Tuesday, April 7, 2020

J-Lo vs J-Fo

Director: Robert Luketic
Cast: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Elaine Stritch
Released: May 13, 2005
Viewed in theaters: May 17, 2005

This is not a very good movie that was lucky enough to get two big stars in J-Lo and Jane Fonda. (J. Fo?) I was surprised when I read that this was Jane Fonda's first movie in 15 years - the last movie she did prior to this was in 1990.

The movie wastes no time getting Charlie (J-Lo (wait, is it J-Lo or J. Lo? Now I'm second guessing myself...)) together with Kevin (Michael Vartan) because they want to quickly introduce us to Kevin's mother, Viola (Jane Fonda) who will soon make Charlie's life a living hell. When we are introduced to Charlie, we learn that she lives with her gay roommate and friend, Remy (Adam Scott, who along with J-Lo's other friend, has nothing to do) and she has a lot of jobs as she works at a temp agency. Her many jobs (from the past and present) include: a dog walker (like you couldn't get a teenager to do that? That's an actual job that temps get?), a receptionist at a doctor's office, a yoga instructor, a caterer, a waitress for parties that her friend caters, and a Little League coach which just seems out of left field, no pun intended. She must be a terrible dog walker because we see her pick up two dobermans from a rich lady and the next scene later she's walking five dogs on the beach...and there are no dobermans in sight! Where did they go? She takes a break on the beach to read her horoscope and it says she's going to find love today. I don't even remember if her sign is mentioned, but I really don't think that matters. At that moment, an attractive shirtless man runs across the beach and catches her eye. The next day, Charlie will be at a coffee shop (ordering coffee; I'm surprised she doesn't work there!) and she will run into the same man on her way out. He says hello to her, but she just gets flustered and runs out after replying hello to him. Then she will see him the next night when she's helping her friend at a party she's catering. Of course, he is Kevin, the man with the overbearing mother that she will eventually start dating. They try to throw a wrench in their relationship by having another woman, Fiona, try to come between them which seems redundant because don't we already have that with Kevin's mother? I guess Fiona works with Kevin (who's a surgeon) which explains why she was at the party and they once dated, but while Fiona is still into him, Kevin doesn't have any feelings for her. She ends up telling Charlie not to get too attached to Kevin because he's gay and says he's getting married in December to another doctor (played by Will Arnett). Charlie sees them sitting together, talking and laughing, so she automatically assumes it must be true, despite the fact that Kevin was smiling and flirting with her all night. Oh, and he also asked for her number so he calls her, but Charlie doesn't answer. He catches her on the beach and she tells him, "I don't know why you called me. I'm a woman." This baffles him, then he realizes she thinks he is gay, and tells her he isn't. He asks her out on a date and after giving her a poetic answer about what color her eyes are, she is smitten. Their relationship will be smooth sailing from here on out aside from Kevin's mother and the random woman, Fiona.

We are introduced to Viola Fields the same day she will be losing her job and she doesn't take it so well. She is a daytime talk show host, akin to Oprah, who has interviewed some pretty prominent people (and has met Oprah!) and has won five Emmys. She is being replaced by someone younger because the show is trying to appeal to a younger demographic. Unfortunately, for Viola, her last guest will be a 17-year-old pop star singer who is obviously supposed to be Britney Spears-esque. After singing a terrible, manufactured song, Viola interviews her and the young woman tells her she likes watching "old" movies and rattles off Grease, Benji, The Little Mermaid, Free Willy, and Legally Blonde as examples. As she is going through her list, Viola looks livid. Okay, let's talk this through. This movie takes place in "present day" 2005, which means the pop star (I'm sure they said what her name is, but I don't remember, or more accurately, don't care enough to remember) was born in 1988. Grease and Benji came out in the '70s, so it makes sense she would consider them old. The Little Mermaid ('89) and Free Willy ('93), both came out after she was born, so if she thinks those movies are old, then does she think she is old at 17? But I understand that's part of the joke. The kicker for me is that she considers Legally Blonde an "old" movie. Remember, this is 2005. That means Legally Blonde is only four years old in this timeline! I understood the joke after I looked up the director of this movie, Robert Luketic. He also directed Legally Blonde (a MUCH better movie than this), so I guess that was just a little inside joke.

