Saturday, February 12, 2011

At the Movies: Life as We Know It

Against my better judgment, I rented Life as We Know It. You know, the one with Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel that was out last fall. The bf and I were meant to be seeing Just Go With It, but the movie theater parking lot was full, what with it being the movie's opening weekend and Valentine's Day weekend to boot, so we turned around and went home. I immediately began surfing through On Demand's movie menu, on the lookout for a romantic comedy. Any romantic comedy. Even one about two people who hate each other being forced to raise someone else's baby.

The first scene takes place a few years earlier than the rest of the movie. Straitlaced Holly (Heigl) and bad boy Messer (Duhamel) (Yes, that's his name. His last name. But still.) are set up on a blind date by their mutual best friends. Messer thunders up to Holly's apartment on his motorcycle an hour late, then takes a call to arrange a date with another woman. Outraged, Holly tells him to forget it, and he agrees, saying she can do whatever it is she likes to do on a Saturday night. You could read a book, he suggests, or blog. You look like you blog. (That one wormed a chuckle out of me.) Holly responds by throwing him out of her smart car, and that's that.

At least it is until the two of them become the guardians of one-year-old Sophie after their friends are killed in a car accident. Of course, this turns their lives upside down, pitting their discordant personalities against each other. A cook who owns her own shop, Holly is responsible, efficient, and looking to hook up with a gorgeous doctor who has purchased exactly thirty-seven of her sandwiches. Which is to say that she's the classic Heigl heroine, a together woman looking for a together man who ends up being tossed into the arms of one who's anything but. As a basketball director who's used to women buying him drinks, Messer fits the bill as her dud-in-shining-armor. Watching all of this, I don't like him. Or, maybe it would be more accurate to say I don't want to like him. But witnessing him and Holly struggle with Slumdog Millionaire-smelling diapers (their words), mounting bills, nosy neighbors, and a meddling caseworker, even I can't deny that they're growing inevitably closer. The movie is sneaky this way, manipulating my sympathies to be in favor of the wayward Messer. After all, as plenty of bimbos in the movie demonstrate, women are unable to resist a man pushing a stroller. I don't appreciate such manipulation and try to fight it. But the writers' plot is stronger than my resolve. So, when Holly lands a date with the good doctor (who just happens to be Sophie's pediatrician), I'm a bit torn. But I don't have long to suffer, because she soon ends up in bed with Messer, her relationship with the doctor over before it begins.

The new couple continues on happily, despite the disapproval of their caseworker, who can tell they've slept together just by listening to the give-and-take of their conversation. But then disaster strikes in the form of a boilerplate romantic comedy conflict. Messer accepts a job across the country. He doesn't want to leave Holly and Sophie, but it's his dream, yada, yada, yada. So, Holly reconciles with the doctor. This turn of events makes me wonder what she told him before and just how he came back so willingly (neither is clear). But it hardly matters, as Holly kindly dumps him after a blowout with Messer over Thanksgiving dinner. He takes it well - too well, in my opinion - and slinks off, freeing Holly to embark upon a tried-and-true, stop-him-at-the-airport mission to reclaim Messer. He isn't there. But that's only because he's waiting at home in that twist-on-an-old-cliche that's been pressed into service so often it's become a cliche itself.

Sure, it was cheesy. And I still think the doctor is nicer than Messer. But I accept that this just isn't the kind of story where the that type of guy gets the girl. Ever notice how there are two formulas for the guy getting the girl? As in, 1) nice nerdy guy and cool jerky guy battle for girl and nice guy finally gets her and 2) nice [in this case a euphemism for pompous] polo-shirt-wearing guy who makes lots of money and rough-around-the-edges-but-secretly-sweet guy battle for girl and secretly-sweet finally guy gets her. In this case, I think of the doctor as the nice guy nerd and crusty Messer as the heartbreaking threat (even though the movie's writers see things otherwise). I like to think that this says more about my soft spot for nerds than it does about a hidden gold-digging yen for doctors.

All of that having been said, I yammered on for quite a while about a movie I allegedly didn't enjoy. I guess in my own warped way I liked it after all :)

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