AJ Burgin reexamines and releases her Heigl Hate but can’t offer the same change of heart to 27 Dresses, not even while properly inebriated.
Just yesterday, Katherine Heigl took to both Twitter and Instagram to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of 27 Dresses.
Well, alright lil’ snaggletooth. Let’s take some time to remember it with you.
I started this re-view by remembering Katherine Heigl herself, who gained widespread fame as Izzie Stevens on Grey’s Anatomy. There, she played a former model turned surgical intern whose relentless positivity occasionally gave way to epic rants (I still love her angry-undressing-in-the-locker-room scene when Alex is giving her shit for being a model: “What are these? Oh, my god! Breasts!”). She was blonde. She baked a lot. She wanted everyone to like her. Pretty standard stuff. In 2007, she won an Emmy for that role. It was around this time that I started to read about how “ungrateful” and “entitled” Heigl was, how difficult she was to work with. I remember that she was the actress-to-hate du jour. And, to this day, I’ve bought into it. To survive re-watching 27 Dresses, I tried to go back and interrogate those stories. Where did they come from? Was my hatred justified? Is she a terrible actress? Especially now, when we’re learning about the enormous scope of damage that can come when you turn down the sexual advances of a powerful man in Hollywood, I wanted to ask: Was Heigl smeared? Was she unfairly punished? Let’s break down some of the reputation highlights.
Knocked Up: The Problem Child
In 2007, Heigl starred in Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. The movie was a box-office hit and, coupled with her Grey’s Anatomy success, Heigl was suddenly “a big deal.” Despite the positive reviews from critics, a few made note of the movie’s underlying sexism (shocking, I know). The worst part? HEIGL AGREED. In a 2008 interview with Vanity Fair, Heigl said:
It was a little sexist,” she says. “It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys. It exaggerated the characters, and I had a hard time with it, on some days. I’m playing such a bitch; why is she being such a killjoy? Why is this how you’re portraying women? Ninety-eight percent of the time it was an amazing experience, but it was hard for me to love the movie.
People really didn’t care too much for that. We can certainly have a discussion about what an actor’s obligations are regarding marketing the movies they are in. They sign contracts, sure, they have to do a bunch of press tours. They have to actively participate in making the movie successful (and it’s to their benefit to do so as well). But is her comment so terrible? It seems me that the worst part about it is that it’s true. Still, people were all up in arms and quick to call this a traitorous move. Years later, I find myself much less persuaded that’s fair.
The Emmys: That Time She Withdrew Herself from Consideration
This one is a little…a lot. In 2008, Heigl opted out of the Emmys and said it was because the material she had to work with didn’t deserve an Emmy nod. Maybe this is another moment of brutal honesty, but it does seem a tad unnecessary. Maybe she was making a stink to make a stink. But maybe, just maybe, we could read some larger critique of the awards circuit in general. Maybe Heigl was taking a stand against the insular, self-congratulatory nature of such awards shows. Maybe she was trying to pave the way for performances to be recognized on merit alone rather than on their commercial success. Did she offer such cogent criticisms? Not that I could find. But still. It’s possible.
On-Set Behavior: DIVA
Gossip magazines cover a lot of the general complaints about Heigl. That she’s “difficult, demanding,” and, ultimately, “not worth it” (as per the illustrious Us Magazine). Why is she difficult? Sometimes…she’s late, I guess? I’m sorry, but have any of you met anyone from L.A.? If you’re not late, you’re obviously not a local. How is she demanding? This is pretty heinous. Get this: She demands higher pay. What. A. Bitch. Am I right or am I right? Earlier this week, The Hollywood Reporter published an interview with Ellen Pompeo (the primary lead in Grey’s Anatomy) in which she explains the financial power structure of Hollywood:
I’m not necessarily perceived as successful, either, but a 24-year-old actress with a few big movies is, even though she’s probably being paid shit—certainly less than her male co-star and probably with no backend. And they’re going to pimp her out until she’s 33 or 34 and then she’s out like yesterday’s trash, and then what does she have to take care of herself? These poor girls have no real money, and the studio is making a fortune and parading them like ponies on a red carpet. I mean, Faye Dunaway is driving a fuckin’ Prius today. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a Prius, but my point is, she had no financial power. If we’re going to invoke change, that has to be part of it.
