Some films—good and bad—stick with you long after you’ve seen them, for a variety of reasons. There’s an intricately choreographed five-minute-long tracking shot re-enacting the British evacuation of Dunkirk. The guffaw-inducing sight of a soft mannequin, a stand-in for a bad guy, being dragged along the subway tracks. John Williams’s two-note theme for the mostly unseen underwater villain. But cinema being an audiovisual storytelling medium, it is often what is said that grabs your attention and refuses to let go.
I love collecting movie quotes, but in preparation for this article, I actually had difficulty listing my favorite lines. Watching as many films as I do, dialogue from movies I love and feel disinterest toward inevitably and unconsciously wind up in my idiolect. My movie-mad sister is my best friend, and we often communicate in Movie Talk. But even now, I’m struggling to come up with an example of something that we say to each other—with and without hints of irony. Just as it is for practically all cinephiles, I guess films are just so ingrained in our brains, so tightly knit into the fabric of our everyday lives, that the origins of some movie references we make regularly go unexamined. Let’s attempt to change that.
Then again, there are also memorable movie quotes that don’t fit easily into everyone’s daily conversations. Most of the entries on the following list of my favorite movie lines fall into this category. I should also note that this inventory is by no means comprehensive; I may continually add to it as they come to me. I invite you to tell me your favorites, too, in the comments section below.
Let’s start with the line that inspired me to post on this topic: in Sydney Pollack’s 1995 remake of the classic romance Sabrina, a charming Julia Ormond stars as the titular daughter of a chauffeur who has loved the younger, commitment-phobic Larrabee brother David (played by Greg Kinnear) all of her life. During the opening credits, which unravel as she narrates her lovelorn situation (he doesn’t know that she exists, that she watches him routinely woo rich women from her perch in the tree outside her apartment above the garage on his family’s estate), Sabrina heavily breathes, with the slightest hesitation, “David… did a GAP ad.” I love the combination of her sincerity and the ridiculousness of her words. It’s as if—at what age? 30?—she is a teenybopper.
To be fair to poor Sabrina, she also makes an astute, perhaps even eloquent, observation later on in the film, after she’s returned from Paris elegant and confident. David’s older, uptight brother Linus (Harrison Ford) whisks her away to Martha’s Vineyard. He pretends to want to sell his house there so as to keep her away from a now-smitten David (but who’s now engaged to the daughter of a tech tycoon Linus is doing business with), so the conniving businessman invites her to take photos of his property. An amateur photographer, Sabrina reflects on her lonely, voyeuristic existence growing up, all while snapping views from the Linus’s house: “Every time I look through a camera, I’m surprised. It’s like finding yourself in the middle of a story… I think I’ve been taking pictures all my life, long before I ever had a camera.” Doesn’t that make up for her simple, pathetic idolization of a smug, rich jerk? Besides, opening up to Linus (and influencing his heart to melt in the process) is just the beginning of her journey to discover of who she really wants.
Friends with Money (Nicole Holofcener, 2006) is about a group of four middle-aged women in Los Angeles, three of whom are either extremely wealthy or very well-off. Yeah, yeah, it may be best remembered because Jennifer Aniston plays against type as the fourth friend who has no money—and some questionable taste in men—but the real star of the show is Frances McDormand, who plays a successful clothing designer with anger management issues. In my favorite scene, she waits in line at Old Navy and flips out when a couple jumps in front of her as she walks toward the cash register. During the confrontation, in which neither the cashier nor the manager sympathizes with her passed-over situation, she points her finger in the butting pair’s faces, accusing them of ignoring her and shouting, “Yes, those two people! With their stupid fucking faces!” Why do I love this line? First of all, I should note that I’m biased: McDormand is one of my favorite actresses. I always find her entertaining. But because she lowers her voice as she spits out this line, it sounds as if she’s a monster saying, “stupidfuckingfaces!” Brilliant.
