Ethics & Public Policy Center

Head Over Heels

Published in EPPC Online on February 1, 2001



True, there may not be much to be said for Head Over Heels, but one thing it can claim is that, with the scene of Freddy Prinze Jr. defecating while a gaggle of supermodels huddle together, hidden behind the shower-curtain of his bathtub, it has broken new ground for the ever-poopular gross-out flick. Perhaps in the belief that this scene was a masterpiece of comic invention, it is later repeated, only this time with the models crammed together in a men’s room stall listening to what they take to be a homosexual encounter as two plumbers attempt to unblock the toilet in the next stall. Their ministrations end up spraying the girls with sewage. The comedy, I take it, is much increased by the amount of care and attention that these people (understandably) usually devote to presenting a soigné appearance.

In this it is of a piece with the many supermodel jokes, written by several hands, which are about all there is to Mark S. Waters’s film. Some of the jokes are fair-to-middling, as when one of them says that her makeup makes her “look like a heroin addict, but not in a good way.” Most of humor at the beauties’ expense, however, depends on the assumption that those who are highly paid to look good must also be stupid, slutty, superficial or all three. If you are not among the admittedly large number of people who must either lust after or envy these young women, played by Shalom Harlow, Ivana Milicevic, Sarah O’Hare and Tomiko Fraser, you may be somewhat taken aback by the underlying hostility, even bitterness, with which the fun at their expense is indulged in.

You may also find yourself hard put to it to find any other sort of fun in the movie, whose main story involves an allegedly “regular” gal called Amanda Pierce (Monica Potter), a conservator at the Metropolitan Museum, moving in as roommate to the supermodels. As so often when a movie premiss calls for something less than spectacular good looks, Hollywood can’t bring itself to find someone genuinely plain, even plain as the schoolmarm used to be before she took off her glasses and let down her hair. Miss Potter is hardly the girl next door, and the only way the movie finds to distinguish her from the supermodels is to deprive her of make-up (until she becomes the models’ “science project” ) and to make her look about a head shorter than they are.

There is another bit of pioneering in the idea to vary what has by now become the cliché of making the ingenue’s best friend a gay guy by making him, instead, a lesbian. Of course the reason must be that the best friend should be given a scene or two of drooling over her friend’s supermodel roommates, but once that is accomplished the filmmakers couldn’t think of anything else to do with her and dropped her quietly out of the picture. There is also a trio of uglied-up old ladies who sit across from Amanda at her table at the Met who are a sort of memento mori corresponding to the supermodels. Don’t be like us, they more or less explicitly warn her. Get yourself a man so that you won’t be a lonely and embittered old woman—the sort of old woman, presumably, who cackles with joy to see beautiful young women covered in excrement.

Amanda, needless to say, does get her man—Mr Prinze, Jr., in fact, who turns out to be an FBI agent whose undercover operations are so far not undercover as to take place in full view of Amanda and her supermodel roommates from their improbably large windows in the apartment across the street. Naturally, these undercover activities lead to many misunderstandings which people of the intelligence of the supermodels in this picture may find funny. Most people, I predict, will not.

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