Author: Sydney Reade
“The Cutting Room Floor” is a handy guide to all things film. Sydney Reade discusses the merits of a movie from the camera angles to that line of dialogue you just can’t get out of your head. Appearances by classic gems, modern favorites, and every movie in between to help you decide what to watch on Friday flick night.
Whatever your opinions on the significance of Thanksgiving as an American holiday, there is no doubt that the occasion has given rise to one of the most iconic tropes in cinema: the awkward family dinner. We all know Thanksgiving is really all about the food, and whom you eat it with. However you plan on celebrating this year, your meal is sure to be interspersed with some interesting family dialogue, just as the famous meal scenes all were in the ensuing list. Bon appétit.
1. Meet the Parents (2000)
The first and best in a trilogy of increasingly bad movies, Meet the Parents introduced the world to the explosive comedic enterprise consisting of Ben Stiller, Robert DeNiro, and Owen Wilson. Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) is stereotypically terrified of meeting his soon-to-be in-laws, although his fiancée Pam (Teri Polo) assures him that his good-natured charm that he brings to the ER every day as a male nurse will go over just as well with her family. Wrong. Focker falls over himself trying to impress the straight-laced Jack Byrnes (Robert DeNiro) and his space cadet wife (Blythe Danner), spending a weekend having to contend with a mischievous cat, Pam’s upper crust upbringing, and Jack’s constant paranoia about the status of his family, leading him to bring Pam’s ex-boyfriend Kevin (Owen Wilson) back into the fold. The awkward hilarity that makes this film a go-to example of clever comedy culminates in a meal at the Byrnes’ home where Greg compares Jack to a cat whose nipples can be milked, and inadvertently allows the cat, Mr. Jinx, to urinate in the ashes of Jack’s mother.
2. My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
A gem from Julia Roberts’ rom-com days, this movie also gave rise to the generally easily digestible career of Cameron Diaz. Julianne (Jules) Potter (Julia Roberts), a famous New York restaurant critic, is best friends with her ex-flame from college Michael O’Neal (Dermot Mulroney), a sports writer. They’d always planned to marry each other in that off-hand future way people have of making plans if neither was married by the time they turned 28. Just shy of their birthdays, Michael calls out of the blue to tell Jules he’s getting married…to twenty-year-old Kimmy Wallace whose father owns a major sports team. Jules is equal parts excited and nervous, but when she meets Kimmy and is embraced a little too enthusiastically, she becomes jealous and convinced Michael is making a terrible life choice. She spends the weekend of the shotgun, but unquestionably elegant, wedding trying to break up the nuptials. She drags her gay editor, George (Rupert Everett), into the scheme as her fake fiancé, and everyone ends up at a restaurant learning how Jules and George “met”, singing along to “I Say a Little Prayer” by Dionne Warwick. Bonus appearances by Paul Giamatti and Rachel Griffiths (from Brothers and Sisters) and Carrie Preston (from The Good Wife) who play dim-witted twins—an absolute must watch.
3. The Apartment (1960)
No list would be complete without a nod to the classics on the AFI’s Top 100 list. The Apartment comes in at number 80 on the list, but is some of Jack Lemmon’s most accessible comedy. Shirley MacLaine falls too far into the damsel in distress role in this film, but portrays the stereotype exceedingly well. C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) is working hard to get up the corporate ladder at an insurance company. He’s found the best way to do this is to rent out his apartment to the higher-ups at his company who pay a nice sum to have a place to bring their mistresses to. But when Baxter finally meets Fran, a girl he’d like to be able to take back to his apartment, he faces pressure from the company, and has worked the neighbors up into a riotous frenzy about the “ruckus” constantly coming from his apartment. Fortunately, he gets to see Fran everyday, since she operates the elevator where he works, but the elevator is no place for a budding romance. They go their separate ways, only to be thrown back together when Baxter has to save Fran’s life after she attempts to take it following being dumped by her boyfriend. In all this, Baxter stays by her side in his apartment, which isn’t much of a home with Baxter being a bachelor of the 1960s era. He is forced to cook spaghetti using a tennis racquet as a colander. While just a simple meal between Fran and Baxter, the scene is fraught with a delicate humor and an intense sentiment of true love, making it a stand out among movie meal scenes.
Honorable Mentions: The scene in Beetlejuice where the Maitland’s try out their scare tactics; the lobster scene and Easter dinner split-screen in Annie Hall, and that scene from When Harry Met Sally.