How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
review by Gregory Avery, 7 February 2003

Class -- real class -- is dying in American film, but, brother, that's not stopping 'em from chasing after it, still. Mel Gibson brought about a minute of it to What Women Want when he picked up a brown fedora and did an impromptu softshoe to a Sinatra recording. And the ballet of umbrellas (photographed by the late, great Conrad Hall) during a climatic scene in Road to Perdition was one of the most gorgeous, unexpected, and elegant things I saw in any film last year. Recent promo spots on American Movie Classics have pretty much completed the codification of Audrey Hepburn into the essential icon of class, whether as the woman in a sheath dress peeking at you from behind insouciant sunglasses partially hidden under a wide-brimmed hat, or riding on the back of Gregory Peck's motor-scooter through Rome streets. Hepburn's grace and style was hard-won, but the fact that she never asked for pity or approval in exchange for it was one of the things that gave her genuine class.

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days -- which was also photographed, beautifully at times, by the fine cinematographer John Bailey -- has a few moments at the end where Liliane Montevecchi, the veteran French cabaret and stage star, vamps her way through partygoers at a black-tie occasion, wearing a cloche hat made from feathers dyed a brilliantly flaming red. Montevecchi is pretty much working at half-speed, here, and her performance may strike some as eccentric or corny -- she is a French cabaret star, not Pink -- but it's about the closest this film ever comes to the style it so desperately seeks. When she bends her body, neck, and arms to form a pose for a diamond commercial being made by the ad agency where Matthew McConaughey's character works, she does so in a way that makes you think "elegant," whether you're familiar with the Erté figures which she's drawing inspiration from or not.

As for the rest of the movie.... Kate Hudson plays a writer for a glossy women's magazine (edited by Bebe Neuwirth, coiffed and clothed to look like Diane Vreeland) who takes on the task of writing an article on how the average girl can drive a guy out of her life in no time flat, once she's nabbed him and, presumably, before the guy has the chance to dump her and make her emotionally crash. The writers of this movie (Kristen Buckley, Brian Regan, and Burr Steers -- the latter responsible for last year's widely acclaimed comedy Igby Goes Down -- working from a book by Michele Alexander and Jeannie Long) decide that the only way they can get Hudson's character to pick up a guy fast enough for her to start driving him crazy and still meet her deadline is to have her just happen to target the one guy in a whole roomful of men who, without her knowing it, has targeted her in order to win a bet that he can get a girl to fall in love with him in no time flat (plus win the advertising account for a diamond retailer -- the reason for the black-tie party mentioned above -- to which end he's egged on by two slithery women, played by the almost sinfully beautiful Michael Michele and Shalom Harlow). Matthew McConaughey is the actor assigned to carry out this task, and while some may find his bone structure and Texas accent makes him "genuine," he still looks like a garter snake sliding through mulch. Kate Hudson is more appealing, but then the role asks her to overdo the oochy-coochy stuff -- dumping stuffed animals in her new boyfriend's apartment, a potted fern, a dog from outer space, disrupting the boys' poker night -- until you're ready to attack her with a hammer. She also withholds sex from him, and attempts to nickname a part of his anatomy, a practice I thought had become extinct after the look that came over Richard Burton's face when a girl introduced him to each of her bodaceous ta-tas in Bluebeard (1972).

Inevitably, the two lead characters realize that they've been working at cross-purposes, but so has the movie: having McConaughey's character deceiving Hudson the whole time actually has the effect of undercutting both her character and the whole story of the movie -- after all, the title says that the film's supposed to be about what a girl does to a guy -- the effect of which nullifies our taking either of the lead characters seriously or having any feelings one way or the other about how they're being fooled. But the movie is also surprisingly short on motivation: it provides no more reason for the characters to start falling in love with each other than it does for them to start scheming, and hence act mercenary, towards each other. By the end, Hudson and McConaughey get stuck in the middle of an embarrassing scene where they start yelling at each other, in rhyme, at the big black-tie party, accompanied on the piano by no less than Marvin Hamlisch, whose looks at the two performers pretty much sum everything up.

Which brings us back to the matter of class -- evoked by the film's conclusion, which is done in a rush in much the same way that Shirley MacLaine rushed back to Jack Lemmon's apartment in The Apartment. Billy Wilder could do "class," but he also knew that you have to have some oomph to go along with it. (That film's closing line was, after all, "Shut up and deal.") How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days wants to be in the same league as the fluffy, romantic, battle-of-the-sexes comedies which Hollywood, from the filmmakers' point of view, used to turn out on a regular basis (well, two out of three attempts) all the time. In trying to keep things innocuous, though, it ends up making itself toothless. But it does come up with one interesting moment: Kate Hudson hijacks Matthew McConaughey's CD player at one point and starts jauntily singing along to Carly Simon's recording "You're So Vain," a song that's supposed to be about Warren Beatty, with whom Hudson's mother, Goldie Hawn, worked on the film Shampoo. If only the rest of the film were so smart, funny, and knowing.

Directed by:
Donald Petrie

Kate Hudson
Matthew McConaughey
Kathryn Hahn
Adam Goldberg
Thomas Lennon
Michael Michele
Shalom Harlow
Bebe Neuwirth
Robert Klein

Written by:
Kristen Buckley
Brian Regan
Burr Steers

PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.






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