The Sweetest Thing

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Director Roger Kumble and actress Selma Blair followed up the masterful Cruel Intentions (1999) with the raunchy romantic comedy The Sweetest Thing (2002) starring Cameron Diaz and Christina Applegate. This time around Blair has sex with a man in a purple elephant costume and gets a piercing on a man’s penis stuck in her mouth. Suffice it to say that The Sweetest Thing, at its best, is truly inspired comedy.

The focus of the film is on the relationships between the three best friends Diaz, Applegate and Blair. Yes, they are pursuing “Mr Right” and helping Diaz with her intimacy issues along the way but the focus is always on how, as a group or pair, these women navigate the social situations they stumble into. Screenwriter Nancy Pimental re-imagines the romantic comedy as a case of “boy meets girl” but with the emphasis on the friends that, in most romantic comedies, are so often relegated to the sidelines. The Sweetest Thing the title refers to isn’t the romantic love between Diaz and Thomas Jane, but the friendship between Diaz, Blair and Applegate.

The comedic set pieces that Pimental invents for Diaz and Applegate on their road trip range from the gross to the profane and everything in between. The bulk of the movie is a cavalcade of raunchy scenarios that, while funny, reiterate the bonds between the two women. The film takes those extra beats to allow the women a moment to reflect, often humorously, on whatever absurd event had just taken place. The Sweetest Thing delivers the laughs while simultaneously immersing the viewer in the relationship between Diaz and Applegate; inviting the spectator to find a kinship there. Kumble’s direction revels in these moments. Kumble wants the audience to rediscover the friendships that guide individuals’ romances. His approach is a return to the Nora Ephron of When Harry Met Sally (1989) by emphasizing the “wingmen”.

In this respect The Sweetest Thing is the connecting tissue between When Harry Met Sally and Bridesmaids (2011). The Sweetest Thing takes the traditional romantic comedy formula and imbues it with humanity and raunchy humor, essentially setting the groundwork for the comedies of the late 2000s and early 2010s. That The Sweetest Thing remains so underrated and undervalued is a shame. Although it didn’t capture the zeitgeist of Cruel Intentions, The Sweetest Thing is just as subversive and wholly fresh.