It’s a cast I love, first off. Even when Paul Rudd’s being goofy I appreciate him. As I’m sure you know, I do have an epic girlcrush on Zooey Deschanel. Elizabeth Banks is funny, Emily Mortimer is appreciated, Rashida Jones is adorable, Steve Coogan is riotous, Adam Scott is amusing, etcetera, etcetera. And as far as comedies go, I was amused and not too angry and I actually giggled.
But this is not because I liked any of the characters. I wanted to hit almost every single one of them at least once. Actually, much like with The Social Network, Rashida Jones was the only one I never wanted to smack. I’m not sure if they were intentionally despicable or if it was just sort of lazy characterization, but really? The movie could have been called Our Idiot Family.
I do appreciate when nobody’s perfect. Perfection is nice (unattainable, but hey) in real life, but it’s overrated in entertainment… no, take that back. It’s just overrated. I just started feeling partway into the film that the writers just sat down and went “funny cliches = funny jokes!” The titular idiot brother, Rudd’s Ned, was actually pretty well-developed. He was an idiot, yeah. But he wasn’t mean-spirited. He just had absolutely no filter and it kept getting him into trouble. He was gullible, he was sort of doped out, but he wasn’t a lame stoner entirely. Appreciated.
Everyone else sort of devolved into cliches, though. Sister 1, Banks’ Miranda, was the Ballsy Professional Chick. She took her neighbor (Adam Scott) for granted, she worked too much, and she was willing to do Whatever It Took to advance in the world of business (in this case, a job at Vanity Fair, where the editor was portrayed as a similar asshole, not caring about the integrity or legal-backed wishes of the article’s subject but only wanting the Juicy Story — lame). When Ned accidentally told Miranda things about what said subject had told him in private conversation and Miranda attempted to use it in her story, everyone was on edge. It was juicy, yeah, but was it right? No. And Ned realized this, so he denied it all to the attorneys and fact-checkers and such. Miranda didn’t lose her job, she just lost a little bit of face; Ned did the right thing. Even though she was Pissed Off, because that’s just what Ballsy Professional Chicks do when you get in their way.
Sister 2, Deschanel’s Nat, was the Token Quirky Lesbian. There were a couple of discussions of her sexuality, and Ned questioned the application of the “lesbian” label; the way everyone described it, it really sounded almost like pansexuality, albeit pansexuality that had been swaying towards women as of late. Nat was a stand-up comedian (a bad one) and a nude model. Surprise surprise, she ended up having sex with the (male) painter she modeled for. ‘Cause you just can’t have lesbians in a movie unless one of them goes at least temporarily questioningly straight. To make matters worse, Nat became pregnant from this one-night stand (well, when you’re screwing in a hurry, you don’t always think about condoms, of course). This wouldn’t mesh with her being in a serious relationship with adorable, pretty Kinsey 5-6 Cindy (Rashida Jones). And when Ned found out and attempted to discuss it with Cindy, not knowing Nat hadn’t done the same, it of course caused a dramatic scene. But being a generous person, Cindy decided to give it another shot, and the final scene showed Nat declaring that Cindy wanted to join her for her OB-GYN appointment.
Sister 3, Emily Mortimer’s Liz, was a pretty standard Pretentious Suburban Mom. She and her documentarian husband (Steve Coogan) had two children, River and Echo. (I know. “That can’t be a coincidence,” my father whispered. And though River was a boy, I… can hope. I see nothing in any of the production credits that might indicate there was anyone connected to the Whedon mafia, but they could just be fans. Or it could be a coincidence. Who knows.) They’re the kind of people who won’t let their children watch “violent movies” (apparently The Pink Panther counts) and made River learn to play some obscure ethnic flute thing and go to interpretive dance class so he could interview for a prestigious pretentious kindergarten. Ned just wanted to let River be a little boy. He just wanted to make friends, and sure, he maybe should have asked his sister and her husband, first. But.
Steve Coogan was also busy filming a documentary about a Russian ballerina’s “artistic oppression” and screwing her on the side. I am all for sexual liberty. But really. Is nobody in film faithful anymore? I feel like at least half of the romantic conflicts in movies (or television) come from adultery in some form, and I’m bored with it. Yeah, adultery is bad. Think of something more creative. Ned was the one to discover this and out it.
Ned made mistakes. He talked too much. But it was from a place of love, which the sisters eventually realized. They got their own lives back on track (it was unclear what that meant in Liz’s case; in Nat’s it meant getting back with Cindy and having the baby anyway; in Miranda’s, it meant seducing her neighbor-friend) and Ned went to go open a handmade candle shop with his ex-girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend and his dog. There was a meet-cute where he and his dog (named Willie Nelson) met a woman and her dog (named Dolly Parton). Then it was over.
Basically, the plot of the movie was everyone’s an asshole sometimes, but we can all love each other hopefully. I didn’t dislike it. The candle shop dialogue was hilarious. The movie was funny. I didn’t hate everyone constantly, but I hated most of them periodically. Even Zooey’s adorable couldn’t make me always like her.
(And I wanted to throttle the man – I’m not 100% positive, but I think he was wearing a trucker cap – who chuckled loudly at inappropriate times. The first time Zooey and Rashida kissed, he laughed louder than I think he did the entire rest of the movie. Not okay, dude.)
It was a good movie, though. Cute. Not frustrating except for in the ways it was supposed to be frustrating, and that’s something. As comedies go, I could deal with it well. I just wish that maybe there had been a bit more dimension to the characters. But that’s writer nitpickiness. The actors were all great.
–your fangirl heroine.