Saturday, January 20, 2007

Blog Favorites: Week of Jan. 14-20

I'm introducing a new feature, a weekly roundup of my favorite posts from my favorite blogs, for your browsing pleasure.

Second City Style has a great post titled "How to Save Britney: 6 Fashion Tips That Can Save Our Starlet" that should be required reading for Britney, her stylists and her handlers. Then again, I don't know that Britney does read, so maybe someone can read it outloud for her.

One of my new favorite bloggers, Capitol Hill Barbie has a fantastic review of MAC's Shadesticks, a must-try for anyone who misses their Crayolas.

The girls behind Go Fug Yourself may be best known for their fabulously snarky analysis of star fashions, but in this post they take on the disturbing trend of actresses who lose a ton of weight and drastically change their look upon hitting the bigtime, expressing the hope that the beautiful America Ferrera won't follow that path. I couldn't agree more. You can read the post here.

A lot has been said about the slow death of The Gap, but two of my favorite bloggers, The Budget Fashionista and Poetic and Chic have some very interesting insights on the company and suggestions for keeping The Gap afloat.

The one and only Kristen at Beauty Addict wrote a couple fantastic posts on the best and worst of Golden Globes makeup.

As a fellow fine-haired girl, I know how tough it is to get curls to last more than 20 minutes before wilting. Marcy from Fantabulous gives a great tip on getting curls to stick. Check it out here.

Major thanks to Megan from Not Martha for linking to Cosmetics Cop Paula Begoun's list of drugstore doubles, dirt-cheap products with the same ingredients and effectiveness of expensive products from La Mer, Prescriptives, Trish McEvoy and more.

My girl Annie at Poetic and Chic has an incredibly informative post about finding and buying vintage clothing. Whether you're interested in purchasing your first vintage piece or are an experienced collector, you should definitely check it out.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bright Colors For The New Year: Part 2

Yesterday, I mentioned my opposition to the trend of white, gray, silver and gold (as seen in large quantities at the Golden Globes). It's winter, and all I want to think about are bright, sunny, color-filled days of spring and summer, so I've come up with a list of great printed pieces that are guaranteed to pull you out of that winter slump.

Thanks to Poetic and Chic for reminding me how fabulous Anthropologie's prints are!


This dress is young, fun, modern and (very unfortunately) way out of my price range. But a girl can look, can't she? As regular readers of the blog know, I'm a huge fan of stretch wrap dresses; they're comfortable, forgiving, and instantly make you look slimmer, drawing attention to your bust and the smallest part of your waist. What more could you want? I also love the navy and orange color combination, it's a fresh look that you don't see very often.


I love that this dress adapts typically "autumn" colors onto a summery strapless a-line dress. The bandeau is adjustable- wrap it around your bust to make you look fuller on top, or wrap it around your waist to show off your curves. Gold accessories would also look fabulous when paired with this dress.


I love the combination of a classic 60's Jackie O shape with a bold abstracted floral print in grass green. The shape would flatter every body shape, but is especially good for women who are top heavy, as the high boat neck will hold you in and the wide skirt will balance you out.


The striking combination of red, yellow, orange, purple and pink is gorgeous, and I think the bright colors are nicely balanced by the more traditional shape of the dress. Yet another one that would look best on apple shapes, but will probably flatter all body types. It also reminds me of my a poster of a Helen Frankenthaler painting that's hanging in my bedroom. If this is still available when my birthday rolls around, it's going to top the list of things I'd like.


This skirt proves that you don't have to look like Rainbow Brite to wear the color spectrum in one outfit. Because it's so colorful, this skirt should probably be paired with a solid top.


Like the previous skirt, this one has so much going on that you'll want to let it be the star of the outfit and wear it with a solid top.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Bright Colors For The New Year: Part 1

I don't think I'm the only one who was disappointed by the color choices of gowns at the Golden Globes. If this means that white, gray, silver and gold are the new "in" colors, please shoot me now. I'm in no way against white t-shirts, silver jewelry and gold shoes... these are staples of my closet. But I think these colors are best in small quantities: white and gray, because they're so boring and unflattering to most complexions (especially pale girls like me), and gold and silver because it's easy to go a little overboard, and they aren't the most versatile colors (you can't wear them to work, they really only look good on dresses and accessories).

