Ever wonder what your wife is talking about when she mentions “that scene” from When Harry Met Sally? Or why your female co-workers start giggling when they refer to Bob in cubicle 8 as “Mr. Big”? Do you feel you’re missing out on some cornerstone of pop culture, but just can’t bring yourself to sit through all those tear-jerkers with a box of Kleenex and a carton of Jamoca Almond Fudge?
Consider your prayers answered.
It’s easy to get lost in the world of chick flicks due to sheer volume – there is as much crap buried on the beach as there is treasure. Probably more. Which is why this compendium will put a spotlight on the best and most iconic of what the genre has to offer.
It’s been said many times before because it’s true: ladies love a sensitive man. No one’s suggesting that women only want weepers, or that all females of the species are looking for a cuddle and a cry, but handing in your He-Man Woman Haters Club membership card goes a long way toward achieving your eventual goal of getting laid.
The following is a guide for guys, a how-to manual on navigating the treacherous waters of the film genre known as the chick flick, with plot summaries, character breakdowns, and helpful pointers on key words and phrases – even a diagram or two. You’ll never again be left scratching your head during a heated Julia Roberts/ Sandra Bullock debate. Women will be amazed when you pick up on a seemingly coded reference to The Notebook. “Gee,” they’ll think. “Maybe he’s more than just a sack of meat.” Better yet, understanding what women see when they see these films will help you find the right woman for you – is she a Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks kind of girl, or a Meg Ryan/Billy Crystal fan? (Knowing the difference between them could make all the difference on a first date.) Best of all, get the answer to the eternal question from an insider view:
Why do women watch these things?
- “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” -Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) on New Year’s Eve in When Harry Met Sally…
- ‘But for now, let me say – Without hope or agenda – Just because it’s Christmas – And at Christmas you tell the truth – To me, you are perfect.’ -Mark (Andrew Lincoln) on Christmas with cue cards in Love Actually
- “I’m not an idiot, I know how the world works. I’ve got ten bucks in my pocket, I have no-nothing to offer you and I know that. I understand. But I’m too involved now. You jump, I jump remember? I can’t turn away without knowing you’ll be all right… That’s all I want.” -Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) referencing his love’s suicide attempt in Titanic
- “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s gonna be really hard. We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, for ever, you and me, every day.” -Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) after yet another argument in The Notebook
- “But the thing is, um, what I’m trying to say, very inarticulately, is that, um, in fact, perhaps despite appearances, I like you, very much. Just as you are.” -Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) in Bridget Jones’ Diary
“I just don’t think that Brooke could’ve done this. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands…they just don’t.”
– Elle Woods
CATEGORY: GAL PAL PIC
If you haven’t seen Legally Blonde, you probably should, as it’s a comedy that appeals to blondes, brunettes, and redheads alike. A Barbie doll from Bel Air decides to go to Harvard? Hilarious! Of course, it does have its lesson of morality, too. Elle goes to law school in the hopes of winning back the man who treats her like dirt, and instead finds her inner feminist and saves a fellow blonde from having to wear a heinous orange jumpsuit for the next 25 to life.
What You Need to Know About the Plot
Delta Nu sorority president Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) is looking for the perfect dress to wear on what she thinks will be the most magical night of her life – the night her boyfriend Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis) proposes. Instead of a proposal of marriage, Warner proposes that they break up. Evidently, Elle’s too much of a ‘Marilyn,’ (Monroe) and not a ‘Jackie’ (Kennedy).
Elle’s best friends Margot (Jessica Cauffiel) and Serena (Alanna Ubach) think a trip to the salon will bring Elle out of her funk, but instead of highlights, Elle picks up a magazine featuring a picture of Warner’s brother, and decides that in order to win Warner back, she has to go to Harvard.
After Elle prepares a video resume to showcase all her qualifications, and somehow manages to get a 179 on her LSATs despite having majored in Fashion Merchandising at CULA, she gets her acceptance and heads out to Boston, where, of course, her Los Angeles lifestyle is gawked at. Along for the ride is her Chihuahua Bruiser, and her extensive pink wardrobe.
