Welcome to a new thing I’m doing where I revisit modern classic romantic comedies and talk about how the genre has evolved, what they used to get away with saying about women, what still works (or more often, doesn’t), and crappy/awesome musings on romance in general.
A little background information on me: Through my film criticism gig at the Portland Mercury, I am often tapped to watch all levels of shtick. I fancy myself a romantic comedy expert. (By “expert” perhaps I mean “person who will watch and love/hate any rom-com.) Blogs weren’t a thing when a lot of amazing garbage was released; I am here to fill the void.
So. Let’s get to it!
(BTW, I’m doing this on white wine and you, readers, are my de facto judgy pals.)
I’ll start off with a modern classic, "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." This film stars Kate Hudson, and Matthew McConaughey as a medium-drunk ripped dude. It came out in 2003, at the height of our "Sex and the City" cosmo-drinking perception of a Modern Single Woman. Were we ever so young? Did writers ever live so successfully in the big city? Remember pre-"True Detective" McConaughey when all he did was lean on stuff?
Kate Hudson’s character is named Andie Anderson and she works at a women's magazine called "Composure" (a Cosmo rip-off) but wants to write about politics and other smart things. But first, to help her friend (a wasted Katherine Hahn) avoid getting dumped again, Andie proposes a guide to losing a dude. A what-NOT-to-do. Bebe Neuwirth plays her editor. Let’s all take a break to think about Lilith Crane. Ahh. OK.
At their editorial meeting, there are several thin white women, one white dude, and one Asian woman. In case you not sure this woman was Asian, they accessorized her hair with chopsticks. Not even kidding. This is what happened when movies were released without fear of being called out by bloggers. It was a dark time.
Meanwhile, Matthew McConaughey plays Ben, an...ad...guy...trying to...something with diamond ads? He wants to steal a pitch from two women (one of whom is Shalom freaking Harlow!) because, of course, why couldn’t one man do the job of two women? They say he can have it if he can make a lady fall in love with him in 10 days and they pick Andie. COINCIDENCE! Not really. Shalom knew about Andie’s thing, and picks her so Ben will have a really miserable 10 days. Or something? I don’t really get how she saw this shaking out.
How is “date that hot lady” a way to settle things professionally? And 10 days is a really easy amount of time to shake a dude. I do it all the time: Just say you’re 31 and want a child soon. Boom. So long, chump. This is not hard.
If this plot seems shaky, congratulations: You are paying attention.
Andie and Ben have a nice first night and she goes home with him. Ben puts on “It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here” because 2003 was a freaking badass time for jams. (Note: Nelly is turning 40 this year. Whoa!) They kiss, then she says she wants to slow down, and he respects that, and she leaves. Wait -- is this movie okay? Is this a message of men respecting women?
Nope! Watch on!
Andie transforms into a stereotypically needy girl for her story about doing things boys don’t like so he’ll dump her. While trying to demonstrate the predictability of men, empowered Andie embraces many negative stereotypes about women. This should be beneath her. She’s got 10 days! That is plenty of time to learn his weaknesses and smartly exploit them in a way that makes him hate himself and her. Come on, lady. Have fun with this!
Ben hangs with all of it because he is supposed to be wooing her. His manner of wooing is to look visibly annoyed and sigh deeply whenever she talks. HEY DUDES: GIRLS DON’T LIKE THAT.
To deter his love, Andie gives Ben a nice shirt, a love fern, Celine Dion tickets, and a freaking DOG. Those are really nice presents! But this film made it seem like she’d given him every STD and a box of broken glass. She also fills his medicine cabinet with girly things because this is a universe in which a professionally successful and well-off man is oppressed by tampons and affection. The dog pees on the pool table to demonstrate that women ruin things men love.
On day eight, they visit Ben’s family in Staten Island who are wonderful people. Do I feel feelings? I think so! Andie rides on Ben’s motorcycle and she gets good at it fast because she is secretly actually cool. Busted! Clicky piano music. Cue sex. But no nudity. :( Also there are like 40 minutes left and they’re falling in love? I guess rom-coms used to be a lot longer. Kate Hudson does that annoying thing of open-mouth-laugh-kissing even though nothing funny is happening.
Ben invites Andie to his company party for this diamond advertising thing that is the reason he’s in this whole mess. Andie and Ben both look like hot, right white people. Both are accidentally in lurve by this point even though that means they’re both blowing it professionally. Blah blah blah, big party and champagne and secrets are revealed. Ben bails. Andie wins! Right? No! Because she lost on love. Andie up and quits her job because in 2003, writers could just quit their jobs with nothing else lined up and feel fine I guess.
Andie’s final article is about how she blew it by playing games with love. Ben sees it and wants her back! He gets on a motorcycle to a soundtrack of Gin Blossoms and YES, this is freaking ON! GIN BLOSSOMS! Ben finds Andie’s cab and he’s all “Don’t go” and she’s all “Uhh...” and then <3 forever. LOVE FERN. Fin.
SO. What can we say about this with 11 years of wisdom? My takeaway:
•CHICKS, AM I RIGHT?!
•Cool girls like sports.
•Girly girls ruin things.
•Dudes don’t try.
•Honesty is the most important thing!
•Or, be dishonest, it’ll probably work out.
•It used to be a lot easier to get flimsy rom-coms green-lit in Hollywood.
What do you guys think? Does H2LAGI10D stand the test of time? Or should it rest in 2003 with pink drinks in martini glasses and the W. presidency? And who dares me to write an article about how to lose a guy in 5 minutes because I bet I could do it.
Tune in next time when we wonder when male escorts are the best life strategy. Bye!