Jane (Ashley Judd), the beleaguered romantic heroine of Someone Like You, has got a theory. It’s a brain boggling theory, one so revolutionary that I’m not even going to reveal it until halfway through this review. Jane, who works as a New York talent booker for a TV talk show, developed her theory after having a fling with Ray (Greg Kinnear), the program’s handsome new executive producer, who happened to be in the midst of a relationship with somebody else. Overnight, Jane and Ray became smitten. Ray even uttered the L word and asked Jane to move in with him.
But then he cut off the affair and scotched the cohabitation plan — this, despite the fact that Jane had told her landlord she was leaving her apartment (the Manhattan equivalent of a blood oath). Okay, now I’m ready to reveal the theory. Having been dumped in this cruel manner, Jane has come to the enlightened conclusion that men are like bulls and women are like cows. A man, you see, having sated his desire to mate with a ”new cow,” will inevitably abandon that same woman, who is now an ”old cow.” Men are driven, that is to say, by ”the biological urge to spread their seed.”
Stop the presses. Phone the editors of Cosmo and Maxim. Tell Carrie Bradshaw the news.
The new cow/old cow dithering of ”Someone Like You” is, indeed, the film’s idea of a ”Sex and the City” conceit, but on that infinitely superior show, the anthropomorphic cuteness would have been treated in a few quippy voice overs. Here, it’s the masochistic heart of the movie, complete with illustrative footage of actual cows (not sexy) and a mystery alter ego plot in which Jane, writing under the alias of a white bun haired ”Ph.D.” named Dr. Marie Charles, channels her theory into a men’s magazine where her friend (Marisa Tomei) is an editor. The theory catapults ”Dr. Marie” to stardom, making her a cult guru on the Oprah circuit.
Meanwhile, poor Jane is miserable, with no romantic prospects in all of New York but, apparently, the two biggest cads at work: Ray, who keeps hitting on her despite their messy history, and Eddie (Hugh Jackman), a commitment phobic stud whose loft Jane moves into after losing her own apartment.
Here’s another theory: Ashley Judd, Marisa Tomei, and Sandra Bullock have become the same person. In film after film, all three portray the postfeminist diva waif, that cuddly urban neurotic with sensible brown hair and a kind of topsy turvy, pixie yuppie exhibitionism (think Doris Day in the land of Victoria’s Secret), each of them desperate, in every scene, to look as adorable as she does vulnerable. In ”Someone Like You,” Judd plays a ”career gal,” but really, what she does is this: She beams, she broods, she sniffles, she throws a tantrum, she does a high school cheerleader routine.
Jackman, out from under his Wolverine facial hair, has a terse light charm, but ”Someone Like You” is the very definition of innocuous. It was originally called ”Animal Husbandry,” and while the producers were throwing away that title, they might have done well to chuck the movie along with it.