Elle gets off to a rocky start when she’s humiliated in her first class by a girl named Vivian (Selma Blair), who just so happens to be Warner’s high school sweetheart and brand-new fiancée. This news sends Elle on a desperate quest for a mani-pedi, landing her in the lap of Paulette (Jennifer Coolidge), who dresses like an unpopular middle-schooler and lacks the confidence to speak to the UPS guy. Despite the fact that Paulette is once, twice, three times a loser, she gives Elle advice, and Elle takes it. She’s going to win Warner back.
Elle’s only ally at Harvard is Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson), whom she meets on campus after Professor Stromwell (Holland Taylor) kicks her out of class. That was the only good thing to come out of her first day. Since Vivian doesn’t want to give up the 4-carat Harry Winston on her finger, she and her minion trick Elle into showing up at a party in a sexy bunny costume. Elle shrugs off the humiliation and flirts with Warner, only to finally realize that he’s never going to take her seriously and she has to prove to him and everyone else that she’s worthy of attending their stupid school.
After a montage of Elle dedicating herself to the law and self-improvement, she takes Warner down a peg in Professor Callahan’s (Victor Garber) class, and submits her candidacy for one of Callahan’s internship positions with a pink, scented resume. Elle’s feeling pretty good about herself, and decides to use her new-found law powers to help Paulette reclaim her bulldog, Rufus, from an evil ex. Despite using legal jargon completely incorrectly, Elle and Paulette manage to make off with the dog.
Elle’s next victory comes when Professor Callahan announces he’s taking on a couple of first-year interns. Elle, Warner, Vivian, and Enid Wexler are the lucky few who get to see the inside of a real law office. To mark the momentous occasion, Elle buys a black dress and pantyhose, and finds, to her surprise, that Emmett is one of Callahan’s associates.
Their defendant is exercise guru Brooke Wyndham (Ali Larter), formerly Brooke Taylor, one of Elle’s idols and a Delta Nu sister. She supposedly shot her elderly husband but swears she wouldn’t do such a thing because he was really good in bed.
Elle goes to visit Brooke in prison, delivering the essentials, like Cosmo, 500-thread count sheets, and conditioner, and asks for Brooke’s alibi. Brooke refuses to take the stand, but eventually confesses that the reason she can’t tell anyone where she was at the time of the murder is that she was getting liposuction, and she doesn’t want to lose her fitness reputation. Elle swears to keep her secret.
A promise which is tested the next day after Callahan finds out about the visit Brooke received from her ‘sister.’ He demands she tell him what the alibi is, but Elle zips her lip. She can’t break the bonds of sisterhood. None of the men get it, even Emmett, which he tells her on their drive to a spa to interview the deceased’s ex-wife (Raquel Welch). Vivian thinks it was very “classy” of her not to tell, and they bond over depositions and Warner’s inability to do his own laundry.
The courtroom drama starts when Brooke’s poolboy Enrique takes the stand and claims the two of them were lovers. But when he recognizes Elle’s footwear as Prada, she knows he’s full of shit – he’s gay, straight men don’t know designers. Callahan dismisses her female intuition, but Emmett takes a chance and gets Enrique to out himself.
Riding high on her success, Elle is abruptly dragged back to earth when a late night meeting with Callahan results in sexual harassment. She runs out of the office only to be confronted by Vivian, who thinks Elle’s sleeping her way to the top. Emmett tries to convince Elle to stay, but she’s tired of wearing the pantyhose and decides to go back to California where she belongs.
She doesn’t get very far. Emmett enlightens Vivian and Brooke about Callahan’s behavior, and suggests something they can do to make the world a better place. Meanwhile Elle’s saying her goodbyes to Paulette, and who should turn around in the stylist’s chair but mean old Professor Stromwell who encourages Elle to go back to the trial.
Brooke fires Callahan in the courtroom and appoints Elle as her new representation, with Emmett backing her up. The once-again-in-pink Ms. Woods stammers her way through her initial examination of Brooke’s step-daughter Chutney (Linda Cardellini) who was supposed to have been in the shower when her father was killed, but as soon as Miss Wyndham mentions having gotten a perm, Elle pounces. It’s the first rule of perm maintenance that you can’t wash your hair for at least twenty-four hours after getting a perm, or you’re out at least fifty bucks. A flustered Chutney confesses to accidentally shooting her father; she thought it was Brooke walking through the door.
