In Pursuit of Dream Employment

January 3, 2010

To ibiteyoureyes, there are many great mysterious in this world, from khaki pants to women, to women who steal khaki pants, but the greatest mystery of all are the Netflix movie descriptions found on their website and on the back of the envelopes. Who writes them: man, machine, friend or foe? And why is there such a discrepancy in quality, both in writing styles and descriptiveness? Is there no house style?

Exhibit A, “Memento”:

Suffering short-term memory loss after a head injury, Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) embarks on a grim quest to find the lowlife who murdered his wife in this gritty, complex thriller that packs more knots than a hangman’s noose. To carry out his plan, Shelby snaps Polaroids of people and places, jotting down contextual notes on the backs of photos to aid in his search and jog his memory. He even tattoos his own body in a desperate bid to remember.

Look at all those adjectives! “Grim,” “gritty, complex,” “desperate”; there’s even some florid prose here, with the “hangman’s noose” analogy. We can quibble about the capsule’s descriptiveness (and quibble we shall! Does he jog his memory, or create substitute memories?) but we can agree that this is a review trying to sell this movie.

Compare to the description for “Spring Breakdown”:

Desperate to spice up their boring lives, three thirtysomething women (Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch and Parker Posey) set off for a vacation on a tropical island known for its raucous Spring Break parties. But instead of recapturing their youth, they wind up mothering a senator’s shy daughter (Amber Tamblyn). As they help the awkward girl grow more comfortable in her own skin, they, too, learn to embrace aging with wit, joy and grace.

The adjectives here: boring, raucous, shy, awkward, comfortable, “wit, joy and grace.” Suggestive of a fish-out-of-water comedy, maybe, but not necessarily a funny one. Who wants to see a Spring Break movie with wit, joy and grace?

But the bigger problem here is that this description is factually inaccurate. It describes a movie that resembles “Spring Breakdown,” but not said season’s collapse. “Mothering a senator’s shy daughter” is the raison-d’etre for their journey to the raucous tropical island, not incidental. Only in limited circumstances can we say that the women are “desperate” to spice up their boring lives. Rather, they are afflicted by a sense of complacency with their lives, yet the simultaneous recognition that they ought not to feel this way.

No, the back of the envelope does nothing to suggest how persuasively “Spring Breakdown” breaks down the teen sex comedy genre, with its promise of T & A (only heightened by the presence of Rachel Dratch) thrust aside, replaced with a solid dose of girl power.

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One Response to “In Pursuit of Dream Employment”

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