Someone Like You

Someone Like You. 20th Century Fox 2001.

Before watching the movie:

It is strange to recall that Hugh Jackman used to be known as a romantic lead. For one thing, that was around 20 years ago, but also I can’t remember the last time he was in a romantic role. And that’s not a genre I pay much attention to.

Romantic comedies are almost all basically the same plot, but with a few elements thrown in for flavor. The main added flavor here seems to be “she’s an advice columnist who’s about to be proven wrong.” Which I don’t really have a lot to say about, but I’m interested in seeing how it gets where it’s going.

After watching the movie:

Jane is a staff producer for a talk show that just went national. The network that picked them up added Ray as a new executive producer, and Jane and Ray immediately discover an attraction. Ray has a girlfriend of three years, but that doesn’t stop them from getting close. Ray even takes Jane apartment shopping before breaking up with his girlfriend. Jane gives her landlord notice, and starts packing, waiting for Ray’s lawyer to approve the lease so Ray can sign. But Ray quickly turns distant, and ultimately tells Jane they’re moving too fast and need to cool off. Left heartbroken and in need of a place to live by the end of the week, Jane takes her disgusting, promiscuous colleague Eddie’s spare bedroom. Distraught, Jane latches on to an article about a study claiming a bull will never mount the same cow twice, preferring “New Cow”, and she builds an entire theory of relationships around the notion that all men are like that bull, and will quickly leave a “current cow” for a “New Cow”. Her friend Liz persuades her to write up “New Cow Theory” as an article for a men’s magazine, and the column by “Dr. Marie Charles” becomes a national sensation. As talk shows everywhere are begging for an interview with Dr. Charles, Jane starts to see glimpses of Eddie’s sensitive side, and Ray keeps making gestures of apology.

If a romantic comedy is sold on the central gimmick and the charm of the leads, I’m not sure why I haven’t heard more about this. Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman provide strong and entertaining performances individually, which should count for a great deal even if I find their characters don’t really mesh well. That’s not just a writing problem, underdeveloped quirky romances are a problem a lot of romantic comedies have.

There are so many movies out there that seem like the end couple are going to fall apart in a few months, once the rush wears off. I know, the point of romance stories is the vicarious rush of new love, but it’s hard to believe in the happy ending if I can’t see the ingredients of a lasting relationship. Jane and Eddie read to me as a budding friendship that they express as romance because of the Harry Burns Principle. They care for each other, and they’re emotionally vulnerable with each other, but I sense no attraction in that way between them.

I’m a bit skeptical on the film’s conclusion that the problem with New Cow Theory is a problem with Jane. It sounds like it’s saying that the pattern of Jane’s personal life is that men leave her because of something wrong with her, but the problem I saw was taking a very small sample size and generalizing it to half the species. The generalization is not altogether unfounded in Western culture, but it is not so universal as Jane and her readers believed. Perhaps the problem is being patient enough to find the alternative.

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