In May ’03, when I first started my career as a professional film critic, I coined the term “Play-Doh Part.” What is a Play-Doh Part? A Play-Doh Part is a woman’s role with only 2 functions: she’s in the film so the male lead can tell his sad story to someone sympathetic, & she’s there so the male lead can relieve his sexual tension. Otherwise, you know almost nothing about her. She has absolutely no back story, & she has no future of her own beyond whatever role she might play in the hero’s future. Over the years, I’ve pointed out numerous examples, but few are as egregious as the role of “Alex” in the new film UP IN THE AIR. “Just think of me as yourself, only with a vagina.” Oh, puh-leez! Now I really have heard it all!
Who is this woman supposed to be?!? She’s just a gorgeous, available babe with the magical ability to pull not one but two sexy black dresses from her rollaway with no prior notice! Oh, puh-leez! “We never discover what Alex does…” says Anthony Lane in his 12/7/09 NEW YORKER review, but he’s too busy fawning over her to care. And this is the film that now tops the National Board of Review’s Best of 09 list… Grrrrr!!!