Given what we know about the pay gap in general and about the pay gap in Hollywood in particular, how is re-negotiating a salary contract a bad thing again? Sure, really rich people arguing about who deserves to be more rich is…a little distasteful for a lot of us. But there is a real principle involved here. If Heigl’s worst crime is that she’s a tough negotiator and is firm about what she thinks she deserves, then I can’t help but think her gender certainly has something to do with her bad reputation.
Overall Verdict: Katherine Heigl doesn’t do bullshit and she actually goes after what she wants. Even if she pursues those goals aggressively, it simply wouldn’t be newsworthy if she were, say, Patrick Dempsey. I’m going to stop hating on her and watch this fucking movie.
So here’s where I’m at: I’ve let go of my Heigl Hate. I even have a lot more respect for her. When read through a post-Weinstein lens, I think Heigl’s reputation might just make her a little bit of a badass. Also, guess what? She’s a pretty good actress. To be fair, 27 Dresses is not, as I remember it, a good movie. What I remember now is a feature-film version of “always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” I also have a vivid and horrifying recollection of her in a sari. Jesus. Regardless of how willing I am to critically re-examine my anti-Heigl sentiments, I remain confident in my skepticism of this film. So…I have to mentally prepare myself in the proper, professional way: Alcohol. I’m also doing this while my city is surrounded by catastrophe. We JUST came out of the Thomas Fire. We’ve been walking around in gas masks and/or breathing in ash for weeks. My lungs have felt like I have bronchitis for most of December. Then the rains came (“I bless the rains down in Santa Barbara,” Toto). I rejoiced. Finally something to flush out the ash and dampen things a bit. Except…oh great. The brush is all gone and now it’s just mudslide chaos. More people are dying now than did in the fire. What better time to watch a shitty, late-aughts rom-com?
I just noticed it’s an hour and FIFTY minutes long. That’s way too long for a rom-com. Excuse me while I get an extra glass of wine. Most important thought right now: Why on earth didn’t I get whisky? Putting the gummy bears in my glass of champagne is fun, but my very low level of intoxication feels so inadequate right now. Ok. I’m starting it.
[What follows is my real-time text conversation with the brilliant Katie Goehring, who, honestly, remembers this movie way too well.]
Me: She cites MOZART in the opening line. Jesus. She’s talking about her “purpose in life” being bridesmaid shit. Oh god. She’s taking care of everyone around her, even as a child. Taking kids to the bathroom. Fixing the bride’s torn dress with a ribbon? This is so weird.
“I knew that I had helped someone with the most important day of their lives.”
Me: OH GOD
Katie: Get your own life, bitch.
Me: Oh right! Judy Grier is in this! I love her! Greer? Whatever.
Katie: Yeah she’s the best
Me: Wait. That guy. the guy they zoomed in on in the audience. Confused that she’s checking her watch. He looks familiar. Why? Oh shit. The sari scene is right here in the beginning. Back-to-back weddings. She’s wearing a bindi. Jesus. Ah. Yes. She’s going back and forth between both weddings to look like she’s there the whole time. And she’s offered a cab guy $300 for the whole night to make sure she pulls it off. PLEASE. In New York City. And now the cab driver is reminding her, “Hey, wrong shoe.” It wouldn’t work but it also makes NO SENSE. Stoppit. Oh, what a lovely montage. The wedding music, dances, bridal problems (holding dresses while bride pees) all seem to be the same across religious ceremonies. So…some things are the same regardless of color????? What a beautiful universal moment (kill me now).
Katie: All bride problems are the same AJ. Duh.
Me: Thank god the booze seems to be kicking in. THANK GOD. Jane and Kevin. Those are their names. Jesus. “Kevin” is doing some fun intellectual play. “So you’re saying believing in marriage is like believing in Santa Claus?” Yeah yeah. You’re so clever. And that’s..attractive. Oh. He finds her planner and decides to keep it. He literally tells the cab driver, “You know what? Forget it,” when he starts to tell him to turn around. That’s…a dick fucking move.
