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Two Weeks Notice

Year: 2002
Director: Marc Lawrence
Writer: Marc Lawrence
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Hugh Grant, Heather Burns
One could write a sociology thesis using material from mainstream Hollywood rom-coms such as this more effectively than looking at films that deliberately set out to look at gender politics and society (like Baise Moi or Natural Born Killers).

It also provides a good example of how the realism of film making does it's job drawing us in.

Somewhere between the era of Gone With The Wind and Casablanca, where characters on screen acted like characters on a screen and today, where a combination of film technology and our demands of filmed entertainment produce people acting and dressing the way people really do, the power of the acting craft has co-opted our ability to see films as fantasy.

Because the fairy-story happy ending ethos portrayed in Two Weeks Notice is as hammy as it was in Hollywood's Golden years - the hero gets the girl, they fall in love, they get all the money, the object of their conflict is saved etc.

But nowadays (in this case in particular, a testament to the production and acting talent involved) we watch situations we can believe happening, about people we recognise, not superhuman gods and goddesses parading for our amusement.

So we honestly ask ourselves - why don't corporate bigwigs ever fall in love and give their fortunes away or save the old folks home or not fire a thousand people (a theme explored as many times as any Hollywood cliché - witness Pretty Woman)?

And the answer is because we don't realise that the power of the realism with which they make movies nowadays tricks us into forgetting we're watching a scripted, carefully planned fantasy.

All of that is testament to the acting prowess of Sandra Bullock (Lucy) in particular, who does a great job of using her face, voice and body to convey emotions, and to the chemistry between her and Hugh Grant (George).

The sexual politics are cause for a different debate altogether. We meet Lucy when she's a hippie-style social justice advocate and professional protester. She dresses funny, she's stubborn, she's a college educated lawyer, a trouble maker and seemingly a spinster.

The film's surreptitious message is laid down straight away - she is not the sort of girl men fall in love with.

Everything about her is 'redeemed' by the fairytale ending when she runs to George in the street for the climactic, romantic kiss after realising she loves him. By this time we've seen her preened and dressed beautifully (like a 'real' woman), questioning her beliefs and convictions and having apologised for being stubborn and demanding (after being bawled out by George because he thinks that's why she can't hold onto her boyfriends).

And as well as getting the handsome guy, he tells her he's resigned from his multinational profit-driven property company (thus renouncing his evil ways), but there is the careful insertion of a joke that they'll have to 'share a helicopter with another family' (because they'll only be sort of rich now, not filthy rich).

The message to girls everywhere is clear - don't be too hard, stubborn, convicted or too much of a trouble maker. Be as beautiful as you can be and dress to impress men (if only every now and then). Be a real woman, an accepted kind of woman, not the kind of girl society (and boys) find it hard to like - and you'll be rewarded with the girly fairy tale of riches and a handsome prince you used to believe in.

The politics aren't totally wrong - plenty of women as well as men can see the value in that romance, the worth of dressing to impress the opposite sex and the importance of having someone in your life. But the usual Hollywood moral message still shouts loud and clear - that love can solve all your problems and make everyone like you and want you.

As far as the story goes - it was very simple. Boy meets girl, they're from opposite sides of the tracks and hate each other, then learn they can't live without each other and give in to their desire after the requisite social and emotional conflict.

Both leads had great chemistry as mentioned, and good performances set up some honest and genuine laughs. On the whole - despite being a typical contrived rom-com - it worked.

The product placement also rolled on as much as the story - in a shot of three women sitting at a desk, a full sixth of the screen was taken up with the back of an open Apple iBook. And the presence of Norah Jones performing at a society bash served no purpose except to allow a slow, lingering tracking shot of her.

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