I found Shit, Actually by Lindy West on my trusty and much anticipated NPR’s Best Books of 2020 List. It looked like a fun, entertaining read with a little feminist twist, so I was happy to pick it up. Shit, Actually is a book filled with short essays. Each essay is a pithy review of a well-known movie. Actually, it’s less of review than it is a rehashing of the movie with commentary. It reminded me of CinemaSins, a Youtube channel that I find very entertaining (especially when I need to procrastinate). Not only is it a nostalgic stroll through many famous movies, but West often had me thinking about the films in a different light. It was also was funny.
West begins with The Fugitive. It is her favorite movie, and she compares all other movies in the book to the standard that The Fugitive set. Although it’s not my favorite movie, it’s a good movie and I’m certainly not going to argue with West on this point. She goes on to discuss many other movies, including: Love, Actually, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, The Notebook, Harry Potter, Freaky Friday, Top Gun, Titanic, The Rock, The Lion King, Speed, and many others (including the Tim Allen Santa movie that I’ve never seen).
I enjoyed the essays on movies that I’ve seen better, so it was good that Lindy stuck to pretty famous films. Of all the reviews, though, her review of Love, Actually stuck with me the most. I probably first saw Love, Actually when it came out in 2003, making me a very naïve and romantic 24 years old. And I remember liking the movie. I probably had a crush on almost every male actor in that movie, so seeing them all together was fine entertainment for me. I did not think critically about the relationships or how they were portrayed. I have since read some critiques of Love, Actually that had me rethinking my initial impressions.
West goes into even more detail about the problems with Love, Actually, and it didn’t take long to realize that this movie has almost nothing to do with love and romance. For instance, Keira Knightley’s secret admirer is not romantic. He’s a shitty friend who ruined his best friend’s wedding video with constant, creepy close-ups of the bride and put Keira Knightley in a very awkward position by secretly declaring his love for her behind his friend’s back. West also pointed out the constant weight comments and general harassment faced by Hugh Grant’s love interest. She goes on to point out that the women never speak or have their own opinions. Emma Thompson has the most personality, and she is promptly cheated on because she is a shrew. West goes on, but it is best read for yourself because I can’t do it justice.
I enjoyed reading this one, and I’d recommend it for movie lovers looking for some fun critiques with a refreshing point of view.
You can find all my reviews on my blog.