Viola ends up physically attacking the girl because she says something asinine and they're trying to go to commercial break during this physical altercation, but it's too late and everybody who is watching has already seen what has happened (I guess this must be a live show!) After taking a four month hiatus from life in general, she finds out that her son has been dating someone for that entire time, but doesn't think it's serious. It's a little intimidating for Charlie because she knows how close Kevin is to his mother (she calls him like four times a day which is a bit extreme!) and she lives in this huge mansion. Kevin is also a little nervous about his two favorite women meeting, but they get along just grandly, laughing and chatting as they're having tea and cake in the garden. Kevin is so thrilled that he proposes to Charlie right there...while his mother is sitting next to her. Not the most romantic move, there. Then we see Viola hugging Charlie, then slamming her face in the cake, but it was just her imagining that happening. (The slamming her face in the cake part, she did actually hug her, although how genuine it was, that remains to be seen!)

While this is going on, Viola's (very loyal and very patient) assistant, Ruby (Wanda Skyes) is observing the whole thing from a distance and is muttering under her breath for Charlie to say no because she knows Viola is not taking this news very well. But, of course, Charlie says yes. Earlier, Ruby had told Viola, who is a bit of a lush, that she had locked up all the alcohol and liquor after she returned from her four-moth hiatus, so Viola is rummaging through the bathroom medicine cabinet and finds mouth wash that has 14% alcohol and that's good enough for her. She comes to the conclusion that Charlie must be pregnant and that's why Kevin wants to marry her. When she brings this up, they tell her that Charlie is not pregnant. This still baffles Viola and she tells them, "Call me old-fashioned, marriage is a sacred union that should only be entered into with the utmost care." Charlie gets a stab back at her, asking her, "Weren't you married four times?" To which Viola replies, "Yes, which would make me an expert don't you think?" We know that her first husband is Kevin's dad, her second marriage was to a TV exec who got her her first on-air job, and her third marriage was to an actor who turned out to be gay and had an affair with her second husband. There's a bit of an on-going joke that she seems to be attracted to gay men. I don't remember any information about her fourth husband. Viola just can't get it through her head that her son, a "brilliant surgeon" is going to marry a "temp". She figures that Charlie is a gold digger and she's going to make it her "project" to create a wedge between her son and his fiancee.

Viola's first order of business it to embarrass her daughter-in-law to be at a engagement party she's hosting at her house. Both Kevin and Charlie show up wearing casual clothes (Charlie is wearing a white linen dress so it's not like she's super casual) because they were under the assumption Viola was throwing a BBQ with close family friends. Has Kevin ever met his mother? She doesn't seem like the type of woman who would have a BBQ or even know how to barbecue! Instead, it turns out to be a fancy black tie party where Viola has invited many dignitaries. She does this to embarrass Charlie because she immediately starts introducing her to a prince, the man who introduced the Euro to the global market, the poet laureate, and the Secretary of Commerce and after introducing each of them to Charlie, she tells them that Charlie is a "temp".

She tells Kevin and Charlie that she has more appropriate attire for them in the house. I was thinking the dress she had picked out for Charlie would be hideous, but it was this beautiful vintage dress that Charlie was excited to wear. The only hitch was that it was too small and she could barely get it over her hips. Viola invites Fiona to flirt with Kevin and she comes onto him and of course Charlie sees them kissing and huffs away. I was surprised when Fiona tells her that she was just giving him a "congratulatory kiss." Kevin is able to placate her and they go home and everything is okay with them once again, because, let's face it, Fiona isn't a problem. I really don't know why she's needed in this movie.