Elle celebrates by rejecting Warner once and for all, and the movie cuts to two years later. Elle graduates at the top of her class while her parents, Paulette, and new best friend Vivian look on proudly. She’s dating Emmett, and titles on the screen let us know she’s planning to pop the question that evening. Everyone lives happily ever after, except Warner, who will apparently die a miserable, lonely, bastard.
Elle Woods – a Gemini vegetarian, with a B.A. in Fashion Merchandising. She’s a walking talking Barbie doll – but she’s no fool. Though Elle is naïve, she’s actually got a lot of common sense, and isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, even if it sounds dumb. Even when she’s trying to blend in she stands out, as evidenced by her bright orange iBook. Knows the chemical composition of the average perm, and loves animals.
Emmett Richmond – Callahan’s protégé, he is fascinated by Elle and her refreshing West Coast perspective. He gives her a few tips on surviving Harvard, and steps up as her champion when she makes her debut in court. Though he hasn’t always got a way with words, his genuine nice guy-ness wins her over.
Warner Huntington III – a stuck-up prick who actually got waitlisted for Harvard. He has an older brother at Yale, and a complete lack of morals. Calls the woman he’s dating ‘Pooh-Bear.’ He can’t tell Prada from Payless, and graduates with no honors, no girlfriend, and no job prospects.
Vivian Kensington – Warner’s high school girlfriend turned fiancée. She’s a ‘frigid bitch’ in the beginning, but loosens up when she realizes that Warner’s not worth fighting over. She respects Elle’s loyalty to Sisterhood, and hates having to fetch coffee and soy sauce for Callahan. She also dresses like an off-duty nun.
Paulette Bonafonte – a walking accident who dresses like a twelve year old, Paulette nonetheless has a good heart, and adopts a homesick Elle. They bond over their mutual love of mani-pedis and canine companions. She has a major thing for the UPS delivery guy, and with Elle’s help, she ends up marrying him, despite breaking his nose. (See Bend and Snap.)
Professor Callahan – he’s an example of what Warner would probably be like all grown up, except smarter. He makes a move on Elle, so she quits, only to storm back into the courtroom and take his place as lead counsel.
Brooke Taylor Wyndham – the fitness diva with a deep, dark secret: she’s had liposuction. Apparently normal women can’t have her ass.
Margot & Serena – Elle’s sorority sisters who come as a package. Margot’s the dumb blonde, and Serena’s the slightly less dumb brunette.
Phrases You Might Have Heard Before and Where They Come From
“The Bend & Snap! Works every time!” The Bend & Snap is Elle’s signature move for attracting the opposite sex and in an attempt to help Paulette catch the eye of the UPS guy, she gives an impromptu lesson in the beauty salon. For detailed instructions see the YouTube video, but essentially the move boils down to pretending to see something on the ground, leaning over to pick it up, and then popping up like a prairie dog with your hands tucked by your boobs. When Paulette attempts this move, she breaks the UPS guy’s nose. Note: it is undetermined if this move has ever successfully been performed in real life.
“Is that low-viscosity rayon? With a half-loop top stitching on the hem?” It’s impossible to use a half-loop top stitching on low-viscosity rayon, it would snag the fabric. And you thought you wouldn’t learn anything from this movie!
“Isn’t it the first cardinal rule of perm maintenance that you are forbidden to wet your hair for at least 24 hours after getting a perm at the risk of deactivating the ammonium thioglycolate?” This is a lesson some of us learned from Sweet Valley High. Nevertheless, if someone you know has had an unfortunate perm, go ahead and suggest a cold shower.
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” This is Elle’s justification for why Brooke, who has her own fitness empire, couldn’t possibly have killed Hayworth Wyndham.
Women like to see men like Warner and Callahan get their comeuppance, especially in a male-dominated world. Fish-out-of-water tales are always a lot of fun, and Witherspoon is extremely appealing in this film, in part because her character doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Plus, she gets to wear outrageous outfits and cute shoes.
“What I’m saying is – and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form – is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.”
When Harry Met Sally… is the first in the Meg Ryan Trifecta and arguably the best of the three. Ryan is at her least annoying in this film, and though her anal-retentive type-A personality would probably drive you crazy in real life, here she is the perfect complement to the dark Crystal.