In protest of this trend, I'm posting some of my favorite brightly colored clothes. Although it's certainly much warmer than usual, New England is still pretty bare in the winter, and I've found that wearing a splash of bright color is just what I need to get out of the January slump and into a more vibrant mood. Today's post will feature solid colored pieces, and tomorrow I'll highlight some of my favorite brightly colored prints, so be sure to check back!







These three dresses are super flattering, as the empire waist draws attention to the bust and hides hips and thighs, and the stretchy fabric is forgiving AND incredibly comfortable. Just don't forget the Spanx and a good bra, as this fabric is going to show panty and bra lines.



This top is so pretty, and the color just screams summer. Also very accommodating to a more full-figured body, as the bow cinches your waist at it's smallest part.



I love feminine tops like this, but to keep it from looking a little too "Little Bo Peep", I would pair it with sleek, simple accessories, like a pair of dark wash boot cut jeans and some white pumps or gold strappy sandals.



The draping gives enough room for larger busts, with no worry about falling out of the top.



This is great for pear shapes and women with a smaller chest who don't need as much support.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bloggers Respond to "Why I Love Beauty Products"

After I wrote my "Why I Love Beauty Products" post last week, I e-mailed a few of my favorite bloggers and asked them to chime in on why they love beauty products, why they thought that products hold such power over women, and whether this is a good or bad thing.


Stephanie over at Back in Skinny Jeans was the first to respond, and here is what she had to say (you can read the whole post here ). My comments are italicized.

Beauty is a source of power, and those who are designated as "beautiful" also gain power, in the form of adoration, privilege and access. We believe that products will make us more beautiful, therefore making us more powerful, and giving us a "better" life.

This is totally true. Whether it's going to a party, a bar, a class reunion or a job interview, when you're all done up and very confident about your looks, you automatically feel more powerful and more likely to succeed. And people treat you better as well. Just compare how people treat you at the same store or restaurant when you go in sweats, pony tail and clean face or when you're dressed to impress, hair, makeup, the works.

When we look pretty (often a direct result of the use of products), we also feel more desirable and accepted. This can be dangerous, as allowing ourselves to define our self-worth by our physical looks undermines the importance of other aspects of ourselves that affect our total beauty (such as kindness, humor, intelligence, etc). There is a healthy medium, but it's easy to slide into overemphasizing the importance of our looks.

I completely agree.

Without a doubt, makeup and products are fun. It's especially fun having someone else pamper you and make you feel glamorous, at a makeup counter or a spa. In these instances, it's not so much the products as the person applying them that makes you feel good.

Some women certainly gain more pleasure than others from makeovers and manicures, but for most of us, it's a pleasure to be pampered. Beauty products make us feel more feminine, and there's an element of escapism when you shift your focus from the stress of work, family and relationships to debating which nail polish will look best with your date outfit that weekend. There's also a definite social element that Stephanie touches on, where beauty products provide a bonding opportunity between women. It also frequently occurs between friends; using products with other people somehow loosens everyone up and makes them more open and relaxed (which probably explains the prevalence of gossip at hair and nail salons).

When you purchase a product, particularly one that a makeup artist used on you, you're buying the dream that you'll be able to replicate a day or time that you looked your best (whether it's at the store, after a makeover, or many years earlier). You may never achieve that look again, but you at least try, and the product becomes a reminder of a time when you felt most confident about your looks.

"Hope in a jar" for sure.

I want to thank Stephanie again for her thoughtful and insightful post. If you have yet to check out her blog, stop by and take a look, she's always got something interesting to say.

CFDA Responds to Anorexic Model Controversy

Last month, the organizers of Milan's Fashion Week announced a new rule barring the hiring of any model who is under the age of 16 or has a BMI of less than 18, as a response to a number of anorexia-induced deaths of runway models in recent months. Since then, everyone in the fashion world has anxiously awaited the response of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), and on Friday they finally issued their recommendations: "that models with eating disorders seek treatment, young models work limited hours, healthy food be supplied backstage and smoking and alcohol be banned."