Viola has Ruby looking up anything she can find on Charlie, but she comes with nothing. Charlie has no criminal record, no debt, got decent grades in school, went to design school, and has had a string of odd jobs. When Viola asks her about drugs or promiscuity, Ruby replies, "She's had fewer lovers in her lifetime than you did at closing day of Woodstock." I don't know how she found out about all of her past boyfriends, but this line did make me laugh. And wow, Viola must have been a ho back in her day...yikes!

It becomes Viola's mission to not only drive Charlie crazy, but also drive her away from her son as well. As she tells Ruby, "Every woman knows when you marry a man, you also marry his mother." I feel like she has very outdated (even for 2005!) views on marriage. She invites Charlie out to lunch (by the way, J-Lo has some very enviable outfits in this movie, this one included) where she just pretty much starts planning their wedding with doves and horse-drawn carriages and other things Charlie isn't into. She also presents her with a frilly pink wedding planner book. Charlie puts her foot down and firmly tells her thanks, but no thanks, that they don't want any of her input. This causes Viola to faint on the outside patio where they're eating lunch, causing a scene. A woman nearby asks if she's dead and Charlie tells her no, then under her breath, she mutters, "It can't be that easy." Okay. That was funny. This movie isn't that great, but there were a few funny moments, this one included. It turns out that Viola had an anxiety attack and Kevin tells Charlie that his mother told him that Charlie was yelling at her about not being able to plan the wedding, which Charlie admits to.

The doctor tells Viola she needs no stress, so Kevin and Charlie agree (well, Charlie reluctantly agrees!) that Viola should live with them until she feels better. Oh, I should probably mention that Charlie has moved in with Kevin, but that makes sense since they're engaged. I'm not really sure why living with her son and her son's fiancee would give her less stress when she has that nice mansion she can lounge around in, but whatever. This is all part of Viola's evil plan.

Kevin has to go out of town the first few days after Viola moves in, so it's just Charlie and her future mother-in-law. Like that's not awkward at all! The first night, Viola keeps Charlie up all night because she's crying. She forgot to take her pills and asks Charlie to get them for her, then when Charlie returns with them, she needs water, then she needs ice in her water, and so on. Even after all that, she tells Charlie she doesn't want to be alone and wants Charlie to spend the night with her. I definitely would have put my foot down at that! But Charlie obliges and pretty much gets beat up because Viola is thrashing all over the place while she's sleeping and hits her in the face a few times. A little extreme on Viola's part.

The next day, Viola tells Charlie she called her lawyer to update her will because she wanted to include her and has some questions she needs to ask which include are there any hereditary illness in her family and is she an illegal alien? (I mean, she seems pretty American to me!) Charlie gets suspicious when Viola asks her how many men has she been sexually active with and Charlie wants to know why would they want to know that and Viola winks at her and says "That many, huh?"  She also asks Charlie if she would be willing to sign a prenuptial agreement. When Charlie questions that, Viola pretends to be outraged and says, "I know, they're such nosy bastards! It's none of the business! Okay, this scene was pretty funny, thanks to Jane Fonda's reactions to J-Lo's incredulousness. Much like the scene where we see Viola imaging herself smashing Charlie's head into a cake, Charlie has a fantasy of slapping Viola across the face with a pan and knocking her off the stool she's sitting on. 

When Charlie invites her two friends over (when Viola is gone), Remy tells her he found out Viola has been investigating Charlie. I did like the line when he said "I was upstairs in her room, minding my own business..." Charlie discovers she has her high school transcripts and super up close photos of her taken at the beach and wonders when they were even taken. She also discovers that the anti anxiety pills Viola's been taking are actually chewable vitamin Cs. The hilarious part is that she had to get that confirmed by one of the doctors at the office where she works at a part time receptionist. I feel like if you saw a chewable ("chewable" being the operative word), you would be able to tell that's what it was). 

