I'm not sure what to say
about How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. It's really bad -
like an episode of Sex in the City written by the staff of
Full House. Like a lot of A-list films, it feels as though
this one was made not because someone had an urge to tell a particular
story, but because someone was able to get two bankable stars to work
Let's start with the very
gimmicky concept: Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) writes a how-to column
for a women's magazine called Composure and her latest assignment
is to date a guy and then get him to dump her. This is all in
the interest of showing the magazine's female readers - and Andie's
hapless lovelorn friend - all of the ways in which women unconsciously
drive men away. Meanwhile, Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey),
an advertising executive, is within reach of managing a new - and
very big - account. He needs to impress the boss, however, and
makes a bet against two rival lady co-workers that he can make a woman
fall in love with him in ten days; if he wins, he gets the account.
With these tortured contrivances in place, the "fun" begins, with
Andie and Ben meeting that very same night. Predictable hijinx
ensue, as our protagonists pursue their disparate goals, and in the
course of things they actually fall in love - for real!
Listen, I am not immune to
the charms of romantic comedies. I feel no shame when I admit
that I have seen every episode - that's right - of Sex and
the City, and admire everything from My Man Godfrey to
My Best Friend's Wedding. But this movie stinks. Most of
the blame lies with the script. I am convinced that this movie
went into production without a complete one, because plot development
here is ever so sketchy and the comic set-ups are notably devoid of...
well... comedy. On the plus side, some of the dialogue feels refreshingly
improvised, especially that spoken by capable co-stars Adam Goldberg
and Thomas Lennon, who play McConaughey's advertising colleagues.
But I wonder if the actors weren't forced to improvise by having nothing
to work with in the first place.
The leads' performances here
are not awful, but are difficult to judge in the absence of any challenge
to their talents. Frankly, I find Kate Hudson cloying and prettily
self-absorbed as an actor and can't think of a movie where I was intrigued
by her presence. Some of the same things can be said about McConaughey,
even though I think his sense of self-parody has opened up his range
a little - especially with his role in last year's Tropic Thunder.
His devoted, Wii Tennis-playing agent was a highlight for me.
However, neither star is allowed much freedom here; they seem to have
been bound to the very poor script by a director who doesn't trust
them - or himself - to do a little exploring around the very fuzzy
edges of their characters. That director, by the way, is Donald
Petrie. A look at his past credits explains some of what is wrong
with this movie.
In the end, what nails the
coffin shut is the fact that there are simply no surprises here.
Situations meant to be funny are dull. Comic sensibility is replaced
by one-upsmanship - a piling-on of situational elements that are supposed
to raise the comic stakes. An example of this would be the climactic
scene where Andie and Ben "sing" a duet of "You're So Vain."
The situation holds comic potential, and yet there are no jokes to sustain
it. There's no "material" there for the actors to make funny.
Hence the pall that hangs over How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days like
the disappointed ghosts of William Powell and Myrna Loy.