Uhhh...

Do they seriously believe that "encouraging" treatment, making food more available and telling models they can't smoke or do drugs is going to change anything? These are not humans, they're MODELS, for goodness sake. They have the money and the connections to eat anywhere and anything they want, but they choose to subsist on cigarettes and cocaine (cough, Kate Moss, cough). And you have to believe that they have families and friends unaffiliated with the fashion industry, who already encourage them to put on more weight... these guidelines seem like a big load of BS to me.

I don't believe the fashion industry alone is the cause of unhealthy body image issues in young women, but they certainly continue to promote stick-thin bodies as the ideal. This is then replicated by Hollywood actresses (think Kate Bosworth and Nicole Richie) who see their careers explode once they lose enough weight to wear couture clothes, prompting fashion magazines to feature them in pictorials, which helps them establish a reputation as a taste maker, which leads to bigger movie roles and the adoration of millions of young women. And then, even when they're drastically underweight, they're put on the covers of gossip rags, where all publicity is good publicity. It's a sick cycle, and I do think that it all begins on the runways.

A lot of designers and defenders of the status quo like to say that "clothes simply hang better on thin women." I think that there is some truth to that, but there's a difference between "thin" (such as a tall woman who's a size 4 or 6, and still has breasts and hips) and "skinny" (size 0 or 00, not an ounce of fat on her frame). There's absolutely nothing attractive about someone who's 5'10 and 105 lbs, and when someone this size walks down the runway, it's almost impossible to focus on what she's wearing, as you're too busy searching for a cheeseburger to toss her way.

Last fall, Christina over at Back in Skinny Jeans wrote a great post talking about this growing problem, but things have only gotten worse since then. I hope that there is enough of a backlash to these guidelines for the CFDA to take more proactive measures to combat anorexia among models. More women shouldn't have to die because designers and editors decided to turn a blind eye to their disease.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Golden Globes 2007 Best and Worst Dressed List

If you're looking for my post on the 2007 Oscars best and worst dressed list, click here.

If you're looking for my list of the Best and Worst Dressed at the 2007 Grammys, click here.

Are the Golden Globes NOT the three most boring hours of prime time television in the year? Awards shows are notoriously long and tedious, but at least the Oscars and the Tony's and the Grammy's have hosts and musical performances to keep the energy level up. The people behind the Golden Globes were so lazy that they didn't even bother asking every presenter to make a joke or introduce the category with a few thoughtful words. Most of them just walked to the podium (slowly, of course, so that we could eye the gowns) and jumped right into naming the nominees.

The only legitimately entertaining moment came early in the show, when Justin Timberlake announced that Prince was the winner of the second award of the night, best original song from a motion picture. Everyone clapped and the camera panned the crowd as they anxiously waited for Prince, or at least one of his handlers, to come and accept the award. But no one was there. The anxiety was palpable, as dead air is the worst thing that could happen to an awards show, especially 10 minutes in. Then JT squatted down and in a fairly good Prince impression, accepted the award for "The Artist" and the tension broke as everyone laughed. The best part was that you knew that this whole 40 second near-catastrophe was probably caused because Prince had to adjust his eyeliner in the limo. Hugh Laurie and Sacha Baron Cohen also had pretty amusing acceptance speeches about 2 and a half hours later, but by that time I was nearly comatose from boredom.

It's like they're trying to play a sick joke on viewers, who they know will tune in to watch paint dry as long as they can see a few shots Brangelina holding hands and the occasional Bjork-esque fashion disaster. But I watched with greater purpose, knowing that I wanted to do a best and worst dressed list in today's post. So, without further ado, I present you with Faking Good Breeding's first annual Golden Globes Best and Worst Dressed List.

BEST

While I'm disappointed that she wasn't recognized for her work in Volver, I'm glad to see that Penelople Cruz totally rocked a dress that was unlike any other on the red carpet. I love the soft, romantic layers of this Spanish-inspired Chanel gown, and it's incredibly flattering on Penelope's body. The deep scoop neck with ruffled bust keeps the dress from looking heavy and overpowering her slight frame, while the belt adds visual interest and shows off her tiny waist. Though there were a lot of huge skirts on the red carpet, this one is large and glamorous without being over the top. And as usual, her hair, skin and makeup are all flawless.


