Someone Like You

Maybe I’m growing tired and jaded from
seeing large numbers of mediocre movies, but more and more I find that the best I can say of a
romantic comedy is that it’s not so
bad as I expected it to be. This is certainly true of Someone Like
, primary responsibility for which belongs to Tony Goldwyn, a director
whose last film, A Walk on the Moon (1999), was spectacularly awful.
Someone Like You, starring Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman, though it shares
some of the same assumptions, isn’t
quite so bad, and it offers the very wholesome and salutary message that pop
psychological explanations of human sexual behavior in terms of Animal
(the title of the novel by Laura Zigman on which the film is
based) are mostly nonsense. But when
you’ve said that
you’ve pretty much said it all.

Miss Judd plays Jane Goodale, a booker for an Oprah-like TV talk featuring
Diane Roberts (Ellen Barkin). After a whirlwind romance with a new colleague
called Ray (Greg Kinnear) she is inexplicably dumped. She responds by moving in
with another colleague, the frankly misogynistic sexual tomcat, Eddie (Mr
Jackman), with whom her own relations are platonic, and by developing what she
calls the “New Cow
theory” of male-female relationships.
Informed by a New York Times Science section article that a bull will not
mate with the same cow twice, Jane theorizes that human males, likewise, are
simply obeying a natural imperative when they seek out new sexual partners.

Under the name of Dr. Marie Charles, alleged co-founder of the Institute of
Pathological Narcissism in Vienna, Jane publishes her findings in a
woman’s magazine run by her Best
Friend and fellow victim of male perfidy, Lizzy (Marisa Tomei). The article soon
becomes the talk of the nation, and Diane Roberts instructs Jane to do whatever
it takes to “get the ungettable
and book Dr. Marie Charles on the show. Somewhat surprisingly, the only person
not swept away by the brilliance of
Jane’s insight into the analogy
between human and bovine sexual behavior is the porcine Eddie. Could there be
more to him than meets the eye? You will see where this is going a long, long
time before it gets there. The question is, will you care?

Well, maybe a little. But there is a problem, I think, in the contradiction
between the film’s romantic
aspirations on the one hand and its too-unquestioning acceptance of sexual
libertinism on the other. It makes fun of traditional morality when a Dr. Laura
Schlessinger-type called Mary Lou Corkle appears on the Diane Roberts Show and
is subjected to the supposedly devastating question from the host:
“Who’s making your kids’ beds while
you’re doing this book tour for three
months?” But it is completely lacking
in a sense of irony about its own attachment to the new morality. Thus we have
Jane in the first flush of her love for Ray gushing:
“He just came right out and said it
after only six weeks! He asked me to live with him. I must have said yes,
because he’s consulting realtors, and I’ve given my landlord

Isn’t that just so sweet!
But if love for her means nothing more in the way of commitment than the signing
of a short-term lease, it’s hard for
us to get too worked up when even that much commitment proves too much for Ray.
“I don’t
know,” he says.
“I just think that we both need to
take a step back. I mean we’re talking about a very serious move
here.” Well sure! They might lose
their deposit! Hence, the portentous narcissism of the voiceover narration by
Jane: “There are few things sadder in
this life than watching someone walk away after they’ve left
you.” Well, maybe one or two things.
But if it wasn’t on her agenda in the
first place to qualify their intimacy with some kind of commitment, we
can’t help asking ourselves: what else
did she expect?

There is, it’s true, a certain
amount of unintended comedy in the fact that it is Eddie, who uses women like
toilet paper, who teaches Jane, the would-be social anthropologist, that
“These are people, not
cows.” But we who look on are perhaps
not quite so sure. The problem posed by the film is put like this:
“Which was worse: guys like Ray who
blinded you with charm and romance…or guys like Eddie who went straight for
your pants?” There is something rather
bovine about the stupidity of someone who cannot see that there is no real
difference between the two.

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