HER WHOLE CLOSET IS BRIDESMAID DRESSES!!! This makes no sense. Also her apartment is HUGE. She has a pretty standard job, though I can’t remember what it is. In NYC. To quote Henri, the existential cat, “There is no logic in this place.”
Katie: That guy is so blah. Just don’t care about him AT ALL.
Me: She’s just reading the wedding section of the paper all wistfully and shit right now. No one does this! At least no one I know. AH THE RECEPTIONIST IS JESSICA JONES
Katie: Stupid Charlotte on Sex in the City does it.
Me: Ok so he’s writing a story about her. “How the wedding industry has transformed something that should be a rite of passage into a revenue stream.” God. So…he works for a woman that talks about his “ridiculously handsome face” but it’s clear that it’s a casual joke and they still have a professional relationship. She….works for a man….that she loves? She’s…his assistant? Yeah. She runs his calendar but has say in photo spreads. Sure sure sure sure. All makes total sense. Oh I do like that Judy Greer just slapped her. There should be more violence in this movie.
Katie: I mean it’s true about the wedding industry.
Me: Well, yeah, but he’s all incisive and intelligent (in a very basic bitch kind of way) and she’s…wow. Everything is so two dimensional. Why is “strawberry poptarts JINX” meant to be an amazing comedic moment between sisters? Yuck yuck yuck. God the writing is just LAZY
Katie: The sister is the fucking worst
Me: Doesn’t she…steal the boss/love? Malin Akerman?
Katie: Most def.
Me: “What good is it being appreciated if no one is naked?” God. Judy Greer is the best.
Bland [Kevin] just shows up at the work party? How does he even know where they are? Oh, the planner. CREEPY. It’s creepy. Just stop.
Me: She is doing this great veneer thing though. Like there’s nowhere for her to freak out. She goes out back but weirdly it’s a 50th anniversary party. And she says something sweet like a sociopath. Oh good. he gave her the planner back.
And Jane is obsessively waiting up for her sister. 3am. Sure. Sure. Sure. This is all normal.
Me: Kevin wrote his name and number all over her planner, also stole a page and….she sees it and immediately calls him? Angrily but…still
Katie: Yeah not sure what she ever reaches out to him in the first place.
Me: She’s like, “This guy wrote his number all over my planner. Better call him!” Wait wait wait. a pic with her boss and her sister is already his computer wallpaper how much time has passed?
Have I missed something? Mehitabel is also unimpressed.
Me: The boss and sister just said “I love you” at the goth wedding. WHAT IS HAPPENIG
HAPPENING?! Am I high? Ugh and Jane is the assistant that ties the boss’ ties. Yuck.
Katie: Yeah that relationship progressed quickly.
Me: Yeah too gross. You’re a grown ass man. Tie your own tie! And now he’s proposing. In front of Jane. “Maybe I’ve been too busy trying to make something of myself” BARF GAG VOMIT EVERYWHERE. Dad just called George [the boss, now soon-to-be brother-in-law] his “hero” because he gave Heigl a job and got Tess to move back home. Jeeeeeeeeeessssuuuuuussss. Uh oh. Now dad is giving Tess mom’s wedding dress. Heigl is pissed. Oh god. But no no. Gotta self-sacrifice. Now she’s meeting creeper. Why did this make her want to meet him? WHAT
Katie: Yeah I remember that. Pretty fucked up. Selfish bitch!
Me: This plot is flimsy as fuck
Katie: It certainly has some issues.
Me: How ironic is it that he’s helping her practice say no? Oh, she can’t say no. What a weird personality trait we’ve never seen before! This problem is definitely unique to her and not a gender stereotype at all. Sister/Malin Akerman: “For some reason girls just don’t like me, I don’t know why.” And so Malin Akerman is asking Heigl’s friend to be a bridesmaid??? Again: PLOT HOLES. They’re getting married in THREE WEEKS. “Come on, Jane, I know you can put it together that quickly.”
