The Austin Chronicle

Someone Like You

Rated PG-13, 94 min. Directed by Tony Goldwyn. Starring Ellen Barkin, Marisa Tomei, Hugh Jackman, Greg Kinnear, Ashley Judd.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 30, 2001

After a bull has mated once with a cow, he'll never go back to her, always choosing a new cow over the old. What if the same theory applied to men? Judd plays Jane Goodale (har har), a TV producer who is quickly wooed then dropped by her boyfriend and co-worker, Ray (Kinnear, so plastic I half-expected Astro-Turf to sprout on that perfectly coiffed head). Broken-hearted and reeling, Jane's also homeless after her plans to move in with Ray fall through. So she bunks out with another co-worker, serial womanizer Eddie (Jackman). After Jane stumbles across the aforementioned old cow/new cow theory, she thinks she has the explanation for men's supposed aversion to monogamy. I could waste my time and yours spelling out the surface flaws of this mediocre film, like the lack of charisma between its stars or the little improbabilities of the script ('cause most platonic roommates of the opposite sex -- co-workers, no less -- like to prance around the apartment in thong underwear and cute little baby tees … right?). I could bitch about the weak voiceover, which is used to explain away every emotion and action the actors and/or script don't have the strength to convey without a running commentary. And if I wanted to get really picky, I could question why the turning point, the emotional crux of the film, revolves around the miscarriage of a secondary character who has about five minutes prior screen time. But what really rankles me isn't what's on the surface -- it's what's just under it, playing to our ugliest traits of pettiness and prejudice and a willingness to simplify things to the most common denominator. The film (and presumably the novel it's based on, Animal Husbandry, by Laura Zigman) gets a lot of mileage out of cutesifying the complexities of heterosexual relationships, but it's pretty damned disturbing that the film gets most of its laughs from the premise that men are dogs … or bulls, but whatever. Jane saves face by coming to the last-minute great epiphany that, gosh, maybe men aren't that bad after all. No kidding. Too bad the fact there's a man waiting in the wings for her diminishes the significance of that revelation. Even more egregious is the mistreatment the other women get in this piece. Jane's successful boss is reviled and humiliated for loving the wrong man; Jane's best friend is wordlessly abandoned at a bar so Jane can chase after a boy; Jane watches Eddie lay and leave one woman after another with only the feeblest of protestations. For a seemingly feminist-bent film -- based on a book by a woman, adapted for the screen by a woman, produced by a woman (Lynda Obst), and targeted for women -- there's a lot of subtle fucking over of the sisterhood here. Here's one more for you: As a woman critic, I take real offense at a collection of women who abuse their knowledge of what buttons to push in their target audience. They know a miscarriage will move us in the most visceral sense, no matter how cheap a trick it may be. They know the sob of a broken heart will make a character immediately sympathetic, when in fact there is little to celebrate in that character. And they know the third-act appearance of Prince Charming will appeal to that little-girl part of every woman who was fed fairy tales from Day One of development. It's cheap and it's lowdown, and to those responsible for this exercise in devolution: Honestly, I'm not sure I want to know someone like you.

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