A curious thing happened after the press screening of "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" -- I talked to several young women from the audience who described the movie as "cute" and "fun." But every single guy I spoke with had the same reaction I did: They thought this so-called romantic comedy was nothing short of absolute torture.
Could Hollywood have inadvertently stumbled upon the definitive, gender-dividing, no-middle-ground chick flick?
There's no question that the picture's target audience is female. Its heroine is a sparky columnist for a Cosmo-like magazine (played by Kate Hudson) who accepts an assignment to catch herself some handsome rube, then deliberately drive him away within 10 days by committing "all the classic dating mistakes."
Her plan includes -- just for example -- calling him "my boyfriend" on a second date, accusing him of flirting with waitresses, asking him if he thinks she's fat, giving him (and parts of his body) cutesy-poo nicknames and saying them in a baby voice, calling 10 times a day, taking over his medicine cabinet with feminine products, buying him a plant as a symbol of the "relationship," leaving copies of Bride Magazine at his house, befriending his mom without his knowledge, talking about how cute "our kids" will be, and saying "I love you" too soon, then shushing him, explaining that she knows in her heart how he feels.
Perhaps if you're female, that last paragraph earned a knowing laugh. If you're male, it likely made your break out in a cold sweat. But here's the inherent problem: Even though Hudson's insecure, obsessive neuroticism is only an act put on to complete her assignment, in the process she becomes excruciatingly, agonizingly, insufferably irritating for 95 percent of the movie.
The "How to Lose a Guy" gimmick is that her chump, an advertising agent played by Matthew Mcconaughey, has oh-so-coincidentally just made a bet, in order to land a big account, that he can make any woman fall in love with him in -- you guessed it -- 10 days.
The idea that these two could truly fall for each other while she's pretending to be a psycho and he's pretending to be a doormat is the kind of notion that could occur only to screenwriters who live by the simplistic Hollywood mantra of "25 words or less."
Inspired by a very funny little crayon-drawn comic book of "dating don'ts" that shares the movie's title, scripters Kristen Buckley and Brian Regan (who wrote the horribly hackneyed "102 Dalmatians") stretch their concept membrane-thin while adhering so slavishly to romantic comedy doctrine that the movie's climax includes an epiphany-of-love race to stop Hudson at the airport before she leaves McConaughey's life forever.
Even in the introductory act, before Hudson's caricature of feminine neuroses becomes a pestilence on the picture, the actress is already burdened with the fact that her character is a cheap and shallow knock-off of Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw in HBO's "Sex and the City.""How to Lose A Guy" has one redeemable scene, in which Hudson leaves her facade in Manhattan while visiting McConaughey's family on Long Island. For about four minutes of screen time a short-lived spark of real romantic chemistry erupts between them -- and it was just enough to keep me from walking -- scratch that -- running out on this otherwise unendurably unfunny and wholly one-dimensional movie.
But then director Donald Petrie ("Miss Congeniality") takes us right back to the city, where the skin-crawling tripe is kicked into high gear by a big gala event for McConaughey's company at which Hudson can embarrass him completely, once and for all, by making a scene as they break up.
Had it ever occurred to the filmmakers that this picture would constitute a horror movie for half the population (even those of us who fell in love with the genuinely neurotic Bridget Jones), it might have been salvageable. After all, I'm a guy and I found the book it's based on to be a pretty funny read. But in the book it's clear that any one of its "don'ts" could drive a guy away at any time. In the movie, Hudson embodies all of them all at once, making her very possibly the least appealing romantic comedy lead in movie history.
If you want to lose a guy in one day, drag him to see this movie.
Run time: 116 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th February 2003
Box Office USA: $105.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $105.8M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures
Rotten Tomatoes: 42%
Fresh: 62 Rotten: 86
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Donald Petrie
Starring: Kate Hudson as Andie Anderson, Matthew McConaughey as Benjamin Barry, Kathryn Hahn as Michelle Rubin, Annie Parisse as Jeannie Ashcroft, Adam Goldberg as Tony, Thomas Lennon as Thayer, Michael Michele as Judy Spears, Shalom Harlow as Judy Green, Robert Klein as Phillip Warren, Bebe Neuwirth as Lana Jong, Samantha Quan as Lori, Justin Peroff as Mike, Celia Weston as Glenda, James Murtaugh as Jack, Archie MacGregor as Uncle Arnold
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