What You Need to Know About the Plot:
Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) and Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) meet for the first time outside the University of Chicago just after graduation because Sally has agreed to drive with her friend’s boyfriend to New York. From the moment they meet they can’t stand one another, which in movie speak, of course, means they’re heading towards matrimony.
It’s during this trip to NYC, after spitting grape seeds on her car window and listening to the complicated way she orders pie, that Harry makes his infamous statement about the inability of men and women to be friends. Sally says it’s too bad, since he’s the only person she knows in New York, but drops Harry off in Central Park and they go their separate ways.
A few years later Sally is saying goodbye to her boyfriend Joe at the airport when Harry crosses her path. Sally’s relieved when he doesn’t seem to recognize her, though once they’re on board the plane, after hearing her order “regular tomato juice, filled up about three quarters then add a splash of Bloody Marry mix, just a splash, and a little piece of lime, but on the side,” he pipes up with, “University of Chicago, right?” He traps her in conversation, telling her he got married, and invites her to dinner as “just friends.” Sally points out that he didn’t believe men and women could be friends, so as soon as the plane lands, she ditches him in the airport.
And a few years after that they meet once more in a bookshop where Harry is lurking in ‘Personal Growth’ watching Sally and her best friend Marie (Carrie Fisher). Sally has broken up with Joe and Harry’s just split from his wife Helen, who cheated on him. He invites Sally to dinner – just as friends. This time she accepts, and this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Over time they talk about anything and everything without feeling pressured to impress, like whether or not Ingrid Bergman should have stayed with Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca or how much cuddling is too much cuddling, sharing their sex dreams and date disasters. At one point they try to fix each other up, but their dates – Marie and Harry’s best friend Jess (Bruno Kirby) – decide they like each other more.
While shopping for Jess and Marie’s wedding, Harry and Sally run into Helen in the Sharper Image with her new beau, causing Harry to have a meltdown in the middle of a duet of “Surrey With a Fringe on Top,” in front of the karaoke machine. He accuses Sally of being an emotionless harpy when she broke up with Joe, though when news of Joe’s engagement reaches her, she breaks down and invites Harry over in the middle of the night. And you know what that means.
The morning after Sally is blissful and Harry is panicked. He escapes her apartment as quickly as he can, leading to a conference call between the injured parties and their best friends about what a mistake the evening was. Harry and Sally grow apart, depressing them both, and though Harry tries to make amends over Christmas, they end up having a giant argument at the wedding.
Fortunately on New Year’s Eve Harry realizes he’s in love with Sally and runs to find her at a party where she’s having a miserable time. She doesn’t want to listen to his declarations, but he tells her he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. The clock strikes midnight, and they live happily ever after.
Sally Albright – like her name implies, she’s overly optimistic and incessantly cheerful. Among her ‘quirks’ are her very particular eating habits, her Days of the Week underpants (apparently they don’t make Sunday “because of God”), and her remarkable ability to fake an orgasm (see “I’ll have what she’s having.”) She’s high maintenance, but she thinks she’s low maintenance, which according to Harry is “the worst kind.” Regardless, Meg Ryan is at her most likeable in this film, probably because she plays a flawed character who lacks the sticky-sweetness of some of her other rom-com roles.
Harry Burns – he has a very dark side, and he loves it. Hobbies include: reading the last page of a new book first, so that in the event he dies before finishing it, he’ll know what happens, and telling people that hieroglyphics are really an Egyptian cartoon about a character named Sphinxy. Though he’s not what you’d call ‘chatty,’ he’s also not much for self-editing, and pretty much says whatever’s on his mind, though never talks about actual feelings if he can help it. A typical male role model.
Marie – Sally’s best friend who has an affair with a married man for years and years despite knowing that he’s never going to leave his wife. She’s around to make Sally seem reasonable, but after she gets together with Jess, she becomes the reasonable one, so then she becomes dull.
Jess – Harry’s best friend and not a complex thinker. He’s as blunt as Harry without Harry’s eloquence, which is ironic considering he’s supposed to be a writer for New York Magazine. He’s really just kind of a boob and at one point owns a wagon wheel coffee table that Harry calls something from a “Roy Rogers garage sale.”
Helen Helson – Harry’s ex-wife, a lawyer who dumped him for a tax attorney named Ira. In retrospect, the fact that she didn’t change her name after they were married should have been a big clue.
