January 28, 2008
How does an adaptation of best-selling book The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alec Baldwin, go direct-to-video? The obvious answer is that the film isn’t that good and that it was rightly relegated to obscurity. However, this is simply not the case as a wonderful, little romantic comedy was unfairly marginalized, making it the third straight film by Gellar to meet this fate (see also The Return and Southland Tales), but will hopefully find a new life on home video.
The Sarah Bareilles song that plays over the opening credits immediately establishes that this is a stylish New York film a la The Devil Wears Prada (2006) or the early films of Woody Allen, most notably Annie Hall (1977). Brett (Gellar) is an ambitious associate editor at a small publishing house in New York City. She dreams of making it to the big time in her profession. She meets legendary editor Archie Knox (Baldwin) at a book signing and they strike up a friendship over dinner. He acts as her confidante and gives her sage advice when she needs it. Brett finds herself torn between her immature boyfriend and the charming but much more older Archie.
The first thing that strikes you about this film is its well-written screenplay populated with witty literary references in the form of banter that cheekily references French and Russian literature, Norman Mailer, and visual cues to the likes of Tom Wolfe. However, you don’t have to be a bookworm to appreciate the humour in this film – although, it wouldn’t hurt to be well-read.
Sarah Michelle Gellar follows in the footsteps of Diane Keaton (Manhattan), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sex and the City), Anne Hathaway (The Devil Wears Prada), and countless other actresses by finally doing her New York story. After starring in several horror films (The Grudge and The Return), it is nice to see a change of pace for Gellar as she tries her hand at the romantic comedy – something she hasn’t done since the under-appreciated Simply Irresistible (1999). She is beautiful and charming, exerting a vulnerability that is endearing but her character is no wallflower and sticks up for herself when she realizes that she’s been wronged and Archie is not the knight in shining armour that she had hoped.
If you’ve watched Alec Baldwin on Will & Grace or 30 Rock, you can appreciate the comedic touch that he can bring to a role and in this film he seems to be channeling Mr. Big or Ron Rifkin’s Vogue editor from Sex and the City. Some may be turned off by the age difference between Baldwin and Gellar but they do have genuine chemistry together. Even though Brett’s age is 24, in actuality Gellar is 30 and so the age difference really shouldn’t be that much of an issue.
Writer/director Marc Klein isn’t afraid to expertly shift the tone from engaging romantic comedy to serious drama as Brett is forced to deal with family issues and then veers back without losing elements of the serious stuff. Despite the pedestrian film title and atrocious DVD cover art that makes it look like Baldwin’s head is growing out of Gellar’s shoulder; Suburban Girl will survive on video and hopefully be rediscovered by a new audience.
There is an engaging audio commentary by writer/director Marc Klein. He mentions that he wished that they could have used the book’s original title but were unable to because of rights issues (Francis Ford Coppola owns it). He claims that this is a feminist movie inspired by an early job he had for a female boss and witnessing how badly she was treated. Klein cites Annie Hall as an influence and points out where he paid tribute to it. Klein also praises Baldwin for having the guts to play a character so close to his own real life. This is a chatty track delivered with refreshing earnest by a director clearly proud of his first film.
Also included is a trailer for the film.