Opening 20 Jan 2011
James L. Brooks
Writing credits: James L. Brooks
Principal actors: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson, Kathryn Hahn
Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) plays on a professional girls’ softball team (exactly 20 seconds in the film), but, after failing to make the national team, she’s left with depression and sad-faced sympathetic former teammates, but nary a softball in sight. Boyfriend Matty (Owen Wilson) is the perfect meandering bachelor who wouldn’t notice if Lisa were to put an avatar into his bed as long as it brushed its teeth with one of the many toothbrushes he keeps in stock for over-night girls. George (Paul Rudd) is the naïve son of a business tycoon with no clue why the law is investigating him for fraud, but at least his enforced absence from work leaves him free to pursue Lisa. Charles is an unscrupulous, unsavoury old guy (which Jack Nicholson does quite well) who sets up son George to go to jail for him because “the prison sentence would be much shorter.” Annie (Kathryn Hahn) is a secretary in the company; she has a baby and, in the end, also a marriage proposal.
These five characters are amazingly good, fascinating actually, so that it’s even more of a shame that the story is flat, weak, insipid, you name it. The script should have been saved for a sitcom (soap operas as we used to call them), more appropriate for morning TV as it never really says anything. Ringing mobile phones dictate the action, as, strangely, do bus stops. Matty’s sterile apartment is fascinating by comparison. The five actors try so hard and interact so well, I wish them a second chance at a film with an interesting, challenging story line. But here, at least, we get to hear the song “Turn off the Lights” by (unfortunately deceased) Teddy Pendergrass – the one that goes “let’s take a shower together, rub me down in some hot oil, baby” which George thinks is just too, too risqué, that’s how sweet he is. It’s a wonder that he doesn’t just walk straight into jail, since it seems the sweet thing to do. James L. Brooks, director and script author, meant to show that one never knows when love is real. How does one know, actually? (Becky Tan)