Hello friends, and welcome to another installment of Romantic Comedy Time Machine! This week we’re mixing things up by discussing a rom-com with a male protagonist. And, just our luck, this male protagonist is fat-shamey and friend-zoney -- a lady blogger’s dream! I am talking, of course, about "Just Friends."
Jeez, even the name! "Just Friends"! “This will be so easy,” thought last week’s Elinor. Spoiler: It wasn’t! This movie is surprisingly thoughtful and smart. Read on!
Ryan Reynolds stars as Chris. As the film opens in 1995, he and his platonic best friend, Jamie (Amy Smart), are graduating from high school. Ryan Reynolds is outfitted in a terrible fat suit, has braces, and talks with a lisp. Why do fat characters on film have to be so all-around pathetic? As a woman with a little meat on my bones, I’m already mad.
Chris really wants to get with Jamie, and uses high school graduation night to tell her. If this plan sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the same one used by Lloyd Dobler in "Say Anything" and my high school boyfriend Preston Meyers in "Can’t Hardly Wait." It worked out better for Lloyd and Preston; poor Chris is humiliated and flees to California, leaving Jamie, New Jersey, and his fat lisp behind.
Fast-forward to the film’s present, which was 2005. Chris is a hotshot d-bag music producer in LA working with the magnificent pain-in-the-ass, Samantha James, played by our beloved Anna Faris. Chris is realizing the dreams of all “nice guys” everywhere by being a womanizing piece of garbage who can blow off the girls he imagines would have wronged him in high school. A friend calls him out on his behavior. “Some chick messed me up in high school bad.” (Ten points for blaming a woman for not getting laid!)
Sidebar #1: a few months ago my sister-in-law was at the LA Zoo with my baby niece, and Chris Pratt and Anna Faris were there with their baby, and Chris Pratt said that my niece was “the cutest baby ever.” In short, I am basically part of the Faris/Pratt family.
Sidebar #2: When this film came out, Ryan Reynolds was engaged to Alanis Morissette, and Chris Klein (more on him later) was engaged to Katie Holmes! Recent pop culture history is fascinating, you guys!
Chris has to wrangle the awful Samantha James -- obviously based on early 2000s Ashlee Simpson -- to Paris. When their private plane makes an emergency landing in New Jersey, Samantha freaks. “Am I being punk’d?! Where’s Ashton??!” Man, those were some good years for reality television! We never appreciated that enough when we had it.
Coincidence of coincidences, they’ve made their landing near Chris’s hometown in Jersey, so Chris and Samantha head to his mom’s house to wait for a new plane. Chris hasn’t been home since his friend-zoned days and still has the shrine to Jamie up in his bedroom. Chris and Samantha head to a local bar, where the bartender is none other than queen Jamie.
Jamie is happy to see Chris, but when she hugs him, she blurts out “I can fit my arms around you!” That’s a really lousy thing to say! Eff you, Jamie! You’re a bartender, not the arbiter of human sizes! Jamie, we learn, is still living with her parents.
Aside from being a little jerky with the weight-loss comments, Jamie is pretty cool. She suggests a day-date with Chris to catch up, which in the "Just Friends" universe is code for continuation of the friend-zone. Chris accepts, of course, because he can’t control his “nice guy” tendencies around this cock-blocking sorceress.
That said, Chris totally knows he’s being a dick, but he wants to keep being a dick to break through to Jamie. His struggles between being an actual nice guy and a “Nice Guy” are apparent, and awesome. Some writers knew what they were doing with this predicament.
Another plus: Chris and his younger brother get into a ton of slapping fights. Why these are so hilarious to me I have no idea, but 30 minutes in I am loving this thing. Chris’s brother takes the horrible Samantha to the mall and she falls over a railing. (Terrible people falling: one million points.)
Chris and Jamie continue their platonic day dates with a trip to the ice-skating...area. Pond? (I’m from Oregon; we don’t have these.) Chris gets his ass handed to him, and the sexy paramedic is Dusty (Chris Klein), another former high school loser who wants to bone Jamie. “Jamie doesn’t date nice guys. She puts them in the friend zone and tortures the sh*t out of them.” OMG this movie must be quoted by neck-beards on Reddit at least a thousand times per day.
Only when Chris actually acts like himself does Jamie seem to like him. TELLING! Jamie asks to stay over, like they did in high school, but this time she puts on a sexy men’s shirt with no pants. (50 rom-com points.) But Chris panics and can’t make a move. Afterwards, Chris talks to his dude friend while Jamie talks to a girl friend; the scene is a clear nod to the phone scene in "When Harry Met Sally" and I die of rom-com love.
I wanted to watch this movie to vent about Society At Large and the BS idea that men are owed anything by women just for being nice. I was going to mock this movie, but "Just Friends" seems to gets it. The film doesn’t reward Chris for any of his scheming behavior, and makes clear that he and Dusty are scumbags. Only when Chris is a legitimately honest and nice person does Jamie come around. This is a message that I like.
- Men says things like “friend-zoned” to feel victimized for not getting laid. LOL to men being the victims of modern sexual politics.
- There is a big difference between a nice guy and a “Nice Guy.”
- Can we get a little fat representation on screen that does not always also assume loser-dom?
- Ashlee Simpson’s reality show was so good.
- Anna Faris, call me, let’s hang out.
- Don’t judge a movie by its cover, even when the cover and suggested theme is terrible!
PS All of this happens around Christmastime. This is a freaking holiday movie. Put it in your December rotation; you’ll be so happy you did.
Join me next time, when we will either count wardrobe items with Katherine Heigl or plan weddings with J. Lo! Seriously, I can’t decide what to do next. Vote in the comments!