Simply Irresistible


Rating 3½

Directed by Mark Tarlov

Written by Judith Roberts

Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean Patrick Flanery, Patricia Clarkson and Dylan Baker

‘Simply Irresistible’ is, as far as most people who have seen it are concerned, a turkey -- and I absolutely adore it!

During her break following the end of production on the second season of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’, Gellar filmed ‘Cruel Intentions’ in New York City and then joined the production of ‘Vanilla Fog’, a romantic comedy, also shot in the city. To ensure that filming was completed before Gellar’s commitment to the third season of ‘Buffy’, the first-unit production was wrapped-up very quickly. The intention was always that the film be ready for release in February 1999 to coincide with Valentine’s Day and cash-in on Gellar’s increasing “teen appeal”, which was then at its peak.

With a change of title to ‘Simply Irresistible’ (personally, I think they should have stuck with the original), the film opened in America on 5 February 1999 and had a domestic box office gross of less than $4.5 million, against a budget of $6 million. Oddly enough, the target audience for ‘Simply Irresistible’ was probably largely stolen by the Freddie Prinze Jr film ‘She’s All That’, a film in which Gellar makes a cameo appearance, which was released one week earlier and went on to pull in $103 million at the box office.

‘Simply Irresistible’ was written by a film industry lawyer and first-time writer, Judith Roberts, and directed by her husband Mark Tarlov, a former speech writer for the Chief Justice and producer of the films ‘Mortal Thoughts’, ‘Serial Mom’ and ‘Copycat’. Gellar has subsequently said she made a mistake signing to make the film, giving a number of reasons including the fact that she was simply too young and ill-equipped at that time for the role. There is undoubtedly some justification in her comments but I do think she is being overly self-critical. Its weaknesses are very evident, but this film really isn’t all that bad.

With a few exceptions, critics didn’t savage the film, although there were the predictable comments that it was ‘simply resistible’. Whoever came up with the change of title really should have seen that one coming. They merely gave it muted reviews, pointing out that it’s very derivative (several made reference to the similarities to ‘Like Water for Chocolate’) and meanders along without ever really going anywhere. Gellar, in general, got fairly good notices, although there were critics who took the opportunity to really stick the knife in.

“A graduate of the head-tossing school of acting with no depth and the emotional palette of a tuna fish, Gellar is not suited for the romantic lead… It is astonishing that Gellar, apparently unable to produce any range of emotion at all, was chosen by director Tarlov as the lead in this highly emotional story. But perhaps it was intentional; maybe we’re supposed to guess her feelings by her food, in the absence of any other clues… The love story of Simply Irresistible is satisfying in an offbeat way, and the film is visually mouth-watering, but the terrible juvenile Gellar’s lacklustre performance brings it down several steps from what it could and should be.”
John R McEwen: The Republican

So what’s it about? It will hardly come as a surprise to learn that it’s a bog standard rom-com storyline. Two people from very different backgrounds meet and fall in love. They become estranged (in this case, he thinks she’s a witch), but circumstances conspire to bring them back together and everyone lives happily ever after.

The celebrated New York fashion designer Todd Oldham designed Gellar’s wardrobe for the film. His designs were criticised for being wilfully garish and idiosyncratic, but they are typical of his style. I really like them, not that I could exactly be called a fashion expert! They do fit in nicely with the autumnal setting and the many visual references to Art Deco to be found in film. These days, Oldham has turned his attention to furniture design.

‘Simply Irresistible’ is not a great film. It is probably not even a very good film. However, it certainly isn’t a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination and it is genuinely and unashamedly warm-hearted. Gellar is very engaging in the lead role. It’s not an acting tour-de-force by any means, but it’s a nicely judged performance that plays to many of her strengths as an actor. She possesses something of the magnetic quality that many of the iconic film stars have, although I am not suggesting for one moment that she falls within this category. However, she does genuinely have the ability to project a very strong presence in front of the camera. What is perhaps lacking here is much in the way of any real chemistry with her co-star Sean Patrick Flanery.

In the end, had more time been spent polishing the script, had the production not been so rushed and had the ‘magic conduit’ not been a crab seemingly controlled by puppet-strings (I am not joking), ‘Simply Irresistible’ would have undoubtedly been a better film. Aiming a ‘grown-up’ rom-com at a teenage audience was perhaps a mistake, but the film was trying to cash-in on two affordable young actors who were both creating names for themselves in TV shows at the time. It is what it is and it has its own genuine charm.

“Simply Irresistible is old-fashioned and obvious, yes, like a featherweight comedy from the 1950s, but that’s the charm. I love movies that cut loose from the moorings of the possible and dance among their fancies… It’s not a great movie, but it’s a charmer.”
Roger Ebert: Chicago Sun Times

The picture scans from 'Simply Irrestistible' used here were scanned by Jules for


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