Joe – Sally’s ex-beau, he told her he wasn’t interested in marriage, but in reality just didn’t want to marry her. The first and only time we see him, he’s got pretentious politician written all over him. Played by former-President Gerald Ford’s son.
Phrases You Might Have Heard Before and Where They Come From:
“I’ll have what she’s having.” Probably the most infamous line from the movie, it refers to the big diner scene where Sally fakes an orgasm at the table to prove to Harry that he wouldn’t know the difference between that and the real thing. Otherwise known as ‘that scene.’ If you want to know if your significant other’s been putting you on in the bedroom, best to key this scene up on YouTube. If she was born in the seventies, chances are good that this is where she learned it. Bonus Trivia: the line is uttered by director Rob Reiner’s mother.
“You made a woman meow?” While swinging at balls in the batting cages, Harry explains why he enjoys having a female friend, pointing out that he can talk to her about anything without feeling uncomfortable, even great sex. His buddy Jess gets hung up on the ‘made a woman meow’ part.
“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Pretty much one of the best lines ever said by a man to a woman – and not nearly as sappy as “You complete me.” (See Jerry Maguire.) Only real trouble with this one is that if you say it, you actually have to mean it.
The woman who can watch Harry meet Sally ten thousand times is looking for more than a one-night stand – and what’s more, she’ll most likely want to be ‘friends first.’ Also, she knows how to fake an orgasm.
But don’t run away just yet. While she might be uptight, or overtly perky, she could also be the best friend you’ve ever had, whether you’re looking for someone who’ll make a fool of herself in the middle of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or someone who’ll sing off-key karaoke in a retail store. Chances are, she’s the one.
Women love the idea of falling in love with their best friend, and are often looking for men to befriend for this very reason. Guys can benefit from this, if they’re willing to be a little patient.
 There will always be someone who will argue this point with you. Always.
 This was before the term ‘fag hag’ had entered the common vernacular.
1. Architect – The favored career among leading men in any given romance. This is evidently because architecture combines the best of both worlds – it’s artistic and intellectual at the same time. It’s also possible to make a decent living from it. If a man is an architect he must be good at math, but he also carries around a sketchbook and is only too happy to talk about the artistry of an old building.
- Sleepless in Seattle
- The Lake House
- Just Like Heaven
- Three to Tango
- Mamma Mia
- Three Men and a Baby (& sequel)
Note that in both Three Men and a Baby and Mamma Mia, there are three men for the mother to choose from, and in the end, she picks the architect.
2. Writer – The romantic image of the writer has been ingrained in the film world due mostly to the fact that those films were written by someone who thought it would be wonderful if being a writer meant he got chicks. (The films in which women are writers are frequently written by women for the same reason.) As a wordsmith you are gifted with the ability to say the perfect thing to make a woman swoon.
- Woman of the Year
- Before Sunset
- Love Actually
- Breakfast at Tiffany’s
- Moulin Rouge
- Alex & Emma
- Runaway Bride
Note: These men are often news reporters in search of a story. This was particularly common in rom-coms of the 40s and 50s.
3. Artist – Artists are portrayed as passionate, creative, and sensitive. Their work can be offered as enticement towards sex. Though they are frequently portrayed as struggling, women in the movies don’t seem to mind, though it’s rare for the artist to get married at the end of the film, since he is both poor and a free spirit. Sometimes he even dies.
- Sweet Home Alabama
- Vicky Christina Barcelona
4. Bartenders – Bartenders are therapists who are allowed to get involved with their patients. They listen, they give advice, and they know how to mix a martini. What more could a girl ask for?
- Charlie’s Angels
- He’s Just Not That Into You
Other popular career choices include: actors (see Shakespeare in Love and America’s Sweethearts), muscians (Some Like it Hot, The Wedding Singer and P.S. I Love You), and teachers (Never Been Kissed and My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Women love creative men, men with a sensitive side. Curiously, despite being schooled from a young age to want to end up with a rich, handsome doctor, rich handsome doctors in chick flicks rarely get the girl.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”
CATEGORY: DANCE MOVIE
Dirty Dancing is known for three things: Patrick Swayze, the Catskills, and something about putting a baby in the corner. A lot of people assume they know what the movie’s about without ever having seen it because of the title – dancing and a lack of hygiene. It might surprise you, then, to learn that the ‘dancing’ in the film is essentially sex standing up, and a significant subplot involving a botched abortion makes this love story more substantial than the DVD cover would have you believe.
