The Sweetest Thing
2002, R, 84 min. Directed by Roger Kumble. Starring Parker Posey, Jason Bateman, Thomas Jane, Selma Blair, Christina Applegate, Cameron Diaz.
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 12, 2002
The Sweetest Thing boasts a new development in the continuing struggle for gender equity in film: Its female characters are just as vulgar, boorish, and one-track-minded as men. How's that for progress? Golden girl Diaz stars as hyperactive ad exec and sexual predator Christina Walters. With best gal pal Courtney (Married With Children's Applegate) at her side, they play the “Game” with skill and lip-licking relish, hooking men like fish and then tossing them back out to sea, bruised and bloodied. But Christina loses her game face when she encounters pretty boy Peter (a bland Thomas Jane); they meet cute at a bar for five minutes, then he's gone. Cue the mad-capped road trip, in which Christina and Courtney crisscross California to sniff out Peter, convinced he just may be Mr. Right, in sharp contrast to the Mr. Right Nows Christina's been courting for a decade. Too bad the rest of us aren't convinced; Christina and Peter's five minutes of bar chatter are an unremarkable, feeble setup to the film's central conflict. More compelling is the strong bond between Christina, Courtney, and their roommate Jane (Blair). There's an authentic ring to their conversations, open and spiced with four-letter words and cheeky descriptions of their exploits. (Less authentic is the film's continuance with the popular Hollywood misconception that best girlfriends enjoy prancing around naked with each other.) But The Sweetest Thing isn't so much concerned with the real lives and mating habits of everyday women, as is the case of Sex and the City (okay ... everyday women with a fondness for Fendi). The Sweetest Thing instead uses its uncommon sexual frankness as the excuse for a string of lewd jokes, each gag lumbering to out-gross-out the previous one. And there's nothing wrong gross-out humor -- first-time screenwriter Nancy M. Pimental should know, having cut her teeth on TV's South Park. But the wonderful perversity of The Sweetest Thing's forebearers -- like that other Cameron Diaz vehicle, There's Something About Mary -- was always tempered by intelligence, charm, a goofy sort of good humor. Pimental's poorly constructed, mean-spirited script, on the other hand, just wants to zing 'em and leave 'em, with humor so broad it's surreal. An actress only as good as her material, Diaz spazzes out to cartoonish extremes here, like she's slap-happy on a speedball (the ingredients of which appear to be an unnerving amalgam of methamphetamines, Viagra, and Bonnie Bell Lip Smackers). That said, she has no discernible character to work with, just the same kind of ditzy fun throwaway that's old hat to the actress. Blair, too, is wasted, saddled once again with the “prudish” part, as well as the more embarrassing setpieces. (The low would be a heavy-handed pilfering of There's Something's zippered-appendage gag, this one involving a pair of tonsils and a penis piercing. Ouch.) But Christina Applegate, of Eighties white-trash pinup fame, is a comic foil par excellence, delivering a snazzy, self-assured performance that lands the biggest laughs in a movie made mostly of hollow chuckles. She, in fact, is the sweetest thing in this sour, sucky film.