Charlie gets her worst revenge on Viola when she brings home a bunch of dogs she's been walking. One of the dobermans we saw her walking earlier in the movie growls at Viola when she comes home and she calls to Charlie to help her. When Charlie comes out, she's been in the kitchen cooking what looks to be spaghetti sauce. She still has the spoon in her hand and when she tells the dog to back down, she flings the spoon and end up flinging sauce on Viola's white pantsuit. Charlie apologizes and asks if it was expensive and Viola replies, "It was." She then goes up to her room and that's when the audience, along with Viola, discover a pack of dogs in her room, including the other doberman. There are dogs on her bed, dogs on the carpet, dogs ripping up pillows, dogs ripping up bedsheets, dogs just ruining everything in sight. Yeah, I would be pretty ticked off too! Although, if you think about it, this is Kevin's house, so why is Charlie letting the dogs ruin the carpet, bed, and other furniture in the room if all this stuff is his? We never do see his reaction to this. How convenient.

The night before the wedding, there's a small wedding party gathering and Viola ends up putting nuts in the gravy because Charlie is allergic. The two of them keep going back and forth with their antics, it's hard to remember the score. Ruby tells her not to do that and Viola decides that's even a bit too extreme for her. But while they are chatting, another guest brings out the gravy boat that has the nuts (which are pretty big so you think everyone would notice that there are nuts in the gravy!) and Charlie ends up having some and her face swells up and she has these humongous lips. Lucky for her, on the day of the wedding, she wakes up to her perfectly beautiful face again. 

Charlie has asked Viola to be her Maid of Honor (I don't care if you even get along great with your mother-in-law; that's a weird person to ask to be your MoH!) It seems she's only doing it to embarrass her because she has this hideous peach colored (Viola's favorite color) dress for her to wear. It is the day of the wedding and these two are still going at it. There was a scene a few days earlier where they are both eating lunch and Viola makes a snide remark at Charlie, saying, "Just so you know, Kevin likes his girls thin" after Charlie tells her she wants the dress to fit her and not the other way around. Yes, Charlie is curvy, but sheesh, she's not fat. 

Charlie's friend (the one who isn't Adam Scott, the female friend...she really has nothing to do and I literally cannot remember her name or care to remember) tells her she spoke to the priest and confirmed with him that he's going to skip over the part where he says, "If anyone objects, speak now or forever hold your peace." You know, I've been to a handful of weddings in my life and I don't think I've ever heard that during a wedding ceremony. It could be I just don't remember because nobody said anything when it was said, but I'm pretty sure it's mostly used for movies and TV shows for the drama.

Viola shows up to the wedding wearing a white dress and that just about sends Charlie over the edge. When Kevin's paternal grandmother, Gertrude (Elaine Stritch) shows up, we find out that she and Viola have a relationship not unlike Viola and Charlie where they're always going back and forth and sniping at each other. I had to laugh when Gertrude exclaims, "My grandson is marrying an exotic Latina!", because, again, she seems very American and non-exotic to me.

It doesn't take long for the two older women to start squabbling and Gertrude accuses Viola of killing her son. As she tells her, "All the doctors agree - my son died of terminal disappointment!" Her first husband must have died pretty young if she was able to get married three more times, or either those marriages didn't last very long. Viola snaps back that Gertrude killed her son because she smothered him to death and that nobody was ever good enough for him. Obviously these two women have a lot in common. After Gertrude leaves the room, Charlie tells Viola that she realizes in thirty years, they will be doing the exact same thing and while she wants to marry Kevin because they make each other happy, but because Viola's not going to let that happen (her plan is to move to the same neighborhood as Kevin and Charlie), she decides to call the wedding off.

When she goes to find Kevin, I checked to see how much time was left. There was ten minutes remaining so I knew this had to be wrapped up soon. And it was. Before Charlie can say anything to Kevin, Viola stops her, telling her she needs to talk to her. She apologizes to Charlie and tells her she wants her to get married to her son because he makes her happy and she promises she'll butt out of their lives, but Charlie tells her she wants her to be involved with her grandchildren when she and Kevin start having kids. Yay, everyone loves each other, yay. 

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