Monday, January 25, 2010

When Real Isn't Good Enough

Despite our proximity to Hollywood and the fact that the Hollywood crowd seems to love our Film Festival as well as our town itself, do you ever get the feeling that Santa Barbara isn't quite good enough for Hollywood?

Case in point, It's Complicated, The Nancy Meyers movie set in Santa Barbara.

It's often said that New York City was the fourth co-star in the HBO series "Sex And The City." Well our own Santa Barbara gets a co-starring role alongside Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in this very funny and entertaining film.

While there's a lot of Santa Barbara to recognize, locals will probably be struck by a number of liberties Meyers has taken in portraying our town. Instead of the real deal, we get an idealized vision of our sleepy little pueblo.

First, the familiar: ocean views, red tile roofs, the sunken gardens at the courthouse, Hope Ranch, the farmer's market, The Biltmore. They're all in the movie, shown in glorious 35mm.

The not so familiar: A farmer's market, rather than being held on State Street or the Cota Street commuter lot, takes place at the sunken gardens (that sudden groan that you hear is coming from the courthouse docents). El Paseo being passed off as a medical office building.

BTW, that farmer's market scene, which I recall they spent a full day filming, is on the screen for about all of 30 seconds.

When it comes to portraying local landmarks and geography, there's very little that Meyer's hasn't tweaked, tampered with or downright confabulated. Not even the fabulous vegetable garden that Streep's character maintains is home grown. An L.A. Times article has the dirt on the vegetable garden and reveals that the garden's vegetables were grown in a greenhouse.

Was that really necessary? I mean between guys like Owen Dell and Billy Goodnick, we have some of the finest gardeners in the world. Bet they wouldn't have needed a hot house to create the appearance of a lush garden.

And then there's that bakery that Streep's character owns. We've never seen the likes of anyplace like that around here. It's like Zabar's meets Rodeo Drive.

Add to the fictitious fantasy the fact that everybody is overdressed. I've lived here over 30 years and I've never known people who live here to be so consistently well turned out. Everybody looks like they just stepped out of a J. Crew catalog. A college graduation scene early on in the movie (which I presume is taking place in May or June) sets the timeframe of subsequent events as being the summer. Yet, there's not a pair of flip-flops, short pants or a T-shirt to be seen. In Meyer's world, no one in Santa Barbara owns a pair of jeans, not even a pair of Lucky Brand jeans. Everybody is dressed as if they're in The Hamptons. Make that dressed for autumn in The Hamptons. Realism takes a back seat to chic and sophisticated.

I would think that of all the places in the country, Santa Barbara would be the town that's least in need of Hollywood magic to make it look good. After all, we're not Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men." We can handle the truth.
© 2010 by Craig Smith and