If you’ve even just skimmed through the About the Site page on CINE FEEL YEAH, you might have noticed that one of my favorite comfort films (yes, like the food) is The Truth About Cats & Dogs (Michael Lehmann, 1996). A woman-centered adaptation of Cyrano de Bergerac, it stars Janeane Garofalo and Uma Thurman as neighbors who start spending a lot of time together after insecure veterinarian radio host Garofalo tells an amorous listener that she looks like the “dumb blonde” Thurman when he asks her out on a date. It’s a long story as to how he’s given this impression when he first meets them both at the radio station. More importantly, there are many choice lines in the film, but my absolute favorite is a quick exchange between the two women. Garofalo is sobbing in the department store where she let a cosmetics saleswoman make over her face. Pissed off that society dictates women make themselves attractive to men through cosmetic enhancement, she says, “If I was a guy, I think women would like, line up to go out with me. I’m smart. I have a good sense of humor. I make a great living.” Without missing a beat, Thurman nods, “I’d fuck you.” Garofalo responds, “Thank you, honey. I know you would.” This dialogue effortlessly gets at the root of female friendships. They don’t know each other well at this point, but they support one another in the face of seemingly absurd adversity—especially from the small voices deep within.
The last two quotes I have for you right now are actually part of my everyday speech. Not only that, they are also the only two lines spoken by men to make the list. The first (or second-to-last, depending on how you look at it), comes courtesy of David Deblinger’s character in the sweet but acerbic and little-seen rom-com/satire of the fashion industry Intern (Michael Lange, 2000). Dominique Swain plays the eponymous gofer at a fashion magazine. During her tenure, she falls for the dreamy deputy art director, rolls her eyes at the shallowness of the industry’s top decision-makers, and even uncovers an editor’s selling insider information to a rival glossy rag. The intern befriends Deblinger’s flamboyant, straight-talking accessories editor, who, in the end, confronts another frustrated co-worker with the immortal line, “What’s with the angry?” Despite his sentence’s despicable lack of grammatical cohesion, I love to repeat it—ironically. You never know, if you use it to ask someone about what is making him or her upset, you might just put a smile on that person’s face.
I apologize: I couldn’t find a photo of Deblinger in Intern during my Google Image search. In its place, I’ll offer that I’m 99.99% certain I saw the actor riding the subway in Brooklyn once while on my way home (I think it was the No. 2 train). He was talking with his female companion, so I didn’t dare interrupt their chat to say anything. And definitely not to ask, “What’s with the angry?”
24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002) is my all-time favorite film, and it is so highly quotable. I know it like the back of my hand, which is why I am usually disappointed in others’ estimations of its quotiness (can I coin that right now?). For example, I’d waited years to meet someone who had ever even heard of it. (Generally, whenever someone asks me for the name of my fave film, I have to repeat the title at least twice.) And when I finally did, while studying abroad in Northwest England, he quoted the movie back to me. How exciting, right?! Well, he chose the least creative line (“There’s a barbed wire fence! There’s a barbed wire fence!”). Well, to each his own, right?
Anyway, my favorite utterance comes early in the film, too. Steve Coogan, as real-life TV personality and Factory Records co-founder Tony Wilson, directly addresses the camera following his exhilarating hang gliding experience in the Pennines (director Winterbottom uses mostly real footage of Wilson himself performing the stunt). In doing so, Coogan/Wilson steps outside of the film while remaining fixed in the frame: “You’re gonna be seeing a lot more of that sort of thing in the film. All of that actually did happen. Obviously, it’s symbolic. It works on both levels. I don’t want to tell you too much, don’t want to spoil the film. But I’ll just say, ‘Icarus.’ OK? If you know what I mean, great. If you don’t, doesn’t matter. But you should probably read more.” Obviously, this is a pretty long, context-specific quote (he’s referring to the fame and fortune he and others attached to Manchester’s music scene cyclically gain and lose, by the way), so I don’t use the whole thing. I abridge it (“You should probably read more”) and try to imitate his flippant, condescending tone. Again, I never earnestly deploy the line, and I mainly just say it to my sister, who gets it, about someone else. After all, the movie’s all about irony.