July 16th, 2012


Romantic Comedy: I'm With Lucy

My old AC is now being dismantled, a little behind schedule. They'd told me "first thing" Monday morning because they like to do as much as possible before it gets hot. So I was out of bed around 6:30 to make sure I was up and dressed before anyone showed up, which was painful, as I'd actually been sleeping well and it was pleasantly cool and comfortable. They didn't get here until after 9 because they had trouble finding my place and called the wrong number to get directions. I guess the installation guys aren't quite the geeks the sales guys were.

My romantic comedy for this weekend was I'm With Lucy, and I was curious what I'd think about it upon rewatching. I first saw it on some cable channel, and I watched it over the phone with a friend. Not long after that, she was diagnosed with cancer, and she died by the end of the year, so that marathon phone call with us watching a movie together was probably one of the last "good" times before I had to call her in the hospital and she was loopy from pain meds. And that tends to shape my memories of the movie. But I found that I did still like it, and there was a lot I missed from having been chatting on the phone while watching. I don't know why this one didn't get a wider release or make a bigger splash. I'd been aware it was being made, but then the first I heard of the finished product was when it came on some cable channel on a Saturday afternoon.

The gist of it is that in a framing story, Lucy (Monica Potter) is trying to persuade a friend to accept a blind date setup by telling her that she may not know what her type really is if she only dates men she chooses that she thinks are her type. By taking blind dates, you get a broader variety and may discover that your type isn't what you thought it was, so you'd never meet the right person without blind dates. And it worked for her. After a really nasty breakup, her sister made her go on a lot of blind dates, and now she's about to marry one of those men. Then we see all her blind dates from that time, but instead of seeing them in sequence, we see them in parallel -- we compare the first meetings of all of them, and then skip around to see various moments of the ups and downs instead of seeing an entire date from start to finish before moving on to the next one. That structure lends a bit of suspense to the usual romantic comedy format. We know one of them worked out, but we don't know which one, and because there are ups and downs with all the first dates, you can't judge by how the first date went, and all the men were at around the same level of fame at that time, so you can't even go with the idea that the most famous one will win. There's John Hannah as a recently divorced scientist, Gael Garcia Bernal as a sexy playwright, Anthony LaPaglia as a macho ex-pro baseball player, Henry Thomas as an uptight businessman who's had a really bad day, and David Boreanaz as a wealthy surgeon. It isn't until near the end of the movie that we start to see what happened after the first dates for some of these relationships and get closer to figuring out which one she's marrying -- and which one she wants to set her friend up with.

And I did like this movie a lot, even removing my personal emotional context from it. As someone who has been on a lot of blind dates, it's fun seeing just how bad they can be, and how what starts badly can end well, and how what starts well can go downhill. Even a bad date with someone who was totally wrong could have its merits and teach something about relationships and people. I enjoyed the sense of suspense that had me truly wondering almost to the end how it would turn out, but with the reassurance that it did work out, so I didn't have to worry about someone trying to upend the genre by having things go wrong entirely.

I wonder why Monica Potter didn't become a bigger star. She was really likable in a few extremely obscure romantic comedies and I think has done a few TV roles (wasn't she in The Practice for a while?), and she's got a nice mix of girl-next-door and snark. I also wonder why we don't see more of Henry Thomas. He makes a great romantic comedy leading man in both this (although the "leading man" is shared among five people) and in I Capture the Castle, but although he works steadily he doesn't seem too worried about stardom. I guess he doesn't need to, since as a kid he had the lead role in one of the biggest movies of all time, and it seems like he mostly stays in Texas and works when he feels like it, which probably means a happier life and which means he's a rare case of a child star who hasn't imploded. I admit to feeling a little creepy about finding myself admiring the little kid from ET, even though it turns out he's not that much younger than I am.