while afterwards, two hijacked aeroplanes crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York, another into the Pentagon, and a fourth plane was on its way to be flown into another monument where it would have caused even more loss of life and horror if it had not crashed first into a field in Pennsylvania because of the heroism of a number of passengers on the flight. After the movie I went off to play my regular Tuesday night game of netball, and then I went home and had a shower and then I went straight to bed and slept soundly and I didn’t find out what had happened until I woke up the next morning and fumbled like I normally do with my static-y old clock-radio, which sends me crackly information that seems to be coming from the surface point of some giant reverberating amplified bowl of rice bubbles and I lay there with my eyes closed learning about the disaster wishing I was dreaming. Of course, it would be a grotesque error of taste to compare the catastrophe of September 11, 2001 with the merely artistic calamity of “Angel Eyes” but, for what it is worth, that movie will always be a part of how I remember that September 11, a day on which the biggest trauma taking place in my life was shelling out 10 bucks to see a movie as rotten as “Angel Eyes”.
That’s my longwinded way of explaining why I had an uneasy feeling about seeing “Enough”. I had a primitive superstitious feeling that something awful might happen from now on every time I saw a Jennifer Lopez movie, not counting the movie itself. I put off seeing it. I didn’t put off seeing it as long as you might think (I understand this film was released in the United States a good six or seven months before it arrived here in Australia) but I did put off seeing it until it had almost reached the end of its cinematic release. I told myself, dude, you are being silly. Go and see the film. Perhaps it will be dreadful but nothing else will happen. Life will go on. Well, I’ve seen it now. Fingers crossed, but nothing too awful seems to have occurred. The movie was bilge, admittedly, but there is a little slice of me that is proud of my decision to watch “Enough”. I can squint at it in such a way as to make it a tiny victory for rationality. I chose not to surrender to dark irrational forces.
Mind you, as well as the irrational reasons that almost made me miss “Enough”, there were sound, convincing and coherent reasons to have avoided it. I can’t pat myself on the back too heartily for having seen “Enough”, because in the final analysis I wasted my money seeing a crappy film. I was willing to give the movie the benefit of the doubt, since it was directed by Michael Apted, whose films I usually enjoy. Against that, staring me in the goddamn face, there was one very large indication this was going to be a lousy film, i.e. it was a Jennifer Lopez movie.
Michael Apted showing Billy Campbell and Jennifer Lopez his famous impression of the MTV logo
Only a few years ago, Jennifer Lopez produced a great breakthrough performance in Steven Soderbergh’s entertaining Elmore Leonard adaptation, “Out of Sight”. She had already been an undeniably decorative presence in movies like “Anaconda,” which were schlocky but a lot of fun, and, then when she demonstrated she could swap snappy dialogue with George Clooney while looking as sexy as hell, it really looked as if Hollywood had found itself a talented and likeable large-bottomed new star. I make no apology for noticing her caboose. The whole world noticed her caboose. The emphasis on Jennifer Lopez’s rump in the publicity that surrounded her acquisition of celebrity was unmistakable. One of my favourite words in the whole English Language is “callipygian”. What a pleasure it is to be able to use a language that has its very own word to describe the quality of having well shaped buttocks. [Gk. “kallos”- beauty, “puge” buttocks]. And here was a young woman who well deserved to be complimented with this graceful word. At the time, the only question seemed to be: what worlds would the callipygous Ms Jennifer Lopez not conquer?
Instead of conquering any worlds at all, over the course of only a few short years, Jennifer Lopez has transformed herself from a promising young actor into one of the most annoyingly ubiquitous figures on an overpopulated trash celebrity landscape. It isn’t just that not a single one of the projects she has involved herself with since “Out of Sight” has come close to realising her potential. It feels more like she never had any potential to begin with, and was never anything more than a haughty dumbass multimedia notalent. She has been the celebrity at the centre of any number of variously lurid tabloid scandals involving Puff Diddy and/or Ben Affleck. In between her relationships with these two, she also married some other bloke whose name I have forgotten (and whose name she has probably forgotten herself). Apart from being walking column-inches for gossip rags, Jennifer Lopez has launched a whole series of new careers for herself: as a cover-girl for lads’ mags like FMH; as a not-particularly talented singer of forgettable Latin-tinged pop songs; and as a shill for a line of execrable clothing, and a more than usually nauseating perfume, products that use the J-Lo brand-name as their one and only marketing feature.
