Crass Over Class Prevails in a Charmless Ugly Truth
- Friday, July 24, 2009
DVD Release Date: November 10, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: July 24, 2009
Rating: R (for sexual content and language)
Genre: Romantic comedy
Run Time: 97 min.
Director: Robert Luketic
Actors: Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler, Bree Turner, Eric Winter, Cheryl Hines, John Michael Higgans, Yvette Nicole Brown
Borrowing a few pages from the When Harry Met Sally playbook, albeit in a decidedly Judd Apatow comedic fashion, The Ugly Truth has essentially the same battle of the sexes motif and even features a wink and a nudge to Meg Ryan's iconic delicatessen scene that prompted the memorable "I'll have what's she's having" line from a nearby customer.
While writer Nora Ephron definitely pushed the envelope for the romantic comedy genre back in 1989 with her witty treatise on sex, love and romantic relationships, there was still a discernable heartbeat in her exploration on whether men and women really can be friends "without the sex part getting in the way." And thanks to one of the movie's best cinematic touches, snappy little interludes featuring the against-the-odds stories of happily married couples in between, there was always a glimmer of hope that relationships built on a solid foundation of friendship, mutual respect and love could, in fact, stand the test of time. It wasn't only about the sex like in The Ugly Truth.
The big difference is that Ephron actually made an effort to develop her characters, allowing them to experience fully-realized heartbreak, pain and growth, so the inevitable happy ending didn't feel needlessly tacked on. Rather than an afterthought, it felt like a victory for the viewer who invested the time in watching it all play out. Unfortunately, that same care didn't exactly go into writing The Ugly Truth. Penned by three writers whose previous efforts included Legally Blonde and The House Bunny, two lightweight movies that are veritable Oscar contenders in comparison, these characters so flat are and by the numbers that they're not even worth featuring in a bad CW sitcom.
For me, the jury was always still out on Katherine Heigl's (Grey's Anatomy, 27 Dresses.) ability to morph into a likeable Julia Roberts or Reese Witherspoon-esque rom-com leading lady. While she may have the approachable good looks (non-threatening to women, but also stunning enough to appeal to men), this movie ultimately doesn't do much to advance her cause. In one lame situation after the next, there's never an opportunity for Heigl or her character to be funny, charming or even relatable. In fact, Heigl is so singularly focused on being Abby the control freak that it's difficult to believe she'd actually block off time for "finding love" with her Blackberry overflowing with other commitments.
But in the quick glimpses the audience actually gets into Abby's life outside of work seem to indicate otherwise. A self-proclaimed "cat person," Abby pines for a man who'll truly appreciate her and her precious felines, not to mention art and everything else that she considers "cultured." In the midst of her internal rant about a lack of great dates, her cat accidentally hits the remote control (just one of the many all-too-convenient ways to keep the story moving) and before Abby knows it, she's tuning in to the most popular guy in cable access—a barbaric relationship guru named Mike (Gerard Butler) on The Ugly Truth.
Confirming all her worst fears about men, Mike's advice is simple. Throw away all your romantic notions and expectations about The One because men are just hopelessly focused on one thing—sex. And the quicker one accepts that men will never evolve, let alone change, the better your dating life will be. Encouraging those without a date to simply hit the Stairmaster, Abby is offended enough by his sexist commentary to phone in. Eventually calling her a "dog" because of her stalwart romantic optimism and the fact she's boyfriend-less at present, Abby is determined to prove his theories wrong.
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