Never underestimate casual sex, Jane. It can be very liberating.
I wanted to hate this movie. When I requested that our studio contact guy send it to me to write up, I think I referred to the request as a “suicidal tendency.” I don’t care much for romantic comedies. The only ones that I really like are the ones that star John Cusack as a depressed slacker, or that Cameron Crowe directed, or both…those are the best ones (or rather, best one — Say Anything). I figured that, even if I didn’t like the movie, my wife probably would and it would narrow the 100-to-1 my movie to her movie ratio in our DVD rack. Well, imagine my surprise when I found Someone Like You, despite its bland, generic title, to be an intelligent, quirky romantic comedy.
See Jane (Ashley Judd). Jane works for a TV talk show, booking guests for the megalomaniacal host (Ellen Barkin). See a dick…err, I mean, See Ray (Greg Kinnear). Ray also works for the TV show, and sparks fly between Jane and Ray. When the two think of moving in together, Ray gets cold feet and runs back to his old girlfriend. See Eddie (Hugh Jackman). Eddie also works for the show, and is an unrepenting womanizer…but, as it turns out, with a heart of gold. Jane then shares an apartment with Eddie and refines her theory that men are like cattle. She writes a magazine column on the phenomenon under a pseudonym, becomes wildly popular, and finds herself falling for Eddie.
Romantic comedies are often referred to, rather derisively, as “chick flicks.” They are to guys what a crucifix is to a vampire or bath water to a hippie. While I can enjoy movies that don’t have gunfights, car chases, or kung fu, I’m not too keen on the chick flicks. I must say that I really enjoyed Someone Like You. Why? A likeable cast and an enjoyable story.
If Someone Like You had been a bigger hit, I would caution Sandra and Julia that there’s a new contender for the title of Chick Flick Queen. Ashley Judd is eminently likeable as Jane, the befuddled unlucky in love city girl. She possesses both strength and fragility, a combination that makes her seem very realistic and not at all like your typical movie cipher. Her performance is not forced at all — it’s the kind of acting that makes you wonder if she’s acting at all. It also helps that she’s button cute, and then there’s that scene — if you saw any of the trailers or TV spots, you know what I’m talking about. There’s almost nothing sexier than a woman eating Chinese takeout in her underwear.
American audiences likely know Aussie Hugh Jackman only as Wolverine, the short tempered, claw-bustin’ mutant from The X-Men. If Someone Like You had been a bigger hit, I’d be telling you that he would be the next in-demand leading man. Eddie has a lot in common with Wolverine — he’s all tough macho bravado on the outside, but inside he’s a wounded human being looking for acceptance. It’s to this movie’s credit that it allows the aloof love interest to be both a swaggering sex symbol and a guy pining for the girl who got away. It will be interesting to see him in similar roles in the future. One of his next films is opposite Meg Ryan in Kate and Leopold, to be released in early 2002.
Completing the love triangle is Greg Kinnear. I have to admit: After seeing Kinnear in The Gift, I can’t help but think of him as the wolf in sheep’s clothing. I don’t like him one little bit. That’s just okay with this movie, because you can’t really like Ray. But again, to the movie’s credit it doesn’t put a neon sign over his head saying RAY IS A CAD. It’s slightly more subtle than that.
Someone Like You unfolds with Jane providing narration. She explains her theory that men are like bulls, preferring “new cows” as conquests to the “old cows” they’ve bedded before. Interstitial titles provide cues to the various chapters of the story. Sure, narration and title cards have been used before, but here they aren’t just an imitative gimmick; they actually work to add ambience to the movie. The story doesn’t necessarily progress from Point A to Point B to Point C with predictability. Sure, you can see the conclusion coming, but most movie romances are predictable in that way. People like happy endings because they make them feel good, and I’m not going to argue with that.
I’ve probably blown all my credibility by enjoying this movie, so I’ll move on to the disc now.
Fox gives you a nice DVD presentation of Someone Like You. Video is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The movie’s cool pastel palette is preserved accurately, with correct flesh tones and detailed shadow areas. Only minimal edge enhancement mars the picture. Audio is available in Dolby Digital 5.1. It’s a talkative movie, and thus does not give your surrounds or LFE much to do.
Extras consist of a commentary track, a featurette, deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer, and five TV spots. Director Tony Goldwyn provides the commentary. Someone Like You is only his second directorial effort; you’ll remember him best as an actor, particularly for his role as Patrick Swayze’s weasely friend in Ghost. The track has few quiet moments, as Goldwyn has considerable information to share in an understated, humble manner. The featurette clocks in at eight minutes and is pure promotional cotton candy. The deleted scenes run about 23 minutes. The excised footage is bookended by black-and-white versions of the scenes surrounding the cut, which is a nice touch. The scenes would’ve added little to the movie, but it is nice to see them included for your enjoyment.
Lest you think I’m nuts, I do have several complaints with the film. My strongest objection is to the stereotypical chick flick use of pop music to telegraph every emotion. Some of the songs are rather obscure, perhaps, but they still perform the basic need to compel the audience to feel a particular way without relying on simple storytelling or acting. Marisa Tomei is sorely underused as Jane’s confidant. She pops up frequently, but the role doesn’t give the gifted actress enough to do. Same thing goes for Ellen Barkin, who is comedy gold but here simply pouts around looking like Goldie Hawn on a bad collagen day. The story is a little too by the numbers, but again, I’ll forgive that because it’s simply trying to give the audience what it wants.
Guys, you might think about picking up Someone Like You at Blockbuster on your way home to your special lady. Yeah, it’s a chick flick to the core, but it’s unique enough and likeable enough that I think you’ll enjoy yourself too. If anything, you get to watch Ashley Judd prance around in her undies. And that, my friends, in the immortal words of Martha Stewart, is a Good Thing.
Oh, about that bland, generic title. Someone Like You started its life under the title of the novel upon which it is based: “Animal Husbandry.” Maybe that title didn’t test well in Peoria, or maybe they needed it to fit the lyrics of the Van Morrison song on the soundtrack, or maybe it confused people who didn’t know that husbandry refers not to matrimony but to forcing animals to copulate. Or maybe they did get it.
I don’t mean to sound insensitive to the recent tragedy, but when you look at the shot of the New York City skyline on the front cover, isn’t it a little creepy that the World Trade Center isn’t where it’s supposed to be? Prescience…or artistic license? You decide. Also, I should point out that the towers are shown and referenced in the film. I would not be surprised if Fox re-edits the film to remove the reference if the mass hysteria about their inclusion in films is taken too far.