Keeping in mind all the optimistic overdrive before and after Sex and the City's $57 million opening weekend, the putative Chick-Flick Revolution should probably feel a little more dug in right now than it actually is. But such is life for the accidental genre, which received another once-over on Sunday at the LAFF when writer-director Diane English discussed (and briefly previewed) her troubled updating of the 1939 all-female ensemble dramedy The Women — a/k/a "Unreleaseable Meg Ryan Project," the subject of its own endless drama and speculation as Warner Bros. determines how it plans to bury it.
We heard back in May that this was one of the titles that might seal Picturehouse's fate at WB; after it did, the studio brass's antipathy was later spun by Nikki Finke as thinly veiled institutional misogyny. An anonymous Finke source sounded a lot like English on Sunday, pegging the budget at a super-low $16 million and citing supposedly positive test screenings. Alas, the clip screened Sunday was leaden, cold and calculated in contrast to the crackling original that just preceded it; Eva Mendes is no Joan Crawford, but who is?
We asked English, who raised the budget herself after the original Ryan/Julia Roberts incarnation crashed back in the late '90s, about rumors Warners was sitting on the film and wouldn't pay to market it this August. She made a puzzled face and shook her head.
"We're going to have a proper release," she said. "They passed on our film, and they passed on Sex and the City as well. They have a particular kind of movie that they do really well, and this isn't their cup of tea necessarily. But they do understand how marketable this film is — they're not dumb, they absolutely do get that. After the success of Sex and the City, they're are currently re-looking at our marketing budget to take better care of us. ... The exception to the rule keeps happening."
Of course, The Women is obviously not Sex and the City — the clear beneficiary of a franchise following and almost unprecedented media support. Anyway, even if this isn't the chick-flick make-or-break we're being led to believe, we did learn from English that gay men are now unofficially the "fifth quadrant" of moviegoing audiences. All the easier to spread the blame in the aftermath, we suppose.