Meanwhile, as an actor, she has taken a series of vanity roles, to befit her new diva-like status. She played a saintly psychologist with caring compassionate moocow eyes and a big shapely bottom in the unpleasant “The Cell”; she played a saintly policewoman with caring compassionate moocow eyes and a big shapely bottom in the aforementioned irredeemably rotten and really, almost painfully bad “Angel Eyes”. I don’t know what she played in “The Wedding Planner” since I couldn’t bring myself to see it, but I’d be willing to bet a million dollars that she didn’t play a gimlet- eyed villain with a small backside. For 80% of “Enough” she plays a saintly victim of domestic abuse with caring compassionate moocow eyes and a big shapely bottom. The message is plain. Jennifer Lopez is not just hot. She is an angel in human form. But even angels have limits. True, her character in “Enough” does end up murdering her husband in a premeditated and brutal and prolonged homicide. But this one petty indiscretion needs to be placed in the larger context of her being a compassionate, caring, large-eyed, large-bottomed victim of circumstance whose patience has run out.
“Enough” has a series of titles, as if it were a silent movie, or a collection of about 20 short films, or an episode of “Frasier,” with titles like “How They Met”, “The Wedding”,“Their Happy Life Together”, “And Baby Makes Three”, “The First Cracks Begin to Appear in the Relationship”, “Oh! What a Bastard He Turns Out to Be”, “Oh What a Complete and Utter Cad!” “Slim Goes to the Gym”, “Check Out Her Butt in These Clothes,” and “She Kills the Dirty Good For Nothing. Serves Him Right. Good Riddance to Bad Rubbish, I Say.” This device is very irritating, since it reminds the audience, when every short sequence begins, just how lousy was the little episode they just sat through.
It would be boring to go through each of these episodes so I’ll just concentrate on two aspects of the film. The first concerns how you would go about picking-up Jennifer Lopez if she really were a waitress at a greasy spoon diner instead of being one of the most annoyingly ubiquitous figures on an overpopulated trash celebrity landscape. The short answer is, you would pull the wool over her eyes with a neat trick. The second thing I wanted to look at was how you would go about getting out of a relationship with Jennifer Lopez. The short answer is, you could slap her around a bit, and she would kill you.
In the first episode of the movie, “How They Met,” we are introduced to Jennifer Lopez as the waitress/angel in residence at a greasy spoon diner who has been nicknamed Slim, obviously by someone who has never gotten a back view of her. Anyway, she’s there, slinging hash, when a plausible-looking young man (Noah Wyle) in one of the booths starts laying a bit of sweet talk on her to which she gives every indication of succumbing. This is a girl so angelic, indeed, that she eats up some of the most pathetic pick-up lines ever included in a Hollywood script. He tells her he is a writer. He has got a rose for her. He wants to take her out. Juliette Lewis, whose career has apparently free-fallen to the point that she is reduced to playing second fiddle waitress roles in films like this, advises Slim that since she is no particularly beauty, she ought not to let this opportunity pass her by. At this stage, up steps another booth-crawler, who announces that he was in the diner yesterday, and that he had overheard the other nighthawk betting with a buddy that he could get into Slim’s pants. Those are the very words he uses. Obviously what he means is that the bet was about whether or not he could seduce her, since either of these guys is clearly going to fit into Slim’s pants without any difficulty at all, if all that is being measured is hip size. The sleazy sweet-talking Lothario, confronted with testimony he was using his dreadful pickup lines for the purpose of trying to pick someone up, confesses all and is thrown out of the diner without ceremony. With a no-need-to-thank-me-just-doing-my-job-ma’am kind of strut to his walk, the stoolpigeon then walks out of the diner. And that is the end of episode one.