I've searched all over for a better picture of Helen Mirren but have been unsuccessful, so this will have to do for now. In my opinion, Helen was by far the best dressed woman last night. She radiated beauty, glamor and class, leaving actresses one third her age struggling for attention in her wake. Though this picture doesn't do it justice, this dress looked incredible on her body. While most older women choose matronly gowns, Helen picked a dress that could have just as easily worked on a much younger actress, daring to show some cleavage in a deep v-neck. The blue color looked beautiful with her skin and hair (which looked great from the back, in a modern, messy bun), and the gigantic blue sapphire pendant was the perfect accessory. Best of all, it was clear that she felt confident and sexy in her own skin, which is the most attractive feature anyone can have.


Deep purple is one of my favorite colors, and I think it looks fabulous on Sheryl Crow here. This strapless gown is pretty and sophisticated, but the floral detail at the bust keeps it interesting. The Grecian-inspired drapery is gorgeous and extremely flattering, minimizing hips and highlighting her waist and long legs. I like that she shows off her toned shoulders and arms but keeps the rest of the look modest, and I love her simple curled blonde hair. She looks strong, healthy and happy.


Angelina Jolie looked stunning in this charcoal gray strapless gown by St. John. Although many actresses wore flowy gowns, I thought that this one draped the most beautifully, and she looked graceful, elegant and understated. The color was one you don't often see in formal wear, but it looked great with her hair and skin tone. And of course, when you've got Brad Pitt on your arm, who needs accessories? Angelina smartly kept it simple with a gold pendant necklace and hair pulled into a bun.


Ali Larter was one of many starlets wearing white last night, but she was the only one who looked incredible. This sleek, simple gown drapes beautifully on her body and the daring low cut of the top flatters and feminizes her athletic build. The off-white color goes well with her tan skin and blonde hair (a difficult feat, as Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and others have shown) and while the dress is beautiful, the actress wearing it is clearly the star of the show.

WORST

Three words: Trying. Too. Hard. You can just hear Beyonce thinking to herself, "I WILL NOT LET JENNIFER HUDSON OVERSHADOW ME! I AM THE STAR OF DREAMGIRLS! And if she's a better actor and singer than I am in the film, I will be 50 TIMES hotter than she'll ever be! I'M HOT, DAMMIT!"


This dress is going to be trashed by every magazine, blog and fashion commentator in the universe, so I really don't have much to add, except to say this: Cameron, we've all been dumped before... breaking up is really difficult, especially when you're famous and your boyfriend is Justin Timberlake, who may or may not have left you for way hotter and younger Scarlett Johansson. But that is no excuse to go off the deep end and allow stylists, hairdressers and makeup artists to make you look hideous. Take back control of your life, Cam! There are always more pop stars where JT came from.


Angelina accessorized with the svelte, sexy Brad, but Nicolette Sheridan has Michael Bolton as a boyfriend, and needed a dress that would match her date's personality (pure cheese). She unwisely chose this Jessica McClintock Prom Collection gown (just kidding, I actually don't know who made it). It looks like it's starched, it's so stiff, while horizontal black bands around her waist and knees make her look wider than she really is. The retro fishtail skirt, with thick black tulle peeping out, looks like something Ursula the Sea Witch would wear to her wedding.

It's not a good sign when you're a 20-something up and coming actress and Helen Mirren shows up in a dress that's younger and more modern than yours. Becki Newton does a wonderful job playing the snotty and superficial Amanda on Ugly Betty, and perhaps she chose this gown as a relief from all the sexy outfits she's used to wearing on the show. Unfortunately, it ages her, is completely boring (though I give her props for using color) and does nothing for her figure. And the tight, matronly bun certainly doesn't help matters.

