If you haven’t read this article about the Manic Pixie Dream Girl movie stereotype, do. It’s hilarious and really nails the nature of this disturbing fantasy that’s revisited time and time again on screen. But I just have to quarrel with two of the picks, just a little. I think Kate Hudson’s character in “Almost Famous”—a MPDG named Penny—is actually a send-up of the stereotype, though not a send-up in the ha-ha way, but more in the “unmoored girls with mental problems are real human beings, not fantasies to project on, you prick” sort of way. Her complete meltdown after the way her self-image is dashed by the certain knowledge that the men she thought she was charming actually thought of her as nothing but a fuckhole was sobering. The movie was about the main character’s losing his grip on a lot of fantasies that dominate the adolescent imagination, and her overdose was the end of the fantasy of the MPDG, replacing her with a real human being with serious problems. Same story with Shirley MacLaine in “The Apartment”. Her suicide attempt never struck me as part of a charming eccentricity, but the direct result of the miserable situation her older, married lover had put her in. That said, she is a MPDG in other ways, mostly because she’s blunt, which was eccentric in that era but doesn’t come across as remarkable now.
Annie Hall is totally that character, but it’s fair to point out that she doesn’t save the protagonist from himself.