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Romy and Michele Among Less Likely


IRVINE — In "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," two dim-bulb roommates (Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino) from Venice Beach hustle to appear successful and beloved before returning to Tucson for their 10th high school reunion. (Rated R)

Some teenage girls whose own high-school reunions are more than a decade away viewed the twentysomething antics of Romy and Michele with a mix of boredom, appreciation and trepidation.

"I just don't want to come back to high school a loser," Sam Robinson, 15, of Irvine, said with a laugh. Sam, who came with friend Amanda Smith, also 15 of Irvine, added: "Like having to make up lies about your life because you're nothing."

Romy (Sorvino) and Michele (Kudrow), friends since shared humiliation in high school, are likable but insipid. Romy clerks at a car dealership; Michele can't find work as a clothing designer.

The two live together in a beachfront walk-up and bond over diets ("I was sooo lucky, getting mono," gushes Romy), such movies as "Pretty Woman" ("I just get really happy when they finally let her shop!" confides Michele) and going dancing.

They're so close they wonder whether maybe they should become lesbians but decide to wait and see if they marry by the time they're 30.

They flash back to Sagebrush High and its archetypes: the shallow prom-king athlete and prom-queen snob and the nerd's nerd. They agree to pose as successes but have a last-minute falling out over their roles in their fake career--inventors of Post-it note pads.

"It didn't have much of a plot, and it didn't have that much depth to it," Amanda said. But she thought it was funny. "They said funny things, and it was the way they said it. Anything that came out of their mouth would have been funny," Amanda said.

The movie was rife with profanity, but it didn't strike much of a chord with the audience. A group of friends from Rancho Santa Margarita was in accord that the movie was "just OK."

Elizabeth LeMoine, 17, said she thought it was corny.

Her friend Erin Wolf, 16, said: "I thought it would be funnier. 'Dumb and Dumber' was better."

Erin Kretz, 17, agreed but added that she liked the soundtrack that included Anaheim-based No Doubt's "I'm Just a Girl" and songs from the '80s.

The movie's funniest moment, the teens agreed, was a silly ballet. But overall, Erin Wolf said: "I expected more."


AT ISSUE: Female characters in the U.S. media have become more intelligent and independent but still tend to reinforce gender stereotypes, according to a study released last week by Menlo Park, Calif.-based Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit national health-care philanthropy, and the children's advocacy organization Children Now of Oakland.

Movies particularly depict females as concerned more with romance and dating than work or school, and their appearance is frequently a focus, according to the study.

In portrayals in the top 15 movies of 1995 that were most popular with teenage girls, 39% of women and 4% of men were thin or very thin. Six out of 10 women received comments about their appearance, compared with one in four men. Thirty-one percent of the women, compared with 7% of the men, were seen in appearance-related activities; 60% of men in movies were seen working, compared with about a third of women.

In "Romy and Michele," the women aspire to fashion careers and romantic relationships but succeed only with the financial aid of an admirer who has become wealthy through his own intelligence.

The number of roles for women continues to be smaller than that for men in all media, and movies have almost two men for every woman.

Television has the highest proportion of female characters, with 45%. Yet when asked to name 10 people they most admire from television, girls named males over females in a ratio of 7 to 3.

According to another study, nearly 37% of actors among 671 TV characters were females, even though 51.2% of the population is female. White males appear in prime-time TV shows and top-grossing movies at 1 1/2 times their proportion in the population, according to the Cultural Indicators Research Project, released April 30 by dean emeritus of the Annenberg School for Communications, University of Pennsylvania.

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