It pains me to put Kate Winslet on a worst dressed list, and the outfit isn't a travesty, but because I've come to expect so much more from her, I have to be harsh. The color of this Azzarro column dress is all wrong for Kate's milky complexion, and it washes her out and makes her look pinkish. If she had long dark brown hair, it might have worked a little better, but paired with limp, shoulder length blonde curls (along with an inch of dark roots and some very dark eyebrows, I might add), the coloring was terrible. The strapless column shape of the dress did nothing for her curvy figure, leaving her breasts looking small and a little droopy and thickening her thin waist.

For more coverage of the Globes fashion, check out Blogdorf Goodman, Poetic and Chic and Go Fug Yourself. And don't forget to check out Beauty Addict's analysis of Golden Globe makeup, she does a great job, as always.

"Natural Selection Speed Date" - 21st Century Eugenics for the IBanker Set

Oh...my...god.

The blog Pocket Change advertises itself as "a First Class cabin journey into the depths of decadence," but a more appropriate destination of this "journey" is the depths of superficiality. With the help of New York Magazine, Pocket Change is presenting a speed dating event that is "exclusively available to qualified wealthy men and beautiful women."

As the site writes, "Pocket Change is honoring the age old union of wealthy men and hot girls. Society has taught us to not publicly acknowledge the obvious - no longer dear friends. Women want money in a man, men want beauty in a woman – this is a factual force of nature. Women don’t ask “So, what does he do for a living?” because they’re interested in his personality and guys don’t ask “is she hot?” because they’re concerned with character. Guys know that money buys them the car, the house and the trophy wife. This genetic cleansing is how the wealthy stays beautiful."

Genetic cleansing, eh? That phrase certainly has some positive connotations.


But let's get to the real heart of the issue. Why must we pretend to care about all those silly non-superficial traits, like intelligence, chemistry or sense of humor, when it's obvious that men and women only look for one thing in the opposite sex. Thank you, Pocket Change, for cutting to the chase!

What does it take to be qualified for such an event? Let me break it down:

Applicant Requirements For Men:

Solely based on wealth

Salary:
Age 25 and below: $200K +
Age 26-30: 300K +
Age 30+: 500K +

or, you must have invested assets of $1 Mil + or a trust of $4 Mil +

Men will be asked to provide documented proof.

Ticket price: $500 (once accepted)


Application Requirements For Women:

Solely based on beauty

Must submit 5 pictures for judgment

Pictures are judged for beauty

No additional information is accepted

Ticket price: $50 (once accepted)


So who's in?

Monday, January 15, 2007

What is Faking Good Breeding? Who is Meg?

What is Faking Good Breeding? Why did you create the blog?

I started Faking Good Breeding in October of 2006 when I was frustrated with the lack of web sites and publications that intelligently discuss fashion and beauty products, while relating to the needs and limitations of the average women. The majority of fashion and beauty publications and websites are aspirational, speaking to readers as if they all have size 0 bodies and $1500 to drop on a new purse each season. I saw an opportunity to present a real woman's perspective on fashion, beauty and pop culture, and I thought that blogging would be a lot of fun.

In the beginning, I also focused a lot of etiquette and college life, which is where the title and original tagline "Because You Don't Have To Be Rich To Have Class" came from. Unfortunately, within a few months I ran out of topics to discuss related to etiquette, so I expanded my focus to celebrities, pop culture, and general commentary on topics that affect young women.

Who is Meg?


Originally from suburban Detroit, I am now living the East Coast college life as a senior at Smith College in Northampton, MA. I'm majoring in art history and American studies and looking forward to pursuing a career in advertising. When I'm not blogging, playing with beauty products or reading fashion magazines and celebrity gossip sites (it's research, I swear!), I like to cook for friends and family and try new restaurants (I'm kind of a foodie in training), play minigolf, swim, visit museums and galleries, and take long walks through my favorite cities.

For a longer list of my interests and favorite things, you can check out my official Blogger profile here.

Potential advertisers, PR people and anyone with additional questions can contact me at FakingGoodBreeding@gmail.com

You can find a list of my favorite posts here. Enjoy!

New To FGB? Check Out These Posts!

