Before watching the movie:
I think I was aware of this movie as a title floating out there, but that was pretty much the end of it. Even watching a trailer, I thought this was There’s Something About Mary for a moment. I wouldn’t have expected Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston to appear together in anything.
Total opposites romantic comedies, especially where the cautious guy’s world is opened by a wildcard girl, are pretty common (off the top of my head, Something Wild fits the bill), but what the concept reminds me the most of is Yes Man. It’s something about the mix of extreme activities that he never would have agreed to without this change in his life, I think. I don’t really have a whole lot more to say about a movie I barely knew existed, just how much it reminds me of more well-regarded movies.
After watching the movie:
Reuben Feffer was always afraid of the chance of something bad happening, so he became a life insurance assessor. Having just married his very safe real estate agent wife Lisa, they go on their honeymoon in the Caribbean, and on day one, Lisa leaves him for a scuba instructor. Back at home, Reuben would prefer to wallow in misery in the house he just overpaid for as a surprise for Lisa, but his friend Sandy, an actor who was in one thing everyone knows in the 80s and is still trying to turn that into long term success, invites him to a friend’s art show, where Reuben finds his old classmate Polly Prince working as one of the servers. Not remembering much more about her than that she was on the math team, he invites her on a date, and she chooses a Moroccan restaurant that Reuben does not object to despite the spicy food not mixing well with his IBS. It turns out Polly leads a very wild life, and despite how terrifying Reuben finds pretty much everything she considers fun, he goes along with it and sometimes even enjoys it. Meanwhile at work, Reuben has been given the big job of finding a way to justify selling a big life insurance policy to an eccentric billionaire adrenaline junkie CEO who needs life insurance in order to be allowed to stay as CEO. Just as things are going really well with Polly, Lisa comes home saying she made a mistake and wants to be with Reuben again, leaving him torn between the woman who seems safe and familiar and is already married to him and the exciting Polly who makes him feel alive but isn’t really the marrying kind.
This runs on farce. Characters get thrown into ridiculous situations and try to pretend they’re normal. Personalities are cartoonish. There’s something about this kind of comedy where it never really feels grounded because not even the protagonist is really fully sane. Apparently it was made by some of the same people who made Meet The Parents, and I get the sense it’s trying to capture the same chaotic energy, but it doesn’t hit the mark and I can’t fully put my finger on what it’s missing.
This feels both of its time and yet I don’t think it really puts down any groups except for perhaps super rich people. When Reuben gets up the nerve to tell Polly’s sensual salsa dancing partner that he doesn’t appreciate another man acting that way in public with his girlfriend even though Reuben himself doesn’t dance because he doesn’t know anything about salsa dancing, the other guy just says he’s gay and Reuben’s response is “oh. Can you give me salsa lessons then?” Which is the last thing I would’ve expected from a 2004 movie. I wonder if that acceptance the whole movie has of all walks of life comes from the Jewish experience that seems a little more present than Reuben and Lisa just having a Jewish wedding, or whether it’s more related to the story’s philosophy of getting out of your comfort zone and embracing the things that seem scary.
This is another movie that leaves me mostly thinking of other movies with bigger legacies. It doesn’t quite arrive at what it’s trying to do, but the failure to gel is difficult to explain. Maybe it really is the chemistry levels between the leads, but mostly I think the fault is in the comedic exaggerations feeling overinflated. This was fun, but not something I’ll be eager to come back to.