Directed by: Tony Goldwyn
Starring: Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear, Hugh Jackman, Ellen Barkin, Marisa Tomei
After watching this harmless adaptation of Laura Zigman's novel, Animal Husbandry, all I could think of was Rex Harrison in Preston Sturges' Unfaithfully Yours describing a movie he's just seen "which questioned the necessity of marriage for eight reels and then concluded it was essential in the ninth." Someone Like You does much the same on the topic of the viability of relationships -- and it sometimes seems very long indeed. It isn't that the film is bad, it's simply that it's almost appallingly ordinary to the point of feeling underplotted. If you've seen the film's trailer, you know the plot. If you know the plot, you know where the film is going. The problem mostly lies in Elizabeth Chandler's (A Little Princess) screenplay, which simplifies the novel (and alters its ending) to a degree that the movie ends up boasting 30 minutes of story stretched out over 100+ minutes -- and, like choosing the obviously more marketable title of Someone Like You over the more interesting and apt Animal Husbandry, it's clearly a case of minimizing any risk by heading straight for the familiar. The odd thing about this is that the film itself has a decidedly nonconformist streak at its thematic center (Hugh Jackman's character gleefully mocks his vision of what the future holds for Ashley Judd and Greg Kinnear, envisioning "matching Volvos and chocolate Labs"), while the film itself veers toward this exact processed-cheese vision of the desirable. Occasional interjections of fantasy -- cutaways to cross-reference footage of bulls with no interest in cows with which they've already been intimate and a weird cameo by Hugh Downs commenting on Judd's romantic life -- are apparently designed to make the movie seem a lot more hip and savvy than it is and, while sometimes funny, seem like intrusions from another film. At that, Someone Like You manages to get by a good deal of the time on the strength of the characterizations, a degree of wit, competent (though not very exciting) direction by Tony Goldwyn, and the likable and believable playing of Ashley Judd and Hugh Jackman. However, the screenplay not only plays it too safe, it's also something of a mess. Characters are introduced (Judd's sister and brother-in-law, for example) and then simply disappear only to pop up when it suits the demands of the plot. A subplot involving Marisa Tomei's (playing Judd's magazine-editor friend) love life crops up at one point and then just as suddenly disappears into the void, while the central situation trudges steadily toward its foregone conclusion. What is particularly unfortunate is that Someone Like You has the seeds for something truly fresh, funny and pertinent but they are never allowed to sprout. The premise is certainly sound and unusual: when Ashley Judd is unceremoniously dumped by boyfriend Greg Kinnear, she hits upon the theory that men and woman are like bulls and cows and that once a man has a woman she becomes "old cow" and therefore no longer desirable. The idea at first is merely a personal obsession, but when Tomei has her expound her theories in print -- under a bogus identity -- she's suddenly a celebrity (albeit a wholly anonymous one). Interwoven with this is the utterly transparent plot of her romance with her insatiable, womanizing co-worker (Hugh Jackman), who, of course, it turns out is only a convert to the ways of casual sex because he's been disappointed in love himself. By the time the film gets to its climax -- with Judd doing the Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie schtick of coming clean in front of the cameras -- you wonder why any effort was put into the film. Even more, you wonder why Judd and Jackman squandered their talents on it -- and marvel at how well they come off all the same. The two stars may hold your attention, but the movie isn't likely to.