He said he wanted a flat lemonade
Episode two begins with the stoolpigeon getting married to Slim. We are to understand that romance bloomed in the aftermath of his gallant action to prevent the other would-be seducer getting into Slim’s pants. While this is not particularly plausible, it is not wildly ridiculous either. It doesn’t actually reveal itself as wildly ridiculous, anyway, until about two-thirds of the way through the movie, when Slim has run away from her husband to escape from the terrible beatings he hands out to her 24/7. The husband, Mitch (Billy Campbell), wants to get Slim, and his daughter, Grace, back, so he calls in his best friend to hunt her down and stalk her. Well, imagine the gasps of astonishment that go around the cinema when this best friend turns out to be none other than our old friend with the rose, from scene 1, last seen being chucked onto the street outside the greasy spoon for unchivalrous conduct. Although he is slightly peeved at having to go off to do stalker duty, he agrees to go J- Lo hunting, but not before getting off a few barbs at Mitch about how Mitch had had to go and ruin the excellent set-up they had by marrying the bitch.
What I inferred, and what everybody in the audience was meant to infer from this, but not spend one further second’s thought on, was that these two sharpies had arrived at a perhaps slightly morally questionable but foolproof and successful method for picking up chicks. Before giving that method the forbidden further second’s thought, let’s just review what the rest of the film has revealed to us about these two bozos up to this point.
About the peeved bozo, we have learned very little, except a bit about his ostensible pick-up technique and that he can’t even look realistic when getting the heave-ho from a botulism palace like J Lo’s diner. But neither he, nor our main baddie, the spouse basher, Mitch, is noticeably unattractive. As for Mitch, his vague job in the construction industry seems to have earned him an absolute fortune, since when he is setting up a home for Slim it is established that he can pay comfortably over market price for a mansion-like house that Slim has mentioned she likes the look of, simply as an impulse purchase, without giving it a second thought. The film also goes to enormous, indeed gratuitous, lengths to establish that Mitch is good in bed, either when coupling with the long-suffering Slim or with the various other floozies who find their way into his embrace.
So, we are talking about a guy who is rich, goodlooking, and sexually magnetic and his (also reasonably good-looking) sidekick. And what is their pick-up technique? Are you taking notes, guys?
1. Sit at separate tables in a diner, ideally back-to-back as in the above illustration..
2. Cad # 1 starts laying down lines to waitress. If she doesn’t express an interest, obviously it is time to abort the mission and move on to the next greasy spoon.
3. If the waitress does seem to be going for it, however, Cad # 1 can start laying it on thick. The thicker the better. No line is too lame. Here is some sample dialogue from the diner scene. It isn’t a transcript, but it is as close to the genuine dialogue as I can remember. CAD. “What are you reading?” SLIM. “I’ve been reading ‘Finegans Wake’ because someone told me it is the hardest book you can read. Well, not the hardest book you can read, but the hardest book you can read that you can read.” [I swear to God, the dialogue goes very much like that]. CAD. “How long have you been reading it?” SLIM. “Six years.” CAD [Thinking to himself, “She’s a literary type”]. “I’m a writer. And this is for you.” [producing a red rose].
4. So far, so standard. The genius part of the Method is to be found right here in points 4-5, so pay attention. These are the crucial steps. Cad # 2, ie. the guy who is going to score, butts in here and spills the beans about a conversation he has heard between Cad # 1 and (imaginary) Cad # 3 about how Cad # 1 bet Cad # 3 thousands of dollars he could get into the waitress’s pants. As I said, this is an absolutely critical point. If the waitress tells Cad # 2 something along the lines of “Well it looks like he’s gonna win the bet, doesn’t it, Buttinksi?” then there will be nothing for it but to abort the mission and move on to the next greasy spoon. But that’s not going to happen. No way. What will happen is that the waitress and the rest of the staff will put in a bit of a roughhouse on Cad # 1. Cad # 2 will join in. At this point Cad # 1 is sitting in the gutter, nursing his bruises. Cad # 2 now pulls off what I think of as the money step in the plan.