If this is your first time visiting the site, you might want to check out a few of my all-time favorite posts to get a better idea about what Faking Good Breeding is all about.

Appalled by American Apparel

A Bra Epiphany

The Beauty Industry - Who Owns What?

Stars Without Makeup...Right

Celebrity Moms


The Price of Thin

Dream Dresses

The Whiteness Makeover

Did She or Didn't She: Breasts


Mascara Woes

The Case Against "Panties"

How To Get Your Boyfriend To Use Beauty Products

A Look Back at 2006: Celeb Fashion, Beauty and Etiquette

Rant: Britney Spears's Post-KFed Fashion and Beauty Choices


Spanx To The Rescue

Gym Etiquette

Are Fashion and Beauty Blogs Contributing to Overspending?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

How To Get Your Boyfriend To Use Beauty Products

A few weeks into our relationship, I casually asked my boyfriend Andrew what products he used.

"What kind of products are you talking about?" Andrew replied.

"Beauty products... you know, like shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer, face wash... that kind of thing."

"Face wash?"

Not the response I expected to hear.

"Umm.. the stuff you wash your face with?"

"Oh, I have a bar of soap I use for my face and body."

"And your hair?"

"I use shampoo, no conditioner though."

I tried to hide a look of shock and slight disdain, he did have a lot of other things going for him, and he is a guy, a straight guy at that... I decided that I had to cut him some slack. Like most women, I love a good project, and I was determined to take on his personal grooming as my latest undertaking. It was clear that this was going to be no easy task (the man didn't know what face wash or moisturizer was!) but I was up for the challenge.

I'm sure a lot of women are or have been in my position. It's not as if their boyfriends or husbands are unattractive or unclean, but they know how much a few good products could make him look, smell or feel about 50 times better.


Men are not all that different from women. They care about how they look and how others (especially women) perceive them. But most men are basically resigned to the fact that except for working out or buying new clothes, they can't change the way they look. They don't realize the potential power of a great shaving cream, moisturizer or conditioner, which is why god invented women.

Sadly, there is still a stigma attached to male grooming... many guys think it's feminine or "gay" to put a lot of effort into looking good, and are opposed to all but the most essential products (bar soap, shampoo, deodorant and shaving cream, usually). Fortunately, a lot more men are coming around to the idea that products can actually make them look and feel a lot better.

Before you begin your product makeover on your boyfriend, you should realistically consider just how far you should try to go. The key is to start small, with improved versions of the products he already uses, and then once he's impressed by how well those work, push him to try new things.

Guys can also be very sensitive about their looks, so you want to make sure he doesn't interpret you buying him face wash to mean that you think his acne is disgusting. Take a positive approach, reinforcing the fact that you find him really attractive, but that you think he'd really like using this product. Though they seem oblivious to most things, you'd be surprised how many guys are amazed at how soft and smooth their hair feels after something as basic as conditioner, and how loyal they can become to products after they see positive results. When I first had him try my La Roche Posay Spring Water (a toner for sensitive skin that sprays out of an aerosol can) Andrew said he "felt really pampered, like he was at a spa." For someone who's never been to a spa, I thought this was quite the compliment

You probably can't expect your boyfriend to go out on his own and buy whatever you recommended, so it's usually best to start off by buying him a few products, especially if he's running low on whatever he currently has. Make sure to start off with products that are gender neutral or intended for guys. You can find a lot of great stuff in drugstores, as well as more upscale stores like Sephora, and Kiehl's. And obviously, you want to avoid anything with a girly packaging or scent.

Make sure to do your research before you buy, choosing products that would work well with his skin and hair type. As always, MakeupAlley is great for this.

It's likely that what you've given your boyfriend will be a lot better than the stuff he's currently using, and as long as the product isn't too feminine or difficult to use, he's going to start enjoying it. At this stage, it's really important to reinforce how well the product is working. Frequently complimenting him on how good his hair looks, how soft his skin feels, or how nice he smells after a shower is an extremely effective method for preventing product relapse. If you really want to go far, have some of his or your female friends compliment him.