What You Need to Know About the Plot:
In the summer of 1963, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) and her family take a vacation in the Catskills, an area of upstate New York along the same lines as the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard, but populated by rich Jews. The resort is called Kellerman’s and comes complete with its own dorky camp anthem. The owner, Max Kellerman (Jack Weston), is an old friend of Baby’s father (Jerry Orbach) and mother (Kelly Bishop). He has a pompous son, Neil (Lonnie Price), who decides to lay claim to Baby, while Baby’s sister Lisa (Jane Brucker) sets her sights on one of the college-educated busboys, Robbie Gould (Max Cantor).
Baby’s interest is piqued, however, not by Neil or his boasting about multiple hotel ownership, but by the resort’s working-class dance instructors, whose tango is to die for. Sneaking away from the fun resort activities like charades and capture the flag, Baby comes across staffer Billy Kostecki (Neal Jones) struggling with three watermelons (the fates of which are never satisfactorily explained) and offers to help carry. Even though guests and staff aren’t supposed to mingle in their free time, Billy directs her to the bungalow where the hip young people are getting down with their bad selves, bumping and grinding and whatnot. Baby is immediately entranced by Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) and the way he “dirty dances” with his partner Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes), though Billy explains that they’re not a couple.
Which is good, since Penny’s been knocked up by Robbie, the prick who’s romancing Baby’s sister. When Baby confronts him about the pregnancy, he tells her it’s not his problem because Penny isn’t ‘their kind of people.’ Baby dumps a pitcher of water on his crotch, tells him to stay away from her sister and goes to her father seeking the money Penny needs for an illegal abortion. It is, after all, the sixties. Dr. Daddy Houseman hands over the money without question because he trusts his favorite daughter so much.
Johnny looks down on Baby for running to her daddy for the money, but thinks Penny should take it anyway. The only time the procedure can be performed happens to coincide with the annual dance Johnny and Penny perform at a neighboring resort, a show they have to put on or lose their jobs for the next summer. Billy volunteers Baby to take Penny’s place, and she spends the next two days learning to tango, cha-cha, mambo, pechanga, etc. Tempers flare, romance blossoms, and they get wet practicing lifts in a nearby lake.
The big night comes and Baby, made up like a hooker, makes it through the dance with most of her dignity intact, aside from chickening out on the lift and one unfortunate disco-esque move. She and Johnny return to Kellerman’s victorious, only to find that Penny’s abortion was botched, leaving her in intense pain. Baby dashes off to her family’s cabin and drags her father in to help. He manages to save Penny, but blames Johnny for the predicament, believing him to be the father. He’s disgusted with Baby for lying to him and forbids her to have anything to do with the townies again. Of course, no teenage girl listens to her father when the love of a bad boy is on the line, so she continues to see Johnny on the sly, and they sleep together after she goes to him to apologize for her father’s behavior. Unfortunately a jealous ‘Bungalow Bunny’ sees Baby sneak out of his cabin the next morning, and decides to frame Johnny for a string of thefts at the resort, just because she can. Unable to defend himself without outing Baby, Johnny accepts his dismissal, but Baby comes forward and admits in front of her father that they were together the previous night, so there. Johnny’s fired anyway because of the whole fraternization thing, but he appreciates the gesture.
The rift in the Houseman family is only made worse when Lisa declares her intention of going all the way with Robbie. Baby tries to dissuade her, but Lisa accuses her sister of jealousy, and runs off to Robbie’s cabin, only to find him in bed with another guest. Baby tries to make amends with her father, but points out that she’s not a little girl anymore, and that he’s disappointed her with his bigotry as much as she’s disappointed him.
At the end-of-summer resort shindig, Johnny comes bursting in, despite having been banned, and takes a stand for Baby, inviting her up to dance the last dance with him. In conversation with Dr. Houseman, Robbie accidentally admits he was the father of Penny’s baby, and Dr. Houseman tears up the check he almost tipped him. Then he confronts Johnny and admits he was wrong. Johnny and Baby bring down the house and Baby finally opens herself up to try the lift, resulting in an iconic image.
