True or False? All's fair in love and war.
Facts of the Case
Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson, Gossip, Almost Famous, The Four Feathers) writes a "how-to" column for the Cosmo-like magazine, Composure. She writes about "How to Feng Shui Your Apartment" and "How to Get Out of a Ticket," but never, despite her ambitions, "How to Bring Peace to Tajikistan."
When Andie's coworker Michelle (Kathryn Hahn, Crossing Jordan) is dumped—again—their boss, Lana (Bebe Neuwirth, The Faculty, Liberty Heights, Cheers), asks for volunteers to use Michelle's pain constructively by writing an article about it. In an attempt to save Michelle's last shred of dignity, Andie offers to step in with "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," about the mistakes women make in new relationships. Armed with a topic and experience, Andie and Michelle grab their friend Jeannie (Annie Parisse, As the World Turns) and head for happy hour at Mullin's to find an unwitting victim.
Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey, EdTV, Frailty, The Wedding Planner) works for Warren Advertising. The office hunk and eligible bachelor, he can sell sneakers and beer better than anyone else, but he isn't satisfied. He wants a piece of the new DeLauer Diamond / Composure magazine campaign that he helped bring to Warren; unfortunately, "the Judys"—Spears (Michael Michele, ER) and Green (Shalom Harlow, Head Over Heels, House of Style)—already have dibs, as diamonds fall into their niche. But Ben, ever persistent, decides he's not beaten yet and heads to Mullin's to crash their meeting with Mr. Warren (Robert Klein, Mixed Nuts, Jeffrey, Two Weeks Notice).
The meeting's discussion soon turns to the connection between diamonds and love, and we find Ben bragging that he could not only get any woman to fall in love with a diamond, but he could also get her to fall in love with him (any "single, available, straight woman," that is). The Judys, having met Andie earlier after a meeting at Composure and having learned of her new article, spot her man-trolling across the room and present Ben with what they think is an impossible challenge: woo the woman of their choice into falling in love with him in 10 days. Ben, not realizing the two are about to "randomly" choose Andie, agrees, on the condition that his success means the DeLauer campaign is his.
Spotting her, Ben approaches Andie. After a few concise questions, they leave for dinner and then Ben's place. Each with an agenda, they begin the game. Andie comes on too strong; Ben trades in sensual for romantic. The next day, we discover that Andie has left her purse at Ben's. And Ben discovers that Andie is a Knicks fan, with tickets for that night's championship game. Cut to Andie's office and the entrance of 100 white roses. "Does this mean he's hooked?" "This means he found the Knicks tickets."
That night at the game, Andie, sure she's sufficiently reeled Ben in, kicks into gear. She starts innocently enough—"Benny, could you get me a soda?" "It's not diet."—and steadily makes her way to what she only assumes will be an inevitable breakup. She drags him to a Celine Dion concert, calls him her boyfriend, inundates his apartment with stuffed animals and "feminine products," leaves 17 messages on his machine, calls his mom, and on and on and on. And Ben, optionless, must tolerate it all.
Who will crack first?
He Said / She Said
In general, we Judges believe we can represent a disc fairly and fully to all our readers, but sometimes men really are from Mars and women really are from Venus and we need another Judge to balance out our gender-related biases. Enter the "He Said / She Said" review, which follows a special format in which a Judge of each sex has an opportunity to comment on a film. We use "He Said / She Said" reviews for discs we think might cause strife between the sexes or might not receive adequate treatment by a single-gendered Judge (which we all are, last time we checked).
He Said: Judge Eric Profancik
Romantic comedies are the lifeblood of cinema for the average female moviegoer. If you're in a relationship and the man agrees to see whatever movie his female significant other wants, nine times out of ten there's going to be romance involved. Women thrive on it, and they need to replenish some immeasurable and mysterious store deep within themselves. Men, on the other hand, often couldn't care less about some sappy love story where two people stumble across each other, magically date for a while, break up for some illogical plot complication, and then gloriously reunite for the film's emotional dénouement.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is yet another serving of confectioner's sugar in the great mythos of chick flicks. Perfectly appealing for the female, this film looks to not only satisfy the innate emotional needs of the fairer sex but also endeavors to embolden them in an evitable future relationship. In a rather neat and tidy package, the movie playfully portrays the highs and lows of a complicated dating process. But beyond that, there's that subtext of also teaching women what men want. Are you too clingy? Are you too whiny? Are you moving in too fast? In comedic fashion, the dos and don'ts of winning and keeping a man are detailed to assist the hapless female in finding Mr. Right.
Whether by intention or accident, 10 Days is actually palatable for the unenviable mass of men who will unwittingly be dragged to see the film. Giving the patented chick flick formula a slight tweak, 10 Days actually has both the male and the female hiding an ulterior motive for the relationship. It's not love at first sight. It's not even lust at first sight. Instead of the usual half of the equation shuffling haplessly along, pining for the newfound love of their life, neither party is truly wanting the other person. Each is playing a game with the other person, and the goals are polar opposite. But let's get down to a couple of specifics as to why a man may survive a viewing of this film:
Kate Hudson: Yummy. A very attractive woman can always help smooth over the seemingly endless supply of minutes in a chick flick. She's easy on the eyes, and many a man could pass the moments dreaming of a lucky future of dating such a beautiful woman. To make it even better, Andie is not only attractive but also intelligent and funny—she almost seems the perfect catch…eventually.