I'm very proud to report that almost 2 years later, I have Andrew using everything from toners to lip balm to fancy shaving creams, to his delight and mine. Once he realized how much better his skin and hair looked after taking my suggestions, he was even happy to try whichever new product I'd fallen in love with that week.

Money Can't Buy "Happyness"

I generally try to avoid movies that are characterized as tearjerkers. If the review (or in this case, Oprah) recommends that you bring a box of Kleenex to the theater with you, I run far away. There are enough things in the real world to be depressed over, and a movie better be pretty amazing to make me want to pay to feel bad for two hours (although I do tend to make exceptions for historical films and documentaries).

But I was invited as a guest of a friend's family to go and see "The Pursuit of Happyness" last weekend, and since they were paying, I decided it couldn't be too bad. If you've seen the commercials, you know the general plot line of the story: guy is struggling to make ends meet, he impresses a big executive at a brokerage firm with his Rubik's Cube skills, gets an internship at the firm, wife leaves him and his son, he and the boy become homeless... and because I don't want to spoil the ending (not like you can't guess what will happen), I'll leave it at that. Oh, and it's all based on a true story.


Basically, the film is two hours of depressing and 2 minutes of happiness. I wasn't moved to tears, but I'd seen all the saddest clips on Oprah (I was at home with my mom, I swear!) so I knew what to expect. But the sad factor didn't bother me nearly as much as the overarching theme of the movie, which was "money buys happiness."

I'm not exaggerating at all or even being cynical when I say that... the movie doesn't even try to suggest anything else. The reason that Chris, the protagonist played by Will Smith, wants a job as a stock broker is because he runs into a guy with a super fancy car. Throughout the film, every poor person is unhappy, angry or exhausted and every rich person is happy-go-lucky, without a care in the world (there are no middle class or even upper middle class people in the film, they're either dirt poor or filthy rich). Right after the scene with the fancy car, Chris observes the faces of everyone exiting and entering the brokerage firm, and notes that they all look so happy. Naturally, he puts two and two together and comes to the conclusion that if he finds a way to make a ton of money, he and his son will finally be happy.

This bothered me for a number of reasons. First, everyone knows that money does not buy happiness; every study has shown that the super-rich have tons of problems, and are often more unhappy than the general population. And if you've ever spent time around an investment bank or brokerage firm, you know that the people who work in finance don't walk around all day wearing huge grins. They're too busy working 100 hour weeks and worrying about how they can maintain relationships with their loved ones to smile all the time.

Second, it always drives me crazy when people make choices that make their lives more difficult. With his credentials, Chris could have very easily gotten some kind of middle class office job that would allow him to rent a nice apartment and put his son in a good daycare program. Instead he takes a 6 month UNPAID internship. And even then, there's only a 1 in 20 chance that he'll get a full time job. If not, he'd be back where he started, broke and homeless. Am I the only one who finds this irresponsible?

Third, it's clear that Chris loves his son and is willing to sacrifice nearly everything to keep them together, but why wasn't there ever a suggestion that they could be happy even without money? Or without a ton of money? The recurrent theme in film and literature of love triumphing in the worst conditions seems to be flipped in this case, as Chris and his son's lives are instantly made better when he's given a job at the firm (okay, I ruined it). There's no question that homelessness, or not being able to provide a good education for your children, or the dissolution of a marriage are not all contributing factors to Chris's emotional state, but the movie blatantly suggests that no one who is poor is happy, and everyone who is rich is.

The movie had a lot of flaws, but there were still a number of admirable things about it. As many reviewers have pointed out, it's nice to see a film that depicts how difficult it is for so many people to simply stay afloat financially, and how one or two small setbacks can push someone into homelessness. The realities of two parents working multiple jobs and still barely getting by, is a subject rarely discussed in film or television, and it's certainly refreshing. And Will Smith gives one of his best performances, charming the audience to fall in love with him even as he makes (at least in my opinion) terrible decisions. Of course, it would be impossible to root against someone in his position, but he does a great job.

There's really no way I could recommend spending $10 to see this at a theater. But if you're a huge Will Smith fan or you're like my mom and love any movie that will make you cry, hold off and rent it when it comes out on DVD in a few months.