Katie: Nope! Impossible. I know from experience
Me: She’s….doing everything. Including the cake. And now she learns that Malcolm Doyle, the wedding columnist, is his other identity. Sure sure sure. “But you write the most beautiful things” line. “I feel like my favorite love song was just written about a sandwich.” He’s stopping by her apartment for an interview. WTF. He would just call. That’s what journalist do. They don’t do stalkery house calls. She’s…aggressively trying on bridesmaid dresses for him? To prove him wrong? Now he flatters her. “She didn’t want to stand next to a tall beautiful woman,” and so now she’s charmed and having fun and is trying on the shitty dresses. Guess how many there are? 27. And letting him take photos. Oh god, traditional Japanese kimono. Stop stop stop. She has to crouch in the photo flashback. Because all Asian people are so short. MAKE IT STOP. But now she defends it all: “I don’t care if someone wants me to wear a funny dress. it’s their day, not mine.” We’re supposed to think she’s a saint, not a vapid…idiot. “You don’t have any needs?” “No. I’m Jesus.” is them trying to defuse it by making her self-deprecating. Jesus. Even my cats are angry. Archy is making crazy demon noises. AAAAAAHHHH the sister is using the Latino “little brother” (as in Big Brothers Big Sisters Little) as hired domestic help. I’m too overwhelmed by ridiculousness and the horror. “All your statistics and theories are just a smokescreen.” “and I think you like weddings so much because you’d rather focus on other people’s kodak moments rather than create memories of your own.” jesus jesus jesus
they register “the ugliest stuff in the store” as revenge though. that’s…cool. It’s How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. But he’s the journalist. He’s helping by driving her somewhere…but…they’re stuck in a storm now. She’s driving emotionally so she’s gonna crash, right? Right. Because he called her on being in love with George uuuuuggghhhhh OH GOD I HATE THIS MORE THAN I REMEMBERED. Aw, now the city folks are stuck in a rural bar. How quaint. “The last legal form of slavery” is how he refers to marriage. But the man is the slave
Me: OH MY GOD but looking at his face when the bride walks down the aisle is BOTH OF THEIR favorite parts. Jesus. That’s right. This is the scene/moment in my life when I realized it wasn’t “Penny and the Jets.” How embarrassing.
Katie [who had stepped away for a while and gotten the giant rant above all in one long stream of texts]: No! Fuck that. Now that I’m getting married I have a whole lot of opinions on these matters. If you give any shits about the women you’ve asked to stand next to you, you want them looking and feeling amazing. Nobody wants photos of a bunch of sad bridesmaids in terrible dresses
Me: Why are they singing on the counter?
Katie: Oh man, too many cheeseball lines in this trash. One of the weaker rom coms for sure
I mean Elton John, he just takes hold of you. There’s no stopping it
He shows emotionally vulnerability (“I cried like a baby at the Keller wedding”) and she kisses him.
Me: And then they hook up in the car. drunk. UGH. Is she more brunette towards the end of the movie than the beginning?
Katie: Car sex is NEVER fun or sexy.
Katie: Not too sure, but I do remember an interview where they talked about changing her hair color to specifically make her look more homely.
Me: She’s supposed to look homely? Fuck.
Katie: Yup. Because she isn’t blonde basically
Me: “How could you let this happen to me?” is Tess’ attitude. sure.
Katie: She a selfish, ungrateful, spoiled little brat. I loathe her.
Me: Bridezilla meltdown is perhaps the single best piece of acting of this entire movie. Good job, Malin Akerman. Heigl seems more blonde now.
Katie: Well she has to look somewhat desirable towards the end so it’s somewhat believable that he would actually love her right?
Me: OH MY GOD this is so painful. Yeah. Your interpretation is correct. “That was yesterday. today you’re just some bitch who broke my heart and cut up my mother’s wedding dress.” It’s not even good writing! Even when it’s supposed to be super dramatic
Katie: Well, I mean come on now, she did call her sister a bitch. I’m sure she’s never done that before.
Me: “But then I remember I get to have hot hate sex with random strangers and I feel so much better.” meh. come on. do better. So lazy.
Katie: And, let’s be honest, you aren’t fooling anyone. You aren’t having hate sex with any strangers. You banged one guy! Not hate sex—drunken Love session in the backseat of a sedan
Me: But she’s so traumatized she thinks it makes her a whore. Because she’s got major internalized misogyny. DAMAGE
Katie: What’s the relationship with the dad again?
