I am one of the critics who raved about Kate Hudson when she gave her breakthrough performance as band groupie Penny Lane in Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous, a role that landed her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination. Kate has been in three movies since and has three more scheduled for release in the next year. But alas, nothing yet has approximated her work in Almost Famous. And if I had to evaluate her long-term potential on the basis of Donald Petrie's lame romantic comedy How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, I would judge her a meteor rather than a rising star.
Written by the committee of Kristen Buckley, Brian Regan and Burr Steers, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days exhibits all the internal logic of someone who believes in the Tooth Fairy. Hudson plays Andie Anderson, a well-educated, seriously ambitious young journalist who is currently working for Composure magazine, the hottest women's monthly in the country. Andie wants to write about politics, religion and art, but instead she's assigned to do silly features about fashion and dating. Why Andie thinks an editor at Composure might be interested in the articles Andie aspires to write is clear evidence that she doesn't read the magazine she works for.
For a plot, we get the following: Andie is assigned to write an article titled "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days." The idea is that Andie will practice all the dating no-no's she can think of until the hapless fellow otherwise attracted to her will break off their relationship. She'll be whiny, clingy, jealous and possessive. She'll invade the man's space and his privacy. The problem with this idea is that Andie thinks it up herself. The picture never tries to answer the question as to why an otherwise intelligent, level-headed and fundamentally decent person would concoct a scheme so cruel to the man who will be turned into her very public victim.
The script tries to fudge this gaping logical flaw by introducing Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey), an advertising executive with perhaps a little too much confidence in his own sex appeal. Heretofore Ben has specialized in handling ad accounts for distinctly masculine products: beer and sporting equipment. But now he wants to manage an ad campaign for a diamond wholesaler. He tries to sell his boss (Robert Klein) on the idea that he knows what women want, and they agree on a contest: if Ben can convince a woman to fall in love with him in only 10 days, he'll get the diamond account.
By the happenstance of which bad movies are made, Ben's quarry is Andie Anderson. And so the game of romantic skullduggery is on. Her career demands her to be the woman every man wants to strangle. But his career demands that he be the man for whom no abuse is worth breaking up over. I am skeptical that this idea could reap much in the way of comedic dividends in the most skilled hands. Donald Petrie is a filmmaker who has earlier directed My Favorite Martian and Richie Rich. Among them our trio of writers have earlier penned 102 Dalmatians and Igby Goes Down. Enough said about that perhaps.
In short, the premise of this flick makes no sense. Andie is saucy and sexy when she and Ben first meet. But then on successive dates, she demands a soft drink that causes him to miss the exciting climax of a basketball game; out of the blue she accuses him of thinking about another woman; she maneuvers him into a fist fight with a man twice his size; and she forces him to attend a Celine Dion concert rather than the NBA Finals. The last of these, of course, is a capital offense in 48 states and the District of Columbia. We can see why a normal man would go out with Andie a second time. But what normal man would go on a third date with her? Granted, Ben's circumstances excuse him from the normal. But Andie doesn't know his circumstances. Rather than lose a guy in 10 days, she seems hellbent to lose a guy in 10 seconds.
Narratively strained as all this is, we might have found it tolerable were anything funny. Nothing is. So in the end, the filmmakers trot out the old standbys: a farting uncle and a dog who pees on your pool table and card table (he thinks the green felt looks like grass). I would say the latter is really a howler, but I might get assigned to write this picture's sequel.
The sad thing for me is the waste of Kate Hudson. Even before I realized she was Goldie Hawn's daughter, I predicted she'd assume the gamine mantle that Hawn, Audrey Hepburn and Meg Ryan have worn before her with such charm. Hudson's got the charm, but she needs better roles to put it to meaningful use.
- More like 10 seconds: Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) tries to show Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.