Hollywood Now Peddling Narcissism as Romance in '40 Days of Dating' Movie Project
Hollywood has figured out that the whole blog-to-book thing has worked for a couple years now, and has decided to enter the fold and create the next aspirational craze: the blog-to-movie deal. Enter 40 Days of Dating 's Jessica Walsh and Timothy Goodman, self-imposed lab rats and creators of the much-talked about digital dip into the world of l-o-v-e. It's 2013, y'all: relationships be ca-ray-zay!
Entering the minds of two artists determined to date each other for 40 days and wax philosophically about it for all the world to see is an endeavor in and of itself. Turns out, people that are creative can also use that talent to brand their misconceptions about love and life as adorable truisms. But is their brand of narcissism really what we want Hollywood romanticizing and peddling as the next rom-commed version of "true love"? No, no we do not.
Sure, it's easy to shirk off romantic comedies as mindless drivel, but that's because you're either a.) a huge jerk, b.) have no soul, or c.) have never seen a Nora Ephron film (and for you lot in particular I am very, very sorry). But when they're done well, the characters involved (as well as the audience) learn something new about themselves. What can be learned from an "experiment" where the two people involved do the exact same things they said they were going to try not to do in this habit-breaking battle of emotional lack-of-mutual-understanding? Other than a whole bunch of "wow, everyone really is terrible at dating and relating to each other," not anything all that romantic.
Let's be real: both of these people have narcissistic tendencies. Because from the get-go, even though they both talked about wanting change, they were quick to fall back comfortably and quickly into their old habits. Each one thought that their frame of reference and way of approaching relationships was at least partially right — or at least more right than the other person — to justify their willingness to share those thoughts with the Internet. (She says, perched high atop her Internet Writer throne and by throne I mean my living room floor.)
The times when stories of narcissists work, though, is when they're learning something or changing, seeing the err of their ways and fighting to make good on changing course. But all we've learned from 40 Days is that their inability to cycle out of behaviors they discuss at length shows just how incredibly stubborn and oblivious people can be when it comes to their relationships with other people. The whole thing can be distilled down to a pithy catchphrase, really. Dating: it's not for everyone!
But Michael Suscy's directing it, and he directed HBO's adaptation of Grey Gardens, a story of two very eccentric, very self-involved people. To which I say, yes: but theirs is both a cautionary tale about the trappings of wealth, and also one about making the best and staying optimistic above all else — even when the rest of the world would rather see you fail. It's about being yourself and all that jazz.
Walsh and Goodman are hardly outsiders, and seem to have ended up learning nothing from their completely arbitrary, seemingly nonsensical rules about how to date a friend. It's a cute idea, sure, but that's about it.
So, as much as I enjoyed Suscy's take on the unsinkable Big and Little Edie Bouvier-Beales and their own self-contained nuttery, it seems safe to say that this just isn't the same thing. You can't package up your diaries of "self improvement" with a bunch of quirky videos complete with ARTARTART-stylizations and elaborately be-fonted title cards and GIFs, and not expect people to feel as if the whole thing lives somewhere due south of sincerityville.