It Only Happens in the Movies
I bought It Only Happens in the Movies on a whim in a bookshop and, miraculously, it didn’t just get put on the TBR pile like so many other books have and, instead, I picked it up the next weekend. By the end of Sunday, I had finished it and I was Holly Bourne’s newest fan.
It is the story of Audrey, named after Audrey Hepburn, the recently dumped daughter of a drunk, divorced mom and newest employee of Flicker cinema. Yup, Audrey has had it rough recently and things are about to get even more confusing. There’s a boy. He’s Flicker’s resident flirt and bad boy (everyone has warned Audrey of the fact that he is no good), but Harry isn’t really like that, is he? He listens to her, he casts her as the lead in the film he’s directing, and their relationship blossoms.
In amongst this storyline runs the story of Audrey’s mom’s struggles with divorce and selling the house, Audrey’s media studies assignment on the unreality of rom-coms, and Audrey’s failing relationships with her gal pals. The story is so real that Audrey could be the girl next door, but the real selling point is Bourne’s running commentary on the rom-com genre and just how misleading it is. It was Audrey’s rant about the women characters in rom-coms in particular that had me fist-pumping the air:
“‘Well – they always look amazing in the morning. They never have stinky breath or hair all over the place, or boogers in their eyes. And they sleep in, like, tiny pajama short things instead of an ugly oversized t-shirt with jammy bottoms. I mean, AREN’T THEY COLD? Also, they never pick fights with the guy’s friends about the fact they’re sexist slobs. They never fart, let alone fanny fart, or get their period and accidentally bleed reddy-brown splodges on their jeans. Their fringes are always impeccable [...] they’re never stroppy and they’re never difficult [...] and even if they ARE stroppy and difficult, it’s something that’s MENDED by the end of the film because some guy with perfectly-sculpted arms kisses them in the rain.’
‘I like you,’ Loulou said” (93).
I couldn’t help but agree with Loulou, Audrey’s other hilarious coworker. This critique is spot on!
This whole book is a delight. It’s a fun critique on the media whilst also completely nailing what it is like to be a teenager. It had me laughing on one page and near tears on the next. I loved Audrey to bits. She’s unafraid of who she is and, though she does make mistakes, she holds firm to her beliefs and protects those she holds most dear. The way she approaches Harry’s initial advances is brilliant and the fact that she ends up second guessing this and becoming all swirly about it (come on, we’ve all done that) is perfect and makes her character even more real.
After finishing It Only Happens in the Movies, I loved reading Holly Bourne’s Top 10 rom-coms – some of which I hadn’t seen, but soon – and it made me think of what my Top 10 are. I would have to say 10 Things I Hate About You, Pretty in Pink, Devil Wears Prada, Roman Holiday, Love, Rosie, You’ve Got Mail, Easy A, Crazy Stupid Love, Pretty Woman and When Harry Met Sally (two of which are the same, by the way). But, how many of them fall into the same traps that are covered in Audrey’s (delicious) feminist rant? Probably quite a few, but I, like Bourne herself, love a good rom-com and am perfectly content watching them despite their flaws. In fact, sometimes it’s more fun when they are flawed because that gives you more to talk about. Like my last viewing of Never Been Kissed, which ended in the biggest (and most brutal) debate my friends and I have ever had. (We may have ripped it to shreds.)
What It Only Happens in the Movies does is embrace the rom-com genre while politely mocking everything it stands for. It’s fun, it broke my heart, and it absolutely made me fall in love with Audrey and Harry – as well as Bourne herself.