Me: Normal? Ish
Kevin: “For the first time in a really long time, I wanted to be there for somebody.” JESUS “I’m a selfish ass but you made me, for a moment, want to think about someone else. Aren’t I charming?”
Katie: Isn’t that supposedly what’s she’s been doing the whole fucking time?!?!?
Me: “Why would you want to be me when you get to be you?” GOD. Who. Wrote. This?!?! What are their lives like? What are their relationships like?
Katie: Either a dude that knows absolutely nothing about women or a sad sad lady who’s trying to rewrite the mistakes in her life.
Me: Oh it’s very dramatic. A British band I used to like is playing. Can’t remember their name. I want to say Helicopter is the band name.
Katie: Sure. Sounds good to me
Me: No no. Album name. “Like Eating Glass” is a song from the album. Maybe even the song that was playing. So emo.
Katie: Too much. It’s like when they play “Fake Plastic Trees” in Clueless to make Josh seem all deep and artistic.
Me: YES. It’s exactly like that!!
OH SHIT GEORGE IS KISSING HER I DON’T REMEMBER THIS AT ALL
Katie: Yeah, it’s her weird self-actualization moment. She doesn’t actually love him. She loved the idea of him and the fact that she can’t have him.
Me: “That’s not what it’s supposed to feel like, when you’re with the person you’re supposed to be with.” GAG ME.
Me: Ew ew ew ew ew and they make a funny charming joke about the taxi driver NOT being able to watch her change.
Katie: Hahaha it’s so funny when strange men try to get sneak peeks on my naked body.
Me: SO FUNNY.
Katie: I mean even better if they just go in for the grope. I can barely keep it together I’m laughing so hard.
Me: UGH. She did NOT need to make that jump onto the boat. This is all stupid lazy suspense-building. WAIT WHAT
SHE JUST SAID SHE’S IN LOVE WITH HIM. They got wasted together once and then he took pictures of her in dresses once. So they’ve talked twice
Katie: Again, soulmates.
Me: STOP. oh jesus fuck christ jesus lord
Katie: Come on. Get with the program. She jumped onto a boat for him. If that isn’t love them I’m completely lost.
Me: uuuuuuugggghhhhh. “That day I woke up and put on my 28th dress” UGH
“Everything was perfect and I didn’t care.”
Me: “The only thing that mattered was the person waiting for me at the end of the aisle and he was looking at me the way I’d always hoped.”
Katie: Definitely stealing some of those lines for my vows.
Me: “Is this moment what you’d always hoped?” “No. It’s more. It’s much more.” THE WRITING IS JUST SO BAD. It isn’t Heigl’s fault.
Katie: I mean, a little. That bitch read the script before she signed on.
Me: Maybe her agent gave her bad fucking advice. “Mrs. Doyle” is her name when she’s written about in the credits. Because she took his name. BECAUSE FUCKING BRIDE IS HER WHOLE GODDAMN IDENTITY.
Katie: She also made that terrible piece of trash with Gerard Butler. Not sure I’m really trusting her judgement.
Me: oh SHIT yeah. Bossy. Or….Mr Boss. Or Truth or Dare. Or Right or Wrong. Or Mr Wrong. Clearly I’m on the right track and remember it super well
Katie: The Ugly Truth. Looked it up.
Me: There ya go. I wasn’t close at all. I said “truth” once though.
Katie: That totally counts.
Me: James Marsden. That’s this guy. The one who plays Kevin.
Katie: Ugh, he’s the worst. So boring. Nothing going on behind those eyes
Me: Zilch. Wow. Ok. This was rough.
And that pretty much sums it up. It was really, really rough. And completely lacking in originality. And the writing felt not just unoriginal, but downright LAZY. It was terrible. It was way worse than I remember. Heigl did was she could, but she signed on to a fundamentally shitty movie. It’s weird putting her social media celebration of this movie side-by-side with her comments about the sexism of Knocked Up. I really want to hear her speak candidly about this train wreck. So there’s my re-view. My advice: don’t watch this movie ever, ever again. Even booze doesn’t help.