"How many relationships do I have to have before I meet the right guy?"
The fantastic folks from LOVEFiLM were kind enough to invite me to a screening of this film. I looked it up and, as soon as I saw the poster, I knew it was not really my thing. Looking like the obvious rom-com Katherine Heigl film, I had nothing invested in it. But then I looked at the actors involved - Chris Evans (creaming some money off the top post-Captain America) and Anna ("Ah-na" is how you pronounce it) Faris from Scary Movie 1-4, Smiley Face and The House Bunny playing the lead. Next up, we had roles featuring Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) and Martin Freeman (BBC's The Office and the up-and-coming The Hobbit). Maybe, just maybe, it might be better than your average film ...
One thing that struck me as a little odd, was how the screening was before the US release of the film. Phones taken away, infra-red goggles for security to look at the audience to check that we weren't recording it. This was top-secret stuff. Then I considered the director: Mark Mylod. He was born in the UK and directed Brit TV-series including Shameless and The Royle Family before working with Sacha Baron Cohen on Ali G Indahouse. But then he crossed over to the US to direct a couple of episodes for the US Shameless and, primarily, co-producing and directing Entourage. Probably where he met Anna Faris. I would assume that the screening in the UK is in the hope that film will cater to British sensibilities - and I think Faris, who has a huge following in the US, has not achieved the same type of credability in the UK.
What's Your Number?
The basic premise highlights our lead character Ally (Faris) confronting her '20' previous sexual partners as she realises that, apparently, most women have had 10.5 sexual partners before meeting 'the one'. This was found through the pages of conveniently product-placed Marie Claire magazine. There is conflict in the character as, if she is not fussed about her sexual partners (to the point that she has had 20) then why would she suddenly care that she has had, what is apparently, "too many". In the Q&A that followed the screening, Faris herself made a good point that 20 sexual partners is actually a little low - Faris mentioned the number "70" as a proper estimate which the studio apparently saw as a little too excessive. This was clearly a joke, but I think that the film - though believing it is tackling a 'taboo subject' - still caters to the safest conventions as Ally is ashamed of how many sexual partners and, though she 'accepts' who she is by the end, there is clearly deep regret about the experiences. Sex is important to her and she made some bad decisions - opposed to seeing sex as an enjoyable interest with very little connection to what love truly is. That would be a controversial stance the film fails to highlight (except, possibly the character of Sheila who is very comfortable in her sexuality).
Faris enjoyed the character as a role, believing the role of Ally was "spicy" and "without ambition". But, I think the studio-interference continues as the undercurrent of Ally's interest in clay-models is an ambition she yearns for. Even the love interest in Chris Evans, is obvious as soon as he appears, holding his crotch with only a towel, and we are to believe that Ally - a character who enjoys sex, is turned off (!!!) by Captain America himself because he enjoys sex - but in a one-night stand kind of way. I'm sure I read somewhere (maybe in my girlfriends Cosmopolitan) that women like getting with the bad-guy in the hope that they can 'change' them. But Ally is apparently not interested in Evans. As if.
Some great actors turn up as cameo-roles from Ally's life. Andy Samberg (of The Lonely Island) is a geeky-teen Ally loses her virginity to, Martin Freeman is a (ha ha ha) British guy. Plenty of British accent jokes here. Then Anthony Mackie plays a wannabe-President who, we find out, has a definitive reason to not pursue a sexual-relationship with Ally. In fact, Mackie revealing 'who he is', I thought was one of the funniest jokes in the film! Blythe Danner portrays Ally's Mum - who is tragically underused as she is modelled on the cliche critical parent (ala Monica Gellar's Mum in Friends)..
I have to be fair - this is not my 'type' of film, but I was keen to see something different and give the rom-com a chance. But it seems to have so many similarities to other films - without achieving anything unique on its own. The whole film is set within the context of Ally's sister getting married and the question is 'Who will Ally take to her Sisters Wedding?' - but then it just reminds us of the superior Bridesmaids which spoke to a much more personal and real story of jealousy and rivalry between women. Even the 'taboo' subject of sexual-freedom feels like another stab at the comedies of recent times - Hall Pass, Friends with Benefits, The Change-Up, Love, Sex and Other Drugs and No Strings Attached. The question remains - can you be sexually-active with multiple partners and maintain a loving relationship in some shape or form. The 'toast' when Ally decides to ensure that her next man will be 'the one' is almost like American Pie when they make their pact. The film makes a good point - does it matter how many sexual partners you have had when you meet someone? But, it doesn't tackle the possibility that Chris Evans, with all his sleeping around, won't change his spots. That maybe, he does just use Ally and move on - because that is possible and, more importantly, does happen. And it would make the film much more unique. Instead, they get together and thats it. Anna Faris, I believe, needs to be given some freedom to make a film that doesn't adhere to cliche and instead caters to something more real and personal. After Bridesmaids, the playing field has changed - and this film is a little out-of-date.