March 16, 2010

She's Out of My League shows nice guys still finish last

With Aladdin being the chosen pop culture reference for relationships in She's Out of My League, it tells us one thing: “I’m a movie written by 12-year old boys who are comparing relationships to a '90s Disney movie with magic carpet rides, and in no way did they intend to use "magic carpet ride" as a euphimism. From the film’s middle-school era assessment of attraction between men and women, and its depiction of bitchy shrews more foul-mouthed and obnoxious than the worst frat boy on a college campus, to the very language its characters use to speak for themselves as adults, the film conveys a 12-year-old boy mentality that is only ever challenged when its lead, Molly (Alice Evans) enters the frame.

In his first leading role (and a romantic one at that) Jay Brauchel plays Kirk, an airport security guard who drives a beat-up Neon and never went to college. He’s a nerd lacking self-esteem, has no prospects for his future, and is regularly browbeaten by his crass family of gorillas who have less confidence in him than himself. But he’s decent, honest, and funny. His ex-girlfriend, Marnie (Lindsay Sloane), recently jammed one of her heels through his heart, but instead of pulling it out, Kirk starts the movie begging her to take him back, essentially begging for the other heel to eventually stab his heart. She’s a heinous bitch and undeserving of a nice guy like Kirk, but her awfulness is so overwritten that Sloane becomes nothing more than a screeching cartoon on which Kirk to work out his issues in a raucous and corny climax.

But somehow, someway, Kirk, a solid five according to the film--maybe a six if he gets a better car--attracts Molly, a gorgeous, buxom beauty with brains, money, a great career, and a pricey penthouse apartment. She’s a perfect ten, nay, an eleven, and she wants Kirk. It’s applause-worthy that Hollywood has finally recognized that the everyman can be the hero, too. Most men aren't Brad Pitt, or to speak to the current times, Zac Efron or Taylor Lautner. Hollywood has finally come down to earth to depict real people instead of plastic glamourpusses. And it’s refreshing that Molly isn’t intended to be a blonde bombshell with brains that's still written and played with all the vacancy of a blonde bombshell without brains. She is a rounded-out, strong female character that truly proves pretty girls can have personality too, as well as be attracted to the unconventionally attractive man.

I don’t know whether Hollywood may finally have a better understanding of what women really want, but the concept for She's Out of My League had a lot going for itself. Alas, if only it had stronger male characters and a supporting cast that wasn't filled with clownish archetypes. And unfortunately for Baruchel, endearing as he is, his mumbly-mouthed performance and his character’s complete inability to offer Molly anything she doesn’t already have, other than being funny and nice, ultimately fails to support this claim that nice, nerdy guys can win the girl too. It’s not a matter of Kirk being attractive enough to appear in photos with Molly, it’s a matter of Kirk not being at the same level professionally as Molly. As for the actors’ efforts to sell the on-screen relationship, it’s a matter of a timidity between the two leads, and it seems as though Baruchel couldn’t control his own nerves opposite someone as beautiful as Evans. When Molly is finally asked why she is with Kirk, her answer is effectively weak, and the searching, wide-eyed look Evan attaches to the answer does nothing to restore our confidence in her attraction to him. It’s a pairing too exaggerated to tear down social expectations.