Sunday, August 7, 2011

What If Ally McBeal Was On Once and Again? Someone Like You

The Good: Moments of humor, Adequate social commentary
The Bad: Stiff acting, Neither end is terribly convincing, Utter lack of conviction, Inconsistent characterization
The Basics: Social commentary that rings true isn't enough to save Someone Like You, which seems to thrive on the unfortunate follies of people desperate for emotional fulfillment.

Sigh. Whenever I'm tempted to begin a review with a sigh, I know it's going to be one of those rare occasions where I am actually stretching to come up with one hundred words to dignify a work. Someone Like You is one such instance. Sigh. Where to start?

Someone Like You follows Jane Goodale on the development of her "new cow theory," which basically analogizes men to cows in their dating habits. The IMDB plot outline calls this a "sexist column." I think there's some room for argument there, however, Jane falls for a guy named Ray Brown. Ray has been in a long term relationship, but falls in love with her. So, Ray and Jane are all set to move in together when Ray goes back to the woman he was with and Jane is left without a place to live (as she had already gotten out of her lease and someone new was moving into her place). So, she ends up moving in with Eddie, the office chauvinist, a man she's spent the first half of the film despising.

I think you see where this is going.

My positive part of the review comes now: I laughed a few times. There were moments of humor. More than that, the film makes a pretty fair social commentary on men and women in today's society. The "new cow theory" pretty much pegs the stereotypical male in U.S. society. Yes, exceptions abound, but the bulk of infidelity does seem to come from one partner (not necessarily the male) simply wanting something new, not even necessarily a lack of love. And Jane represents a fundamental archetype in today's society; the late twenties/early thirties woman who is in a romantic quest in such fear that she'll be loveless that she forgoes common sense. For those who would instantly combat me in this point, I challenge by asking this: why is it women in film, television, and - incidentally - reality are shocked when the man they love is willing to break up a long term relationship they're in for them and then go back to the one they left them for or another person entirely? In simpler terms, why haven't we seen a character who avoids breaking up a relationship because they make the rather obvious logical deduction that "if he's willing to break up that relationship, someone else could break up our relationship, too?" Well, Jane is not that character; she's shocked when Ray backs out of the relationship. I, however, wasn't.

In those terms, Someone Like You captures realism well and for a key demographic! I think it's a current societal trend more than a long standing nature of genders, but I think this adequately captures the somewhat young people of our time.

Well, one of the major problems there is in the resolution. I think the film is fairly obvious and by reading my plot outline, you might have a pretty good idea who ends up with whom. After moving in, Jane discovers that Eddie isn't as much of a pig as she originally thought and it goes from there. The thing is, sometimes characters are characters and the realism element has to come in. The "love where we least expect it" thing works well when it's somewhat compatible people, not complete opposites. Of course, Someone Like You seeks to prove that it's the latter, but that to realize you like that you have to open your eyes to it. Next time you see someone you truly dislike, walk up to them and have a three minute conversation about anything. In that conversation, try as hard as you can to imagine actually loving them, kissing them and having a conversations longer than three minutes where you don't feel at all awkward. Odds are, you'll stop halfway through this exercise and say "I don't like this person!" And the truth is, humans are discriminatory animals, that's why we have reviewers; to help you discriminate. If I tell you all about a film I saw that has actors you don't like, in situations you couldn't care less about, odds are you won't watch it (assuming you trust me!) and if you do, odds are you'll be severely disappointed. Why? There are things you don't like.

My point is, I'm sick of films where characters have things they like and don't like and yet suddenly decide to like someone that embodies all of those things they don't like. Yes, occasionally we may be surprised. More often than not, though . . .

In Someone Like You, it's somewhat magnified. Why? First, in the characterization. Jane truly doesn't like what Eddie embodies. Eddie, for his part, is somewhat distressing. Sometimes, people are simple. All of the surface behaviors Eddie embodies seem to contradict the "deeper person" Eddie reveals upon closer inspection. The thing is, people who are truly sensitive and such to the levels Eddie seems to become would have a difficult time maintaining the facade.

Second, the acting. There is no chemistry in this film. Ashley Judd is fine by herself. She plays Jane Goodale with humor like Ally McBeal and earnestness and emotional honesty of Lily from Once And Again. The problem is, these are not necessarily terribly compatible. But assuming they are, that's how Judd plays Jane and she's fine. But she has no chemistry on screen with either Greg Kinnear (Ray) or Hugh Jackman (Eddie). There is nothing between any of them. Hugh Jackman (perhaps the ideal Wolverine in X-Men) is stiff as Eddie. If you see the case for this film, it even comes through on the cover; his smile is so forced. He's playing a relaxed character and it's not working. At all; he's not relaxed.

Finally, on the plot front, there's a whole subplot with Jane's sister and her husband trying to have a baby and that feels completely added. Someone reading this might suggest that it was part of the book from which this film came, but - if that is the case - here it doesn't fit. It's not developed enough, it's not important to the story and it distracts from the film's momentum rather than add anything to the characters.

There are two endings to the film on the DVD. I didn't buy either of them. In the standard version, Jackman is especially stiff and it seemed to lack any sense of realism or, truly, romanticism. The other version, well, I liked where it ended more than how it ended, but still . . .

Any time I am tempted to end my review with ellipses, well, that usually doesn't bode well. Neither does Someone Like You. Hold out for the real thing; don't watch this for a placebo.

For other movies with Marisa Tomei, please check out my reviews of:
Crazy Stupid Love.
What Women Want


For other film reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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