Mocking women is the wrong way for ''Someone Like You'' to entertain a female audience, says Lisa Schwarzbaum

By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated April 04, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Ashley Judd, Hugh Jackman, ...
  • Movie

Why do some chick flicks make chicks sick?

”Bridget Jones’s Diary” was a delightful and clever take on the mad, mod lives of attractively neurotic single women in search of salvageable single men, and I’m hoping it will be a delightful and clever movie. (Check with me in two weeks; it opens April 13.)

”Animal Husbandry,” on the other hand, was a forced and shallow book about the same self help book buying population, so I shouldn’t be surprised that ”Someone Like You,” as the movie adaptation that opens this weekend has been numbingly renamed, is likewise bland and pointless. There’s no plot to speak of, unless you count an hour and a half of waiting for a pretty, uninteresting woman (Ashley Judd) to realize that while she’s been moping about being dumped by a handsome, uninteresting cad (Greg Kinnear), the right handsome, uninteresting reformed cad (Hugh Jackman) has been right in front of her face all along.

Jane Austen knew how to make hay out of such amusingly self involved ignorance, but novelist Laura Zigman is no Austen, and director Tony Goldwyn (”A Walk on the Moon”) finds nothing cinematic with which to redecorate the blank walls of this old premise.

Aside from the pleasures of admiring the stars’ coordinated wardrobes, aside from the opportunity to fantasize about the glamorous Manhattan world in which the characters live — Kinnear plays Ray, a producer at a TV talk show; Judd and Jackman are Jane and Eddie, bookers on the same show whose jobs it is to fill the guest chair with celebrities and other ratings boosting ”gets” — there’s nothing appealing about this chick -ish romantic comedy. ”Someone Like You” has only one boorish theory in its head, a thesis invented by Jane in the midst of her dumpee misery. It goes like this: Men are bulls and women are cows. And bull dumb men easily become bored, so they’re always grazing, looking for new cows. That’s why old cows get dumped.

The barnyard terminology is intentionally provocative, of course; calling a woman a cow is a punishable offense in enlightened office corridors, only here the insult is subverted by having the theory dreamed up by a woman in the first place. But somewhere between the time ”Animal Husbandry” was first published and now, this bull and cow stuff has even lost its ability to affront. Instead, the notion feels old. Leathery. Movies marketed to women that ”commiserate” sister to sister about how crummy men can be (never mind that not a hair straggles out of place while Judd, as Jane, bawls about her beau’s treachery) feel no less out of style than movies aimed at guys about the scary, nutty voraciousness of women (”Saving Silverman,” for example).

”Waiting to Exhale” and ”The First Wives Club” drew audiences of girlfriends out for a night together, hooting with recognition, but I can’t imagine gaggles of women, of any age, nodding Amen to ”Someone Like You.” On the other hand, I can imagine women gasping at the sight of Ellen Barkin, spackled and unnaturally tan, in the hideous role of a TV talk show host. The role is a harsh caricature, and a thankless one — that of a voracious, no longer youthful woman who is used to trading on a certain sexual aggressiveness and isn’t going relinquish her stiletto heels or tight skirts. The audience is meant to laugh at such a vulnerable target, or perhaps pity her as the oldest cow in the pen. Either way, the barnyard stinks.

Someone Like You

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 93 minutes
  • Tony Goldwyn