Ugly? Somewhat. Truthful? Kinda-sorta. Funny? No. ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ugly? Somewhat. Truthful? Kinda-sorta. Funny? No.

The Ugly Truth
My rating:

The romantic comedy is one of the most critic-proof genres in film. Say you don't like any one of them, and you'll be instantly labeled a typical oafish male who disdains "chick flicks" just because things don't blow up. Never mind your protests that you do like rom-coms, you've seen some really good ones, that's why you're so disappointed when you see a bad one. And so very, very few people can tell the good ones from the bad. So many, many people actually think that The Wedding Planner is on par with Four Weddings and a Funeral, or that The Proposal is just as good as While You Were Sleeping...

...or that The Ugly Truth is actually funny.

Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) is the producer of a morning TV news show. In an effort to recover from failing ratings, her boss hires Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler) as a new host. It's hate at first sight between uptight control freak Abby and gleefully crass and chauvinistic Mike, so the latter offers to coach the former in how to capture the attention of Abby's hunky neighbour Colin (Eric Winter). But it isn't long before opposites start to attract.

I usually watch movies alone (I am quite comfortable with my own company, thankyouverymuch), but this one I saw with three friends. And I owe them an apology, since I was pretty much stony-faced throughout it while the whole cinema was laughing uproariously. Sorry guys, but what can I say? I didn't find it funny. When Abby goes on a date with Colin and has Mike feeding her instructions via earphone, I checked my watch to see what year it was - I could've sworn I went back to 1986 and I'm watching The Facts of Life or Who's the Boss? Sitcom clich├ęs aside, everything about this movie just felt artificial.

F'rinstance, there's the big comic setpiece of the movie, in which Abby ends up wearing vibrating panties to a dinner with her bosses. First of all, this scene tries to be the new Meg-Ryan-fakes-an-orgasm-in-When-Harry-Met-Sally, and it doesn't hold a candle to that one. Because secondly, it's so much more contrived. It only works if super-anal-retentive Abby somehow forgot her big important corporate dinner, and conveniently has Mike and her boss pick her up at her door to remind her. And lastly, I'm not a fan of humiliation comedy - especially if it's the entire goddamn female gender being humiliated.

Why yes, I do have feminist leanings, and they make for sparkling conversation fodder at parties, I assure you. The fact is, the successful career woman who is ironically a failure at relationships and needs a good man to set her straight isn't just a character in this one movie, it's practically an archetype. The traditional rom-com formula is of two people who become each other's catalyst for becoming better people, thus proving that they're meant for each other - but it's so very often, and in so very many films, the female side that has the more to learn and whose lesson is the more painful. No, it's not just the orgasm scene - throughout the movie, Abby is far more often made the laughingstock than Mike. This, in a genre that caters to women. This, in a movie written by three women.

Sigh... once again, I end up writing a deeply split-personality review. Two-and-a-half stars doesn't mean I hated it. I can still believe that Mike and Abby could fall for each other; while everything they go through is contrived and unbelievable, their connection feels genuine. Heigl and Butler do have solid chemistry, and Heigl especially is a lot of fun - she totally deserves the title of reigning rom-com queen, and even makes the inherent sexism of the script easier to swallow. Butler is fine as a romantic male lead, but I don't think he cuts it at comedy quite yet.

My ambivalent feelings about this film are best represented by the big romantic climax at the end. Yes, it's very very artificial - a professional TV producer suddenly takes it upon herself to appear in front of the camera, just because the script says so. But when Mike and Abby finally drop their defenses and reveal their true feelings to each other, I'm forced to nod and concede that, hey, they got that right at least. There's a germ of a good romantic comedy in here, a solid insight into how falling in love can expose superficial gender views for what they are. But it settles for showing us a dorky hot chick and a smirky hunky guy - and sadly, most people are happy to have just that.

NEXT REVIEW: Tsunami at Haeundae
Anticipation level: meh

3 comments: said...

good review! nanged u! hope to see u nanged me back! tq!nang me!

McGarmott said...

Aiyoh, you're the sort of audience member which makes a filmmaker despondent and heartbroken in a "why don't you like me?!" way and not want to make movies anymore (literally, not want to make movies anymore, for what is the point?) ... or, for a more arrogant one, to say "we'll just ignore this one ...".

I almost never laugh at comedies at the cinema, even for those that I actually find funny, coz I tend to laugh on the inside, but I was lol-ing on this one - rather embarrassingly, since I suddenly became aware of the girls next to me after laughing at the orgasm scene. C'mon, that scene was funny because of her facial expressions, and her garbled utterences.

As for the scene where the producer jumps in front of the TV, instead of complaining about how contrived it was, I was laughing at HOW she shoved the chauvinist bastard aside and jumped in front of camera.

Anyway, it was an 8/10 for me.

TMBF said...

I'm disappointed in you, Sebastian. ;)

Anyway, it seems (500) Days of Summer will be shown here after all, albeit in limited release. That ought to be the antidote to movies like this one.