Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Film Review--My Best Friend's Girl

My Best Friend’s Girl
directed by Howard Deutch
written by Jordan Cahan
starring Dane Cook, Jason Biggs, Kate Hudson, Alec Baldwin, Lizzy Caplan, Jennie Mollen, Diora Baird, Amanda Brooks, Mini Anden

Oh, the hard, blinding effulgence of cheap and meaningless sex. This film begins as a totem to self-assurance, fearlessness, and the proper measures undertaken to get into the undergarments of any hussy that takes your eye. Tank (Cook) has a unique gift that he exploits routinely for profit. He has the ability to rescue relationships from the brink of failure by exaggerating his essential chauvinism by purposefully sabotaging dates with girls who have just broken it off with their man. He plays the rude, offensive, arrogant asshole to the point that he creates a tableau of the absolute worst date this poor minxes have ever been on in their lives. Subsequently they run back to their boyfriends who pay Tank a handsome sum for the favor.

Tank is a work of art. He’s bold, needy and manages to attract those girls who can’t help themselves and must fornicate with jerks due to some unmitigated complication in their psyche. Of course Tank quickly moves on from these entanglements because the girls serve no purpose once he has had his way with them. His friend and roommate Dustin (Biggs) is just the opposite. He’s a sweet boy who is basically ineffectual and hopelessly romantic in the traditional sense. He merely wants a nice girl he can adore and heap lavish praise upon because he is convinced that women crave this sort of thing. He is in love with Alexis (Hudson) and terribly eager to please her in every way possible. Unfortunately he errs by telling Alexis his true feelings and she balks. This leads him to confront Tank and he begs him to work his magic on her so she will come back to him and welcome him with open arms. So, Tank agrees and soon he is tormenting Alexis as he has done to all the others. However, she rather enjoys his attempts to scare her off and it becomes quickly apparent that she is different from all the other girls he has bagged and tagged. Despite his worst intentions Tank cannot sleep with Alexis for any number of reasons. He quickly realizes he is falling for her and after this point he is transformed into a pedestrian sugar pants who becomes slavish and soft.

The film falls apart once Tank abandons his persona and turns into a big wad of goo. Prior to this his dialog was rapid fire, clever, and inventive. After he discovers his heart the language is replaced by pure need and the film suffers greatly from it. Dustin is pathetic for the entire film and it’s grating to see such helplessness portrayed in a film. Between the two of them they are squishy, meager, and meandering. It’s just not pleasant to watch romantic comedies who don’t deserve to be considered as such. What is supposed to pass for tenderness merely comes off as dopey and contrived. All the energy is sucked out of the film as it becomes typical and uninspiring. Tank loses his sharpness and that demonic edge that defined him as a true force of nature capable of generating real excitement on screen. It’s an unfortunate development because the film had so much potential to be about something more than mere puppy love. Sure, it wants to be about finding true happiness in the arms of someone who can stand you but it goes about it all wrong. It cannot maintain its frivolity and intensity and becomes just another nausea-inducing vehicle for the modern day hook-up saga.

It’s a joy to watch Tank at work. As the film opens he is trying to convince one of his “dates” to sleep with him but because he has nearly ruined her life she rejects him and slams the door in his face. Undaunted he asks her to tell him the reason and she gives him ten. We see how the night unfolded and it’s a legitimate disaster where he makes her listen to a particularly juicy 2-Live Crew song in his car, takes her to a unsanitary restaurant where a dog is laying on the food counter, makes fun of her weight and a whole slew of other idiocies. It’s charming in its way and full of adventure and steaming with dynamism and life. It has a direct purpose and a scalding elegance that disappears as soon as Tank suffers the beginning of a bona fide attraction that troubles him immensely. Dane Cook is best when he’s being horrible in this film and his transformation into kindness sees him falter into standard romantic lead mode and the result is nauseating. It’s important to believe in the viability of both partners but in this film there is really no connection between the two characters. It just seems thrown together at the last moment where the idea of their compatibility is forced down our throats without meaning or purpose.

The character of Dustin as mentioned is such a lowly worm which is difficult because he’s supposed to be the nice guy who deserves to meet a nice girl who can appreciate him for his sensitivity and romantic leanings. But he comes off as a secondary character with no discernable qualities that any woman would see fit to allow into her life. Tank retains his bad boy persona underneath all the marsh mellow stickiness that corrupts him into his new fangled approach to the tyranny of lust diluted by sentimentality. It’s just not easy to buy the cheap and faltering message the film is attempting to sell to its audience. It’s not sexy although it intends to leave the impression that pure animal sex can be properly addressed by putting two actors together who should be rolling around in a dog food commercial.

The performances in this film are a mixed bag. Dane Cook generates a bit of heat when he’s a prick but becomes swamped in doe-eyed niceties and degenerates into a cute little desperate bunny rabbit. Jason Biggs is just not particularly engaging in this film. It’s mostly the character but the film seems to grind to a halt whenever he’s on the screen. He’s mostly a distraction. Kate Hudson plays cute and vapid and her character doesn’t have a single clever line. It’s curious if she’s playing such a one-dimensional character deliberately or if she is unaware of how shallow Alexis comes off.

Overall, this film can’t maintain its manic pace that makes the first part so enjoyable. Mostly this has to do with the Tank character and his slathering idiocy which replaces a sharp tongued, vitriolic anti-gentleman. Ultimately, it suffers from a lack of clarity and each character seems forced into a RomCom that has no direction or validity. It’s essentially two films and the second one lacks even a modicum of originality or style. It’s just a bunch of slobbering idiots and dolts that lack discernible personalities. The best scene in the film is when Tank is walking down the aisle at a church where a couple of turdlings are getting married. The soundtrack plays “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash as Tank lights a cigarette and proceeds in slow motion. It’s perhaps the most iconic image of Dane Cook and makes him decidedly less odious. Too bad the film proper lacks this simple cool.

No comments: