Wednesday, April 14, 2010

577 - She's Out of My League review

“She’s Out of My League” is sort of like looking at a friend’s artwork only to discover that it’s not very good. You like that it’s your friends, you appreciate good intentions, but it’s difficult to pitch it to others in good faith.

What made me feel this way about it? I certainly don’t know anyone remotely involved with its production. But I did appreciate its restraint in unexpected places, its willingness to challenge our perceptions to the extent that such a plot will allow. There’s something inherently kind about a movie where despite the frequent appearance of a number system that scores people by looks, never does the film stoop to show us what a 1 or a 2 looks like. This would be easy and cruel, so it’s refreshing to think of a film that doesn’t belittle those below the middle.

The concept: Jay Baruchel (of “Tropic Thunder” fame) stars as Kirk, an average looking man of median intelligence and respectably acceptable employment. A security screener for the TSA, his mundane existence suddenly turns delightful when he meets Molly (Alice Eve), a gorgeous woman who, for reasons that make sense to pretty much no one, falls in love with him.

Allow me to explain further: Molly is a stunner, a radiant blonde with a shining mile and a figure that implies serious exercise and diet. She runs a company that puts her in say, I dunno, the top 5% of Americans as far as income is concerned. Kirk’s a nice fellow, but certainly not dashing, not especially bright, and as we later find, a rather mediocre lover. What’s the appeal?

The film engages in rhetorical gymnastics to sell us on the idea, ultimately to no avail. Even more of an obstacle than their looks is the dichotomy between financial brackets; would the wealthy Molly have much interest in a guy with no coin? Yet I wanted to believe, because there’s some real pathos for this fellow who suddenly finds himself punching above his weight. Kirk receives much support but little sage advice from his group of colleagues, a collection of fellow TSA screeners who are the sort of pals that make you question having friends until you’re the protagonist in a movie climax, at which point they turn quite helpful.

It’s something that we can like these people so much despite the often mediocre events they’re forced to play in. The film’s two attempts at gross-out shock humor either don’t gel or go nowhere, while other elements seem out of place. It’s funny that Kirk’s family still treats his vile ex as one of their own, but the writers just can’t figure out exactly why this is funny. There’s visible strain to replicate the funny-sweet-vulgar feel of Judd Apatow films such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up,” and while it succeeds on the sweet part, the funny doesn’t work as well, or at least as often.

After the credits, I could hardly remember the gags, but thought much about how the dearth of malice in its main characters. Molly is a genuinely sweet lady; her BFF at first appears to be the sort of archetypal cruel woman, so we’re surprised when she’s delicately supportive of her pal’s suddenly inexplicable taste in men. Even an old flame of Molly’s, a dashing fighter pilot who still holds a torch for her, turns out not to be such a bad guy. Only Kirk’s family, which ranks as somewhat as worse than the Bundy’s but better than the Manson family, receives any serious rancor, an interesting counterpoint to the oft touted film convention of family first. Then again, if you’re a 5 who has captured the heart of a 10, who needs family?

2 out of 5


TheSprite said...

I liked your opening description of the movie. I've felt that way about books an films as well

James said...

Thanks! I found myself wanting to like it, but I just couldn't. It certainly wasn't godawful, though some moments were inexplicably stupid. It was one of those films where no one quite acted how real people act, but in an immature writer's approximation of how they might.

I feel like a dick saying it, but seeing Jay Baruchel getting top billing on a film is already starting to irritate me. Who decided that an Apatow 8th lead should start headlining? I'm just stating the obvious when I note that in no way does his charm even come close to that required of a serious leading actor.