In the Brothers McMullen, Ed Burns’ much-hurrahed 1995 feature debut, a trio of beer-drinking Irish-Catholic adult sibs are from Mars (by way of Long Island, N.Y.) while the women in their lives are from Venus, or something, so what can the guys do but bumble along and pop more Buds? Still, McMullen shimmied on a lubricant of goodwill, in good part because the film was populated almost entirely by nonactors and was made cheaply — always a plus in marketing a success story.
The same slack, however, can’t be cut for She’s the One. Once again, Burns is writer, director, and star — this time he’s a bright but low-ambition cabdriver called Mickey Fitzpatrick — and once again he casts his real-life girlfriend, Maxine Bahns, as his wife, and McMullen buddy Mike McGlone as his brother. But this time, with big-studio weight behind him, Burns gets to add costly ornaments: In her first big role away from Friends, Jennifer Aniston plays the brother’s wife; Frasier‘s John Mahoney plays Fitzpatrick’s dad; and The Mask‘s Cameron Diaz plays — well, who really knows? She’s called Heather, she’s eye candy, and her unlikely swing-position role is just one example of what’s askew in Burns’ view of brotherhood as well as in his moviemaker thinking.
In this retilling of low-nutrient soil, Mickey impulsively marries Hope after a 24-hour courtship, only to discover — hey! — the two don’t know each other very well. (Hope is a bartender, but only after they’re hitched and living in her tiny Greenwich Village apartment does she tell her husband that what she really wants to do is go to school in Paris. Excusez-moi.) Mickey’s brother, an obnoxious stockbroker, refuses to have sex with his own hungry, equally high-powered wife but meanwhile is conducting an affair with Heather, who’s also a swanky businesswoman, but who put herself through college as a call girl (an unnecessary and hostilely employed detail, by the way). Oh, and Heather is also Mickey’s ex-fiancee. The brothers, meanwhile, receive oddball advice from their old man, who calls his sons ”girls.” As in McMullen, Mom splits. Tch, women!
As before, Burns sneakily gives himself the most likable role, turning on the shambling charm. But this time, in the presence of a prime-time star like Aniston and a true pro like Mahoney, amateurs McGlone and Bahns are done no favors by the loyalty of their indulgent director. (Diaz is lost in a Lancome world all her own. Businesswoman? Hooker? Either way, she’s impeccably made-up.) More serious, though, is that this time, the writing is an awkwardly constructed procession of sometimes boorish tete-a-tetes between two-dimensional characters — about vibrators, about brotherhood, about sex, and again about brotherhood — that lead nowhere. In the end, we never know why anyone is the one for anyone. And this qualifies as a filmmaking problem, at least for us here on Earth. C-