Ten minutes into the new film Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, or has it been longer? Who can say? It’s rushing by so fast! Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu steal a bad guy’s helicopter and, having brazenly cheated death for the twentieth time since the movie started, gloriously soar off into the sky, leaving behind a pile of dead and disappointed men. As the sequence ends, author Cara Black, sitting to my immediate right in the movie theater, turns to me with wide eyes, mouth hanging open in adrenalized shock and obvious delight, and silently mouths three short words.
“I like it!” she says.
And what’s not to like? Following up on the successful 2000 release of Charlie’s Angels, itself a spin-off of the popular 70s T.V. show, the new Angels has everything the first film did, with the happy exception of Tom Green, the other happy absence of those disturbing rape-threat scenes, and piles on a few extras, notably the big screen return of Demi Moore, as a former Angel turned very, very bad, but in a bikini.
“It was fun!” Black shouts as we leave the theater when the last kick has been thrown and the last plot thread has been tied up. “It was good escapism,” my guest asserts, “and escapism is good!”
She would know. Black, based in San Francisco, is the author of the increasingly popular Aime Leduc Investigation series by Soho Press. An absorbing set of tightly-plotted, freshly-conceived mysteries, the Aime Leduc books debuted in 1999 with Murder in the Marais, continued in 2000 and 2001 with Murder in Belleville and Murder in the Sentier, and is finally back with Murder in the Bastille. While each book features a grisly homicide taking place in one of Paris’s 20 distinct districts, the star is Aime, a refreshingly independent, endlessly resourceful heroine who is hip, funny, smart, saddled with a tragic past, but possessed of a keen fashion sense. When forced to, she can also kick a guy’s ass.
“It’s true, Aime kicks butt in high-heeled shoes,” says Black, as we sit down at a small cafe near the theater. “That’s one of the things I like about the Angels. They kick butt, and they do it in great shoes. I like that. A lot.”
“Aime could be an Angel,” I point out.
“She could be,” agrees Black, “if they asked her. Though she’d never leave Paris, but if they’d help her find her long-lost mother, the one who was involved with those terrorists in the 70’s before disappearing from Aime’s life, she might agree to join the French branch of Charlie’s Angels. She’d certainly raise the Angel intelligence level a notch, and she could teach them all a thing or two about tying a scarf.”
As Black stabs a plastic fork into her poppyseed cake, dissecting it cleanly, I ask if she’s ever had to, you know, kick someone’s butt?
“Have I hit anybody? Sure!” she nods. “I’ve been hit too, and I can tell you, it’s not like in the movies. It’s not that glamorous or exciting, getting hurt. Given a choice, I’d rather be the one doing the hitting.”
“So,” I ask, making a mental note never to anger Cara Black, “did you used to watch the T.V. show of “Charlie’s Angels?”
“I did, but I always thought it was really stupid,” she says. “I like the movies a lot more because the Angels seem more real, and they’re always making mistakes. They aren’t trying to be superwomen, they’re just doing their job.”
Black smiles, sweetly, and continues.
“Their biggest strength is their friendship. That’s the message of the movie. They liked being together, they needed each other, so they were a powerful team. Demi Moore left the Angels, but she didn’t have that friendship, so she didn’t succeed.”
“She didn’t have a girlfriend.”
“Right! And they were Girlfriends, with a capital G,” she laughs. “I mean, were they having fun together or what?”
So, speaking of Demi Moore.
“It was nice to have a female villain this time,” Black grins. “And she was so good at being bad. I believed her. That’s not easy. I’ve been trying for a long time to write a good female villain in my books, one that works well and doesn’t look like I just shoehorned her into the story for its own sake. In the movie, Demi Moore as a villain, the fallen angel, it makes sense.
“Besides,” Black observes, “she looked hot, didn’t she?”
“Uh, yeah,” I concur. “But, I have to ask, as a woman, weren’t you slightly offended at all the skin these women were flashing? When Demi Moore makes her grand appearance in that bikini, I flashed back on all the good, feminist instruction I’ve received over the years, as a nice sensitive male, and as a Dad who resisted letting his daughters have Barbie Dolls, I was concerned about the body image issues in the movie.”
“As for Demi showing off her body,” Black replies, “she’s 40 and she looks great! She’s still got it, so let her flaunt it!
“I had a Barbie doll when I was growing up,” she goes on, “because back then, Barbie was a big deal. And I agree that it’s a problem. I don’t like it that my nieces have Barbies because I think Barbie does perpetuate a myth about girls and their bodies, and what the perfect body should look like. But . . . I don’t think ‘Charlie’s Angels’ perpetuates the same myth.”
“If Barbie were a real person,” I recall hearing once, “because of her little feet and the physics of weight distribution, she wouldn’t be able to stand up, let alone kick anyone’s ass.”
“That’s right,” Cara Black laughs. “Barbie could never be one of Charlie’s Angels.”
Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to the movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This is not a review; rather, it’s a freewheeling, tangential discussion of art, alternative ideas, and popular culture.
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Posted on July 3, 2003 in Features by David Templeton
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