5. Cad # 2 leaves. Where most rich, attractive, sex-hounds would hang around, sniffing about to get their pay-off, this pair have got their system down so pat, that at this point, not just one of them, but both of them are off the premises. It is so subtle, so cunning, it is perfect. What Cad # 2 has done here, is he has planted a seed. Nothing is more certain than that the waitress is going to be thinking 24/7 about the knight in shining armour who saved her from having to go on a date with Cad # 1. When Cad # 2 reappears on the scene at some indeterminate point in the future, all the free sex he could possibly want, and more, will be on offer. As for Cad # 1, while it is true he doesn’t get laid, he does get to have his ass kicked, so it isn’t like he doesn’t get anything out of the deal.
This is such a sure-thing technique, that I am surprised I can even have a cup of coffee nowadays without there being some huge kerfuffle about whether or not someone has placed a wager on stealing the honour of the waitress. You can see Cad # 1’s point about it being a shame to spoil such a great set-up by marrying one of the broads, although you could equally argue that having gone to so much trouble to set up The Sting, you may as well marry the poor girl.
If you do marry her, and this is a point that “Enough” makes well, you obviously do have to go the trouble of pretending your buddy doesn’t exist for the rest of your married life; although, if you need to hunt her down and stalk her, this aspect of the plan can be revisited. This plan really works. It is 100% seduction gold.
Nothing up my sleeve
Moving now to the other end of the relationship: you have picked up the girl, gone the extra step and married her, and now you want to arrange an end to the relationship. Obviously the speediest and most efficient way to do this would be to get her to kill you. Welcome of the second part of the tutorial.
It is eight years on from the start of the relationship. Slim is looking good. Mitch is looking good. They have a child. They are living in their mansion. Everything is going great. One night, however, Slim happens to intercept a pager message from one of Mitch’s other sexual conquests, a French model who obviously fell just as hard as poor old Slim for the old that-other-guy-just-wants-to-get-into-your-pants flim-flam. The very next thing you know, Mitch is socking Slim on the face. Slim, naturally, declines to gather any evidence of the abuse that is occurring to her. Instead, she decides to run away. She plans it carefully. Cleverly, instead of fleeing when Mitch is doing his construction work or is out slipping it to a French model, she decides to make her getaway in the middle of the night, from beside the sleeping form of her husband. This is because she wants a chance to use this device she has hooked up that is meant to fool Mitch into thinking she is taking a tinkle. The plan is that Mitch is going to lie there for the next couple of hours, hearing the stream of water, and will not be concerned at all by Slim’s continued absence. All he will think is that she must have a larger bladder than he had previously realised.
Unfortunately, this plan goes awry and he belts the living daylights out of her again. In the end, she escapes, and we are into the dreary main section of the film where Slim is hiding out, and Mitch is trying to track her down. Every single person in the audience knows these two are going to end up confronting each other, so all this bit of the film can be comfortably fast-forwarded through, or whatever people with DVDs do to make films go quicker. Slim is able to put the confrontation off for some time thanks to being bankrolled by her discovery that her long-lost father is an internet millionaire. This means she can go to some pretty nifty extremes to avoid being found by Mitch, such as having getaway cars stowed at convenient locations, just in case she should need one at the end of a chase scene. Mitch, on the other hand has the unlimited finances that go with having a vague job in the construction industry to track her down with, so it all breaks even. All this section of the film really does is underline just how weak are the excuses that so many battered women put up that they are in a situation from which they cannot escape, not just physically or emotionally, but also financially. If these pathetic punching-bags would only put in a bit more effort and discover their own internet millionaire natural fathers, then we would be hearing a lot less whining and moaning from these so-called victims as a load of moneybagged urkels swept to their rescue.
