|How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days|
|DVD Romantic Comedy|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 01 July 2003|
There is a sequence in “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days” that’s pure irony. Our heroine Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson), intentionally trying to alienate hunky and mysteriously (to her) patient Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey), drags him to a chick-flick marathon. It would be going too far to say that “How” would be the perfect movie at which to lose a chick-flick-hating date, but although we can see it trying to branch out, it is a solid example of the genre. If you and/or your movie-going friends have issues with the form, consider yourself warned.
In fact, “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days” is one of those romantic comedies where the complications driving the plot are all derived from the fact that the two main characters behave in ways that no one in a real relationship should (or likely would) tolerate. On the one hand, “How” at least comes up with a quasi-plausible reason for the screwiness – both characters are at least aware that what they are doing is questionable. It helps that leading lady Hudson is so charming and adorable that when the character’s best friend observes that Andie could probably vomit on a guy and still be found desirable, we don’t entirely disagree (although, happily, this statement is not put to the test). It helps even more that when Andie and Ben let their mutual guards down, some authentic romance and feeling comes through. On the other hand, if one doesn’t find the premise uproarious, much of “How” is a bit of a long haul.
Andie is a columnist for the Cosmopolitan-like magazine Composure, while Ben is a successful advertising executive. Both of them feel trapped in niches; Andie writes a fluff column while longing to be a serious journalist, and Ben is pegged as the go-to guy for athletic equipment and beer when he’d like to move up to selling diamonds. Andie is told if she does a good job with her latest concept – a how-not-to-date article, which she’ll research by picking up a random guy, then dumping him – she can write about whatever she wants. Ben, meanwhile, makes a bet with his boss that if he can get a girl to fall in love with him by the time of a gala event sponsored by their new, big diamond-selling client, he can have the account (the theory being if he can sell one girl on himself, he can sell a lot of girls on expensive rocks). Of course, Andie and Ben coincidentally pick one another as their respective unwitting guinea pigs. They have one night of being themselves and then Andie goes into flaky, whiny, unreasonable overdrive to see what it takes to scare Ben off – and Ben steels himself to hold on for dear life.
Naturally, Andie and Ben begin to fall for each other despite themselves. In Ben’s case, this isn’t the problem it’s made out to be – he’s under no obligation to dump his new romance if it works out. In Andie’s case, the question arises and remains unanswered – once she decides she likes Ben, why not just be herself and make up the story? Given the situation, “journalistic ethics” (any ethics at all, actually) surely don’t come into it.
Not to worry – the screenplay by Kristen Buckley & Brian Regan and Burr Steers, based on the book by Michele Alexander and Jeannie Ling, hits all the expected notes, from the big event where Andie transforms into Cinderella, to the revelations of bad behavior and subsequent public spat, to … well, you can probably guess how it ends.
It’s all done with enormous proficiency and enthusiasm. Director Donald Petrie, who provides a very appealing and informative commentary track, knows how to make his actors and his city look great and he’s got a good feel for pacing – while the spectacle of Andie repeatedly throwing tantrums, being overly coy and trying to figure out the most inconsiderate action in any given circumstance may not strike many folks as inherently hilarious, Petrie creates a sense of briskness, so that we’re never in any one place for too long and we do wonder what will happen next. Petrie is also very good with the supporting cast, especially a newcomer named Kathryn Hahn, who has excellent timing as Andie’s best friend.
Picture quality on the DVD is fine. Sound is very good, though as there aren’t any big action setpieces, there are few moments that really stand out. Chapter 16 has a very realistic shower in the left main (matching the screen-left shower), mixed beautifully with the dialogue and the pop ballad that rises into the track during the sequence. Petrie talks about specific song choices for the soundtrack in his commentary, noting that George Thoroughgood and the Destroyers’ “Who Do You Love” was originally a temp track choice that they couldn’t bear to lose in the final mix.
Special features include interviews with the cast – with other actors and production team members discussing them – an interactive featurette on various locations with more comments from cast and crew and a decent if unexceptional music video of Keith Urban’s “Somebody Like You,” intercutting the singer with scenes from the film.
Much to the filmmakers’ credit, apart from the big lies (albeit that’s a big caveat), Andie and Ben never do anything too horrendous to each other. Indeed, “How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days” relies on the precedents of classic farce, with two protagonists who remain in problematic straits not because of some outside agency, but because of their own stubbornness and ambition. Shakespeare would probably have applauded the basics. The script is very well-constructed and Hudson is highly engaging, except for those moments where Andie is being deliberately awful. In the moments where Andie and Ben let their real personalities surface, the film even succeeds in being romantic enough for us to tentatively root for them as a couple. It’s done right, but the humor never rises to the level where it makes us feel it’s worth overlooking going out on awkward dates with these well-matched schemers.