(originally written on January 7, 2004)
Now that ‘How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days’ has come to digital cable, I finally sat down and watched it. This movie was playing in the theatres in late January 2003, so it feels a little odd to be doing a retro review of a lightweight romantic comedy. It wasn’t worth my money then, so why watch it now? Well, it appeared to be one of those movies better left for home viewing when it doesn’t cost a cent over & above the existing digi-cable fee. Then why take the time to review it? Because I’m disgusted, very disgusted. Joe Lieberman blames Hollywood for corrupting America’s youth. Specifically, he’s pointing his holier-than-thou finger at sex & violence (how he feels about violent sex, I’m not sure, but I’m thinking it ain’t good), but he SHOULD be pointing all his fingers at sick flicks like ‘How To Lose A Guy’.
In the spirit of ‘In The Company Of Men’, the premise is this—horribly selfish people toy with the emotions of others just because they can. And while ‘In The Company Of Men’ didn’t pull punches about how brutal men can be towards women and to other men too (specifically the monstrous Chad, played with snake-like perfection by Aaron Eckhart), ‘How To Lose A Guy’ thinks it’s a Julia Roberts movie. If the idea is that we’re going to show how hideous people in the dating world can be, let’s not treat it like a fanciful boy-meets-girl-loses-girl-wins-girl Julia egofest. Have some courage and let’s get real. Am I taking this movie too seriously? Oh, probably. But doesn’t it say something about the film industry if a critic cares more about what’s happening in this story than the filmmakers? Why can’t I be Joe Lieberman for a few minutes here? (I bet no one has ever said THAT before.)
The story. Kate Hudson (the one-dimensional daughter of Goldie Hawn) plays Andie Anderson, a writer of frivolous “how to” columns in a made-up New York magazine. Matthew McConaughey (also one-dimensional, with no famous mother to speak of) is Ben Barry, an advertising executive who’s trying to land the company’s big diamond account. In a piece of preposterous fate, they each make a bet regarding their dating strategies. Well, Andie doesn’t so much make a bet as claim that she can prove how quickly she can make a guy dump her by dating him, hooking him, then employing all the standard cliches that guys hate in order to make him split. Her editor seizes on it, says the title of the movie (which is never a bad thing for business), and blonde bimbo Andie is off to find her victim. Ben is the one who makes a wager with his boss to win that account, claiming he can win a girl’s heart with love rather than materialism and sex. (But how is it “love” if you don’t really “love” her, dummy?) Well, macho jock Ben doesn’t care, just so long as he gets that account. They meet at a party, go out a few times, and the plot limps along. No one ever mentions how cutesy it is that their initials are AA and BB. What are those, the alter-egos of self-indulgent super-heroes?
Now, as ridiculous as it is that both of these scumbags agree to these conditions with their bosses and end up at the same party at exactly the same time, I knew that was the plot going in. Still, you have to admit it’s a pretty terrible thing to do to somebody, toying with their feelings like that. When they both find out the truth (again, at exactly the same time) at that fateful moment just before the third act begins, they actually have the nerve to be upset. Cripes, we’re all a little hypocritical sometimes, but if you’re going to screw with someone’s head just to win a bet, you might deserve a lot worse punishment than simply discovering they’ve done the same thing to you. Call me a chauvinist here, but it really got me steamed that SHE is the one who runs out on him. What right does she have to be so angry? What kind of hypocrisy is that?
Of course, the things she does to drive him crazy are supposed to be cute and funny. This is the real chick part of this flick. She makes him miss the thrilling end of a basketball game, she fancies up his apartment with girlie accessories, she interrupts and subsequently ruins his poker game, and continually runs through the pattern of behaviour that’s bound to drive men away. It’s a string of cliches, but many of these tactics will certainly work in real life if your goal is send a man out the door in a huge hurry. Ben has to take it with a smile if he wants to keep her happy and win his bet. What I don’t understand is how women in the audience aren’t angered by these scenes. The movie made over $100 million at the weak box office early last year, which suggests plenty of people saw it more than once.
Aren’t intelligent women above this kind of tripe? If they attend movies like this to snicker at how irritating their “sisters” can be, okay. That might explain why reality shows do so well on the small screen, since people clearly like to laugh at the awful things people will do for money and their own selfishness. Then why do guys go to see movies like this? For that car-wreck reality show reason I just mentioned? To see the kind of saps we can be just a please a woman? Geez, you’d BETTER be in love with somebody if you’re going to take that much crap. Nothing else in the world (no, not even great sex) would keep most handsome, successful guys like McConaughey’s Ben hanging onto Andie for so long.
Director Donald Petire gave us another unworthy box office triumph in ‘Miss Congeniality’. Lame as that effort was, it didn’t have the meanness that ‘How To Lose A Guy’ does. This is a truly foul experience, one that could put a guy (or a girl) off the dating scene. “There are people out there doing things like THAT?! Maybe I’ll just do the laundry and the dishes tonight…” If the movie wasn’t so false, perhaps I wouldn’t be so mad at it. Is the sort of sociopathic behaviour in this movie truthful? Maybe for some sickos, but Petrie shouldn’t try to jazz it up with jaunty music and a happy ending. There’s nothing like a hit soundtrack and a love-sick man on a motorcyle to ensure a hit film, I guess.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie with 2 characters less deserving of a happy ending. They truly deserve each other. If they’re going to steal nearly 2 hours of my time (2 hours for a rom-com?), they deserve to spend life together making each other miserable. When the last upbeat song played and the credits finally rolled, I said…and you can quote me…”fuck this movie” and “fuck Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey for being in it”. Actually I was saying that after about an hour and a half, but if these assholes can have a happy ending, so can I.