Anyway, we get to the big confrontation in the end. Slim invests some of her internet loot in boxing classes, because she has realised the only solution to the situation is to beat Mitch to death. This is the absolute crux of the movie. The main message of “Enough,” in a nutshell, is that domestic abuse is OK. Although unsophisticated audiences might foolishly imagine that domestic abuse arises from a power imbalance that leaves its victims both emotionally and physically broken, “Enough” goes out of its way to demolish this myth. The message of the film is: if only women would realise it, what domestic violence really is, is a fair fight. Sure, you have to risk being beaten to death yourself to do it, but if you get a chance to beat a man to death with your bare hands, who is going to say “No” to that? (I think I must have been distracted by something, probably Jennifer Lopez’s caboose, when the script explained why it was essential that Mitch had to be beaten to death rather than shot, or stabbed, or otherwise disposed of).
So, the film turns around. The hunted becomes the hunter. Slim climbs into some fetish gear and stalks Mitch by breaking into his apartment (and gets to watch him sleep with yet another leggy victim of the old he-was-just-tryna-get-into-ya-pants one-two). She then disposes of all the weapons Mitch has lying around the home (since, remember, it is essential that she beats him to death, rather than shoots him) and waits for the right moment. Wisely, Slim makes sure she doesn’t have the element of surprise going for her, since that wouldn’t be fair, so she taunts Mitch for a bit before getting into a serious fist fight with him. After that, it is all over. As surely as Mitch is a coward (and as surely as Slim has saps in her gloves), he is going to wind up looking like the meat that Rocky works out with. No woman who is involved in a domestic abuse situation has any excuse not to do what Slim does, ie. beat the living shit out of him, murder him, in cold blood, and then lie about it to the cops.
“Enough” reprises a lot of the themes of “Sleeping With The Enemy,” the film that Julia Roberts chose as her follow-up to “Pretty Woman”. That was a pretty terrible movie too, although I always thought it deserved a little credit for the chutzpah it showed in interrupting a storyline all about domestic violence for five solid minutes, for the sole purpose of having “Brown Eyed Girl” on the soundtrack while Julia Roberts flounced around and tried on different hats. Jennifer Lopez has brown eyes, so I don’t know why Michael Apted didn’t introduce a similar sequence into “Enough.” It certainly could not have made for a worse film than the one he made, and we might have gotten to see some nice hats.
There are some jokes that should not be made. Doing my usual 10 minutes of research on the internet when I was writing this post, I found people saying Jennifer Lopez deserved to be slapped around. It isn’t very funny. No one deserves to be beaten up, not even movie stars whose celebrity outstrips their talent. Unfortunately, the crime these movies portray is real. By making the villain into a seeming all-round good guy who changes in the snap of a finger into a psychotic creep, the makers of “Enough” forfeit their chance to show that at a profound level, there are two victims of any spouse-bashing. Any person who chooses to assert power over another person by bashing them is degraded and reduced as a human being by making that choice. Asking the makers of a Hollywood film to get a message like that over, though, is probably asking too much. Just for a few minutes, however, there was a suggestion that “Enough” might be going to take a serious look at the separate issue of whether or not the laws to protect victims of domestic violence operate efficiently and genuinely protect the victims. By “a serious look” I mean something approaching the level of insight offered by a show like “Beverly Hills 90210” into any of the issues it tackled. I’m not asking for the moon here. “Enough” couldn’t even come up with that. Films like this are not an inspiration to the victims of domestic violence. They are an insult to them.
As for J-Lo, I am looking forward to her next movie. God knows why. No, really I am. As dire as “Enough” was it was at least twice as entertaining as “Angel Eyes,” which gives me hope that her career is describing a J curve. We have reached the bottom and the only way is up. She is currently making “Jersey Girl” with Kevin Smith directing. Unless she has already made it and it has been out in the States for the last two months, which is always possible. I don’t know if this is a remake of the Jami Gertz vehicle that was billed as “A Streetwise ‘Pretty Woman’ for the 90s’s”. If so, I’ll be particularly interested in the results. And I’m looking forward to great creative work from her in her other endeavours (music, cheesecake photography, market exploitation of her nickname, getting into gossip columns, etc). J-Lo, I believe you are a talented person, and I am rooting for you. You go, girl, and surprise us all.