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Film / Monster-in-Law

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Monster-in-Law is a 2005 romantic comedy film directed by Robert Luketic.

Charlie Cantilini (Jennifer Lopez) has just met the perfect man, Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan), a brillant surgeon and son of the legendary Viola Fields (Jane Fonda). She loves him, he loves her, perfect! They should totally get married!

Well, except Viola doesn't quite think so. She has some issues with Charlie and would like to have a say in their relationship, much Hilarity Ensues.

The film marks the much awaited return of Jane Fonda to cinema, but at the same times, seems to suffer from the Love It or Be Bored By It syndrome. On one hand, it can be seen as slow-paced, predictable and rather cliched. But nevertheless, the well-executed comedy of this short little film will likely bring a smile to your face anyway. Remember, always trust Wanda Sykes to brighten up your day.

The Film contains examples of:

  • 555: Kevin's phone number.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: One of the reasons Viola believes Kevin and Charlie got hitched so soon.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Despite being played by an actress of Puerto Rican descent, Charlie's ethnicity is left quite vague. She carries an Italian last name (Cantilini), but later on, Kevin's grandmother refers to her as an "exotic Latina".
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    Viola: I just want my son to be happy!
    Ruby: Whatever made you think he wasn't?
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: When Viola is in disbelief over Charlie comparing her to Gertrude, Ruby agrees that it’s messed up. However, she follows it up by saying Viola is worse than Gertrude.
  • Before My Time: Viola interviews a "dumb blonde" type famous pop singer, who mentions that she likes really old movies and then proceeds to give some examples, none of which are more than ten or fifteen years old.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Charlie, once she decides to retaliate against Viola. Lampshaded by Ruby:
    "I underestimated you. You don't need a gun."
  • Break the Cutie: What Viola (successfully) attempts when she forces herself into Charlie and Kevin's home, while Kevin is away.
  • Bridezilla: Charlie is only one when it comes to her mother-in-law.
  • Camp Gay: Averted. Remy is gay, but not stereotypically so, although he isn't Straight Gay either.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Charlie witnesses an argument between Viola and Viola's mother-in-law Gertrude, and says she's going to call off the wedding when she realises that she and Viola will end up bickering endlessly like they do, and she can't take it. Instead of regretting her treatment of Charlie, Viola is flabbergasted that Charlie compared her to the abrasive (but awesome) battleaxe Gertrude. Ruby sets her straight.
  • Curse Cut Short: After Viola throws her bridesmaid’s dress out of the car, Charlie’s response before the scene transitions is “Motherfu-”.
  • Crocodile Tears: You could fill a pool with all the fake tears in this movie.
  • Daydream Surprise: Viola imagines pushing Charlie's head into cake and later, Charlie imagines whacking Viola in the head with a frying pan. The former was used out of context in all the trailers.
  • Don't Sneak Up on Me Like That!: Viola sneaks up on Charlie while she is watching a scary movie.
  • Face Palm: Kit makes one after Kevin leaves Charlie an embarrassing voicemail.
    Kevin: "...Maybe you can walk me?"
  • Fashion Hurts: Lampshaded by Fiona, who says her shoes must look fabulous because they're killing her feet.
  • Fate Drives Us Together: Charlie and Kevin see each other at the beach, bump into each other at a coffee shop, and meet again at a catering event where Charlie's working.
  • Freudian Excuse: Part of the reason Viola is so awful to Charlie is because she was on the receiving end of such treatment from her own mother-in-law Gertrude; Viola was constantly belittled by Gertrude who made it clear that she saw Viola as an unfit partner for her son. When Gertrude shows up at Kevin’s wedding, she’s still bitter about Viola's marriage to her now deceased son, even going as far as blaming Viola for his death.
  • Groin Attack: Rare female-on-female example. When Ruby tries to stop Viola from mixing nuts into the gravy, Viola knees her in the groin. "I think you dislocated my vagina!"
  • Held Gaze: Between Charlie and Kevin when they first see each other.
  • Heel Realization: When Viola realizes that she’s channeling her mother-in-law and that her son may be happy with Charlie, she makes amends with her son’s fiancée before the wedding is called off.
  • History Repeats: When Charlie meets her fiancé’s grandmother, she quickly sees how Gertrude and Viola act like how she and Viola have been treating each other for the whole movie. Not wanting to be an antagonistic mother-in-law like Viola or Gertrude, she initially wants to call off the wedding. Ruby helps break the cycle as well by getting Viola to realize that she was interfering with her son’s happiness.
  • Imagine Spot: Whenever Viola or Charlie physically harm each other in fairly violent manner.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Once Charlie starts fighting back against Viola, she picks a peach bridesmaid’s dress for her future mother-in-law to wear. Ruby is in stitches when she sees her boss wearing it at the wedding.
