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When romance meets comedy

With When romance meets comedy, Caroline Siede examines the history of romantic comedy through the years, happily eternal (or not) one at a time.

2009 was a roller coaster year for Sandra Bullock. The then 45-year-old woman recovered her rom-com cred by leading Proposal to box office dominance; shot in an Oscar-winning performance in The blind side; and do Everything about Steve, one of the most hated romantic comedies of all time. It’s impressive time management, especially considering Bullock showed up to collect his Oscar for The blind side and his Razzie for Steve consecutive nights. Although the star has spent years directing Everything about Stevedevelopment, she at least had a good sense of humor when it collapsed with the critics. If only some of that humor had been incorporated into the movie itself.

A punchline from the time he debuted, Everything about Steve joined My super ex-girlfriend, Launch error, and The sad truth as some of the worst romantic comedies I have ever covered in this column. But not since Gigli Was I so taken aback by how such a bizarre movie could have been conceived in the first place, let alone filmed and edited without Someone realizing what a monstrosity they were doing. In one of the first scenes, Bullock’s crossword designer Mary Horowitz says the size of a puzzle can be determined by asking three simple questions: “Is it solvable?” Is it entertaining? Does it sparkle? ” And although it’s easy enough to say that Everything about Steve is not entertaining and lacking in sparkle, I got a little obsessed with trying to solve it.

My initial guess was that Everything about Steve started life as a quirky indie black comedy that lost its bite in becoming a mainstream vehicle, although that seems less likely once you consider that screenwriter Kim Barker’s only other credit is the horrific rom- com from 2007 John Krasinski / Mandy Moore / Robin Williams Permit to marry. In the manufacturing instructions, Bullock celebrates how Everything about Stevethe interspersed stories of “all boil down to the fact that it does not fit [in] often means you really stand out, ”which speaks to a seriously nerdy that the film awkwardly tries to fit into cranky comedy. But the most interesting quote comes from co-star Thomas Haden Church, who Recount Weekly entertainment, “Sandy always said her pattern was Wedding crashers. She wanted it to be a guy’s comedy, except about a woman. According to EW, “[Bullock] spent years developing the script until his character resembled the kind of sexually frustrated goofball usually written only for men.

So after years like America’s sweetheart, Bullock wanted a chance to get big and weird with his comedy, and ran a project that would allow him to do just that. With her blonde haircut, shiny red leather knee-length boots, and hyper-verbal tendencies, Bullock plays Mary as a cross between Erin Brockovich, Rain Man and a horny 13-year-old girl. Everything about Steve is interested in the question of what the life is like of someone who is smart and kind, but also socially awkward in a way that makes it difficult to interface with the rest of the world. And despite What dozen of Comments and the Razzies might say, I don’t really think Bullock’s performance is the biggest issue with Everything about Steve. Mary is meant to be weird and off-putting with an endearing heart, and Bullock’s perspective is at least engaged and cohesive in a way that could potentially work if put in the right context.

The problem is Everything about Steve has absolutely no idea how he wants to present Mary. Sometimes he seems to see her as a sympathetic but ultimately deeply misguided woman who needs a major lesson in boundaries – like Rebecca Bunch in crazy ex-girlfriend. But other times he sees her as an optimist, optimist, Paddington-Stylish figure whose innate and original kindness changes everyone around her for the better. In this version, it is not Mary who has to change; everyone must learn to float their monster flag. Yet, trying to overlap the two modes at the same time, Everything about Steve fails to land on something that sounds like a consistent tone.

Because Mary’s role in the narrative keeps changing, the film also doesn’t know how to write the supporting actors around her. It starts with Steve (Bradley Cooper), a handsome cable cameraman who is kind enough to Mary on their blind date, even though she tries to jump on him before they’ve even left. driveway to his parents’ house. Steve is in the meeting until Mary’s nonstop conversation starts to give him bad vibes. Then he brakes, fakes an emergency at work, and soothes Mary with a vague platitude about how he wishes she was there as he heads out on the road to cover the breaking news. When Mary literally takes that brushstroke and decides to follow Steve across the country, the movie at first seems to be on her side: she’s gone into full-blown stalker behavior and he’s right to be freaked out!

Ultimately, however, it’s Steve who apologizes to Mary for saying something he didn’t mean – like refusing to sleep with someone and then throwing a “I really wish that.” you are there ”is the worst of sins. Self-proclaimed “nice guy” could get involved. Instead of making Steve a morally dubious character, which could have been a lot more interesting, Everything about Steve gives all dubious morality to his pompous fellow news anchor, Hartman Hughes (Haden Church). For truly inexplicable reasons, Hartman actively encourages harassment of Mary by repeatedly telling her that Steve loves her but is too afraid to admit it. So instead of giving Mary and Steve arcs that intersect and influence each other – which would be the natural fit for a deconstructed romantic comedy –Everything about Steve makes his two main pawns in the midlife crisis his third most important character.

Ironically, given its title, Everything about Steve has problems concentrating. Huge swathes of its runtime are spent satirizing the sensationalism of the cable news, which is a direct line that never really matches anything other than the vague “people can be weird, eh ? Feeling. Since Hartman, Steve, and their producer Angus (an unexpectedly choked Ken Jeong) are seemingly the only team in their network for country news, they are dispatched to cover a hostage-taking in Arizona. , a medical battle in Oklahoma, a hurricane in Texas and ultimately a crisis in Colorado where a group of deaf children fell through the ground in an abandoned mine. The last of them becomes the site of one of the film’s signature lazy physical comedy gags, in which Mary falls into the mine while running towards Steve, regardless of whether the sinkhole is fully visible in a highly cordoned off area.

So a movie that obviously should end with Mary using her love of language to save the day instead ends with her using previously unmentioned psychic knowledge to MacGyver a pulley system that can pull her and her out. a trapped child, mine. But not before a superfluous streak where Hartman also intervenes, because Everything about Steve is nothing if he is not committed to giving screen time to Haden Church. The initial promise of exploring what turns someone like Mary on ultimately boils down to revealing that she wears her boots because they make her “feel like 10 friends on a camping trip!” This is apparently the kind of intimate detail that can only be shared in a life and death situation.

Yes Everything about Steve has an interesting idea seed at its center, and that is that finding friends who understand you is more important than locking in a romantic partner who ticks all the conventional boxes. In fact, I would say that a better version of Everything about Steve would have kept Steve as a more distant figure and instead focused on Mary’s budding friendship with her eccentric colleagues Elizabeth (Katy Mixon) and Howard (DJ Qualls), who agree to join her romantic quest from country to country. the other. Mixon and Qualls bring a lot more humanity to their wacky characters than Cooper and Haden Church do to their more conventional archetypes. And they also have better chemistry with Bullock. Alas, glimpses of this more cohesive dramatic comedy are buried under the plasticity of a studio comedy of mine from first feature director Phil Traill.

At the end, Everything about Steve is too strange to be considered a mere “bad romantic comedy”, but also too off-putting to be worth sitting down for “so bad is good” fun. The best thing to come out of this is probably Bullock’s Razzie acceptance speech, where she challenges audiences to give better line reads of her character’s dialogue than she gave in the film. Bullock delivers the speech with the kind of ironic, bossy confidence that has become his bread and butter in the latter part of his career. For a comedy about the joy of living off the beaten track, Everything about Steve makes a much better case for sticking to what you know.

The next time: We are celebrating 50 years of Harold and Maude.

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