Manipulation: Each character is using the other to further a professional career. In most chick flicks, the woman always has the upper hand in the relationship, but here, each is equally matched in trying to attain his or her goal. Thus, it's refreshing to have an opportunity to see an intelligent slice of beefcake use his masculine wiles to seduce and coerce a woman to do his bidding. There's something redeeming for a film, perhaps unintentionally, that showcases "man power."
Humor: With Andie working to become the worst girlfriend imaginable, the actions she undertakes to scare away Benjamin are not only scary but often hilarious. Men can relate to some of the actions (feminine products in the bathroom, cute stuffed animals in the bedroom) and chuckle from association. But when Andie goes completely over the top (absurdly naming Benjamin's penis, calling his mother), men hopefully cannot relate but her antics will make you laugh. Despite the scenes of pure eye-rolling fun at the beginning, there is an ample amount of genuine humor throughout the film, making it a fairly quick and painless watch.
By keeping these three things in mind, men, you can survive a viewing of this film and perhaps even find it mildly enjoyable at some small level. If you are in need of appeasing the young lady in your life, consider renting this film. You will score many points for choosing a film that appeals to her more than it appeals to you. I assure you, you can do far worse by choosing another film. Pick this one and you won't have to rent another for quite a long time. As an added bonus, you'll even learn a thing or two about the silly games women play. Just don't let her know why you picked it, nor do you ever let her know that you enjoyed it at any level.
She Said: Judge Elizabeth Skipper
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a romantic comedy, through and through. As such, it must meet certain criteria in order to succeed: the lead characters must have watertight chemistry; the supporting characters must be funny and flawed in ways that point the leads in the right direction (toward each other); the story must involve deceit, mistaken identity, or misunderstanding of some kind, which, when revealed, causes the lead characters to split; and, finally, the leads must overcome all that nonsense for the sake of finding true love in each other. And this all must happen humorously.
So how does this film stack up? Perfectly. Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey are ideally matched, each with just enough spunk to keep the other (and us) guessing. Andie's friends, Michelle and Jeannie, and Ben's friends, Tony (Adam Goldberg, Dazed and Confused, Saving Private Ryan) and Thayer (Thomas Lennon, The State), all serve—hilariously—as impetuses, keeping their friends on track. The story is the stuff great romantic comedies are made of with lies and trickery on both sides, pushing and pulling to our delight, until all is revealed in a side-splitting yet eye-watering climax. But, in the end, the film gives us the expected resolution and they all live happily ever after.
Since I've never met a woman who doesn't enjoy a good romantic comedy, I'll feel free to extrapolate that I'll never meet a woman who wouldn't enjoy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. And, as this will be one of those movies you'll pull out every time you need to combat the cynicism, need to believe there really are men as perfect as Ben out there, need to rekindle the knight-in-shining-armor dream. Don't just rent it, buy it. It's worth the investment.
What makes this movie such a gem? Its realism. Andie does everything wrong, and everything she does is something too many of us have done ourselves. The difference is it's easy to laugh at her antics because they're forced, they're all in the name of journalism (or at least "journalism"). We can't laugh when we do these things ourselves, because the consequences are too real and too painful, but when Andie does them, we know she'll still get her happy ending, so we can enjoy them as pure entertainment.
What's even more satisfying, though, is seeing Andie torture Ben with such ease and watching him having to put up with it, unable to run like so many men before. Finally, we have a man who has to stick around, who has to deal with a woman in all her "glory," caricatured as it is, who can't bail at the first twinge of discomfort. Dare I say it? Finally, we have a man who has to put up with as much crap from a woman as most women put up with from men on a regular basis.
I'll leave you with one caveat: as much as I recommend this movie to all women, I must warn you not to allow your men to see it. Because if they know we know how wrong Andie's actions are, they will never allow us to get away with them again. And a world in which a woman can't leave a box of tampons at her boyfriend's place because he suddenly thinks he has a choice in the matter is not a world I want to live in.
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is a beautifully ported disc, doing justice to the medium. A nearly flawless video transfer, the anamorphic widescreen print combines rich colors, deep blacks, wonderful details, and excellent contrast to let the beauty of the movie, in particular the "frosting" in the Astor Museum scene, shine through. As expected, this recent release does not show any discernible transfer errors, and you'll have to look very hard to find any pixelization, moiré patterns, or edge enhancement. Of equal quality is the 5.1 Dolby Digital track, offering an immersive experience with crisp, clear dialogue and surprisingly full use of the bass and surrounds—more so than you would expect from a romantic comedy.
The extras on this disc are relatively extensive and engaging. An audio commentary by director Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza, Grumpy Old Men, Miss Congeniality) is entertaining and informative. Though, on occasion, a bit tedious, his behind-the-scenes anecdotes add an extra layer of charm to the film. There are a handful of deleted scenes available, which, with the exception of the alternate opening sequence, were smart deletions; still, they're fun to watch. Next, two featurettes are included: "Mapping Out the Perfect Movie" and "Mapping Out the Perfect Location." They are detailed looks at casting and location scouting, including interviews with cast and crew members. Last, and the only real dud in the bunch, is the music video for Keith Urban's "Somebody Like You"—if you've heard the song, you'll understand why.
For appealing, at least on some level, to both men and women, we hereby find How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days not guilty of all war crimes pertaining to the Battle of the Sexes. After all, all's fair in love and war.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Director Donald Petrie
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