  • Ironic Echo: When Viola pretends to have a panic attack, which resembled a heart attack, at a restaurant, a woman screams, "Is she dead?!" Charlie mutters, "...It couldn't be that easy." Later, when Viola and Gertrude confront one another, Viola paraphrases Charlie, stating, "Evil couldn't die so easily!"
  • Manipulative Bastard: Viola and Charlie are both very manipulative towards each other.
  • Mistaken for Gay: Oddly, Charlie believes the rumor shared by the Romantic False Lead in the face of Kevin's repeated, obvious attempts to chat her up.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: Viola briefly thinks Charlie is pregnant hence the marriage.
  • Momma's Boy: Kevin
  • Montages: One occurs when Viola and Charlie meet for the first time and appear to be bonding.
  • My Beloved Smother:
    • Viola—Big Time. She is overly involved in her son’s life and spends most of the movie trying to interfere with his relationship with Charlie, thinking she isn’t good enough for Kevin. Charlie helps sets some boundaries to ensure Viola is a part of Kevin’s life, but isn’t too intrusive.
    • And Gertrude, according to Viola. She never thought any woman was good enough for her son and supposedly smothered him to death.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Charlie realizes that she and Viola are not as dissimilar as she thought when she meets Gertrude, who's not so different to Viola.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: It's right there in the title, though it should be noted that Charlie only gets married to Kevin in the film's climax and by then, Viola has decided to drop her feud with Charlie entirely.
    • Viola's mother-in-law Gertrude, the mother of Viola's first husband and Kevin's grandmother, was a more straightforward example. She is very vocal about her disapproval of her son marrying Viola, even in the present day and her compliments to Charlie are just another excuse to verbally dump on Viola. Charlie almost calls off the wedding out of fear of repeating the cycle.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: My god, the blue and orange never end.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Charlie says this to Viola in front of Kevin.
    (In a sweet voice) "I am willing to do anything to make this relationship work."
  • Only Sane Man: Ruby, really, the only rational person when Charlie and Viola are at each other's throats and when Kevin has absolutely no idea what is going on.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Viola works really hard to get Charlie not to marry her son.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: One of Charlie’s early forms of payback against Viola is picking out a peach bridesmaid’s dress for her mother-in-law to wear at the wedding. At the wedding itself, Viola chooses to wear a white dress instead and flaunts it off in front of the bride.
  • Pretty in Mink: Oh, the Costume Porn. Every party scene involves all the characters dressed in impossibly eye-dazzling dresses and such, even those who are decidedly not so rich (compared to Viola anyway) gets to whip on some good vintage.
  • Relationship Sabotage: Two-fold.
    • The whole plot of the movie centers around Viola trying to break Kevin and his girlfriend up because she doesn't think that Charlie is good enough for her son. She gives up on her plan near the end when she realizes that her son is happy with Charlie and she turned into her own Gertrude.
    • It's implied that Gertrude was just as meddlesome with her son's relationship because she didn't think Viola was good enough. This is the reason as to why Viola is so cruel to Charlie.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Viola gives a seething one to the pop star she interviews on her last show, insinuating that she represents everything wrong with the next generation.
  • Rich Bitch: One word, Viola.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Wanda Sykes as Ruby, in all her glory.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Kevin's grandmother Gertrude is certainly opinionated, mostly to Viola but also to a valet in her introduction.
    "Don't. Touch. Me. I'll get out of this car the same way I got in. Without you!
  • Shotgun Wedding: Viola fears that the wedding might be because of a bun in the oven.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Defied - Charlie gets this bit cut out of the vows.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Minor case in Kevin's attempts to chat Charlie up.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Viola adds nuts to the gravy because Charlie is allergic.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Ruby finally loses her patience with Viola, and points out that Viola is far worse than her own mother-in-law. When Viola tries to justify her actions by claiming she wants to make her son happy, Ruby responds "Whatever made you think he wasn't?''.
  • You Are Fat: Viola insinuates that Charlie (played by the toned and curvy Jennifer Lopez) is fat. From giving her a dress that is purposely too small, asks how she keeps so "well-nourished" with her nut allergy, sneers at how confident she is for not giving in to a traditional wedding dress diet, and then comments: "Just so you know, Kevin likes his girls thin!".