Frances “Baby” Houseman – named after the first woman in the Cabinet, she’s a seventeen year old daddy’s girl who plans to attend Mount Holyoke College and wants to join the Peace Corps. Baby leads a very sheltered life prior to her time at Kellerman’s, so much so that she doesn’t seem to mind everyone calling her Baby. She’s mousy-looking, but has a surprising amount of guts, and spends a portion of the film in her underwear.
Johnny Castle – the resort’s dance instructor-turned-gigolo. He’s dirt poor and not much of a brain, so he allows himself to be used by a number of the older, unhappily married women at Kellerman’s because they smell nice and tip well. His devotion to his dance partner makes him swoon-worthy, since they haven’t been romantically involved since they were young, but he accepts responsibility for her. He spends a majority of his time in the movie shirtless.
Penny Johnson – Johnny’s dance partner, she gets knocked up by Robbie and when he dumps her to chase other skirts, she decides to have an illegal abortion which goes terribly wrong. Penny finds it hard to believe there’s anyone as innocent as Baby left in the world, and is hesitant to trust her. Though the girls become friends and braid each other’s hair, Penny warns Johnny off, reminding him that he’s always telling her not to get involved with guests, the hypocrite.
Dr. Jake Houseman – Baby’s father, he thinks of himself as open-minded until he discovers his beloved daughter’s been associating with hoodlums. He eventually owns up to being overly-judgmental, and accepts that his ‘baby’ is all grown up, though it’s unclear if he’s realized she’s sexually active.
Marjorie Houseman – Kelly Bishop is largely wasted in this role as Baby’s mother. Mostly she sits around giving her husband disapproving looks. In the end, though, she sides with her daughter and suggests Baby inherited her dancing talent from her.
Lisa Houseman – Baby’s older and much less attractive sister, who sings off-key and is obsessed with her appearance. She falls for Robbie because he pays attention to her (with one eye on her father’s money), and she’s jealous of Baby for being the smart one and getting all their dad’s attention.
Robbie Gould – scumbag extraordinaire, Robbie’s got his eye on a higher education and waits tables at Kellerman’s because the guests give huge tips at the end of the summer. He doesn’t really get his comeuppance since no one punches him in the groin, though Johnny does pound on him a bit.
Billy Kosecki – Johnny’s cousin and the staffer who introduces Baby to the wild world of dirty dancing. He’s also very close to Penny, but the ‘doctor’ he found to perform the abortion turns out to be a hack.
Mr. and Mrs. Schumacher – a pair of nosy elderly patrons at Kellerman’s, they turn out to be regular thieves, having gotten away with big bucks in stolen wallets and jewelry. Bonus Trivia: Screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein wanted her friend, sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer, to play Mrs. Schumacher, but Dr. Ruth declined when she found out the character had sticky fingers.
Phrases You Might Have Heard Before and Where They Come From
“I carried a watermelon.” It’s Baby’s excuse for crashing the staff party, and the first thing she ever says to Johnny Castle. Just what every man wants to hear.
“You’re everything!” Johnny calls himself nothing because he doesn’t save lives like Baby’s father, but she tells him he’s everything. Not everything to her, but just everything, which is very earnest but factually incorrect, especially considering he has no education, no goals for the future, and allows himself to be used as a sex toy by a bunch of cougars.
“Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” Truthfully, this line doesn’t make any more sense in context, but according to Wikipedia, Johnny is “excoriating the Housemans for their choice of Baby’s seat.” Why he assumes they forced her to sit there as opposed to, say, one chair over is unknown.
The woman who learned the merengue from this DVD is looking for a little spice in her life. She may be naïve, but she’s also an idealist, and really just wants the world to be a better place. She’s intimidated by what she doesn’t understand, but fascinated at the same time. Take her world by storm and she could return the favor.
Aside from Patrick Swayze being almost constantly bare-chested, women like this movie because there are plenty of us who were quiet and overlooked, who grew up longing for a summer romance that was built on nothing but passion and settled instead. We wish some handsome man with hips that don’t quit had come and plucked us from obscurity. Plus, it has a nice soundtrack, and the rehearsal scenes between Baby and Johnny are refreshingly honest.