Review: Shit, Actually by Lindy West

I started and finished this book the same day, but then needed another day to decide how to review it.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads description:

New York Times opinion writer and bestselling author Lindy West was once the in-house movie critic for Seattle’s alternative newsweekly The Stranger, where she covered film with brutal honesty and giddy irreverence. In Shit, Actually, Lindy West returns to those roots, re-examining beloved and iconic movies from the past 40 years with an eye toward the big questions of our time: Is Twilight the horniest movie in history? Why do the zebras in The Lion King trust Mufasa–who is a lion–to look out for their best interests? Why did anyone bother making any more movies after The Fugitiveachieved perfection? And, my god, why don’t any of the women in Love, Actually ever fucking talk?!

From Forrest Gump, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and Bad Boys II, to Face/Off, Top Gun, and The Notebook, West combines her razor-sharp wit and trademark humor with a genuine adoration for nostalgic trash to shed new critical light on some of our defining cultural touchstones–the stories we’ve long been telling ourselves about who we are.

My thoughts

I adore Lindy West. Shrill and The Witches Are Coming are two of my favorite nonfiction/memoirish/essay books ever. I also adore movies, especially the ‘old’ ones I loved years and years ago. So naturally, this was going to be a great read for me, right? Yes, but also no.

Yes, because I’ve actually seen every one of the movies West reviews in this book, with the possible exception of American Pie because I honestly don’t think I was ever able to watch the whole thing. (Apparently, there are actually movies that are too immature for me. Weird!) I enjoyed her takes on all of the films—I laughed out loud more than a few times, and was helped to realize some stuff about several of them I hadn’t stopped to consider before; primarily, the problematic ickiness that ensues when movies are written ‘for women’ by men, most clearly illustrated in West’s reviews of Love, Actually and The Notebook.

Yes again, because Lindy West is a a fantastic writer and downright hilarious. She’s smart and witty, and she’s not afraid to keep talking until you realize that. I don’t know how she picked the movies to review, or why The Fugitive is the best movie ever and the one to which all other films are compared, but I had no trouble at all getting on board with this system. I love when she fangirls about some of movies, and equally love the merciless evisceration of some of them. Shit, Actually was a perfect book for me to read right now, in the midst of election fatigue/anxiety, because it’s light and funny while also just thought-provoking enough.

No (and it’s just a little no), because the book gets a bit repetitive… after all, West just gives us a scene-by-scene summary of a bunch of films with hilarious commentary thrown in for each . Shit, Actually is not a long book, but still, it probably could have done without a few of these movies. Perhaps starting with a American Pie.

No also, because despite my being older and more enlightened, it is possible to go too far with me. I will accept that Love, Actually is actually quite a sexist shitshow (still gonna watch it this holiday season, as always), and I can admit that Forrest Gump was beyond ridiculous, and I can definitely see that Maverick was the bad guy to Iceman’s good guy, but damn it, Lindy West: you leave Titanic alone! 😅

⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2, or 7/10 DVDs of The Fugitive

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for my copy in exchange for this honest review.

2 thoughts on “Review: Shit, Actually by Lindy West

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