My Best Friend’s Girl

A real movie is hiding somewhere beneath the rom-comism
re864.jpg picture by barbedheart
Directed by Howard Deutch.
Starring Dane Cook, Kate Hudson, Jason Biggs, Alec Baldwin.

2009-10-18

My Best Friend’s Girl is one of those movies you see from time to time that has so much going for it yet fails, or falls apart, due to limitations that seem to be unavoidable within the Hollywood system of making movies.
Here’s a situation for you. A would-be scumbag (Dane Cook) gets money from boring, ”nice” guys who’s girlfriends just dumped them. The job he does, with excellent execution one might add, is to take them out to dates using the first glance charm and then on the actual date go off the walls in obscenity, acting as vulgar as possible, whereby they (hum… naturally!) go back to their nice and steady boyfriends. Problems occur when he ends up in what I’d call a realistic conclusion of this behavior. He falls in love with the girl (Kate Hudson) who is supposed to end up with the boy (Jason Biggs) and she gets to like him too.

I think this movie require more suspension of disbelief than you might initially think, because I find people usually act and feel very random. Most of the time, if people break up they break up and that’s it. If they get back together, it’s not out of the sentimentality that this movie suggests. My point, I guess, is that in real life any relationship between Cook and Hudson would be extremely unlikely. If you see or have seen the movie, past the unfortunate finale at a crashed wedding, you see my point I’m sure.

But OK, it’s a rom-com so what am I talking about (realism?? pah!). But here’s another thing! Is this really a rom-com? Well, we have the opposites who attract, some silliness about men and women and of course the Shakespearian mixups. It’s a romantic comedy, in the sense that it’s humorous and about romance. A ”rom-com”, however, it is not. And the very formula is what eventually bogs this movie down.

One of the biggest, and probably the most damaging, problem of the movie is that one obvious point is dealt with with in a far too subtle fashion: The main character. From a screenplay standpoint he makes sense; raised by an extremely womanizing and morally corrupt father, with no mother involved, he has learned to swing around with no bad conscious even though his mind really is filled with ideas and desire of love and romance. At one point he is told that he is a ”closet romantic”. And of course, his way out of that closet is what the movie is all about. The real bad guy of the movie is, rather, the Biggs character and, further, all the guys who rent him for their dirty work. While he is a victim of circumstance, struggling to be better, they are simply manipulating the women they claim to LOVE but of course only REQUIRE.

But as one might imagine, the problems of these characters are far too complex for a ”rom-com” structure. We still have to salute friendship and marriage in the most conventional form, Cook really never becomes more than a bad boy cliché, Biggs gets away with his morally questionable deed, after the initial introduction scenes the doors close around Hudson and we don’t get to know anything about her motivation. Another unquestionable flaw is that Alec Baldwin is playing the father, efficiently transforming him into a comic relief rather than the root of bad.

Then of course. The evil deed must be revealed, there must be a moody period and there must be a reunion. In most films of the genre, this can be forgiven. And, for that matter, in this movie the characters must be forgiven, for none of them are angels really. But, naturally, the happy ending requires the movie to take everyone’s side and, rather, hail the character traits that the characters should be wanting to change. And what can you say about the final moments of this movie? Happy endings are rarely realistic in the romantic comedy genre, but this one really spits in the face of what is plausible.

This movie would have needed to transcend it’s genre to succeed. The bad boy doesn’t have to make sure he becomes punished for his actions. If the girl loves him anyway, she would forgive him. If, say, he’d ruin her sisters wedding for no reason, she wouldn’t forgive him. Everybody’s got limits. This movie could have ended in the park, right before the very last scene. Or, it could have had a happy ending but without all the tragedy that precedes it. Then again, it could have been a movie with Scarlett Johansson and not Kate Hudson, directed by Woody Allen and not the guy who did Getting Even With Dad.

But then again. That would have been a romantic comedy, in a true sense, and not just a strangled romcom deserving a better treatment.

Bad.