Animal Attraction AKA Someone Like You
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Screenwriter: Elizabeth Chandler
Starring: Ashley Judd, Hugh Jackman, Greg Kinnear, Ellen Barkin, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Dent
Release details: 20th Century Fox, US 2001, 97mins
Full details: IMDb
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: 5 out of 10
On-screen and off, Hugh Jackman oozes charm and charisma from every last pore. On-screen, Ashley Judd is likeable and apparently perfect for the rom-com genre (rumours fly that she can be quite the little madam off-screen, but she's married to a good Scots boy, so I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt). But she's perky and peppy and other such words. She has that quality that Meg Ryan used to have but doesn't anymore. Yet, these two fine actors seem ill-fated when it comes to the whole rom-com genre, both of them faring far better in more action-based efforts.
The premise here is that Judd and Jackman play a couple of production staffers on a TV talk show, presented by Barkin's character. Having been jilted by her commitment-phobic boyfriend, Ray (Kinnear), Jane (Judd) writes an article for her best friend's magazine in which she poses as an agony aunt who offers a theory of human coupling based around the breeding habits of cattle. [Insert your own mad cow joke here.]
The theory catches on and she ends up becoming a columnist for the magazine, expounding her animal husbandry theory (Animal Husbandry being the working title of the movie). Naturally her best friend and room-mate, Eddie (Jackman) disagrees, preferring a more free-wheeling approach to the whole dating game. In fact, he's a bit of a male slut, but he's Hugh Jackman and he's cute and adorable and he walks around half-dressed a lot so the target female audience are pre-programmed to overlook this.
This is a rom-com, so we need not trouble ourselves with the plot much more; certainly, the writer hasn't. Like I said, Jackman and Judd are both likeable, attractive movie stars, but they are ill-served by a soulless and sloppy script which makes him seem shallow and her appear shrill and needy. Which then makes it difficult to understand what they see in each other, beyond the fact that the confines of the genre dictate their inevitable end. That, and the fact that they both end up in their underwear in each other's presence a few times, I suppose.
But if they're given little to work with, then your pity must be heaped upon Barkin and Kinnear - let's not forget that he's a former Oscar nominee and she's an Emmy Award winner, people - who are on a hiding to nothing, both having cartoonish caricatures rather than roles. Marisa Tomei seems to be carving out a nice niche for herself as a perpetually unlucky-in-love supporting player and she's probably the only actor on show not saddled with an uphill job in terms of character. Of course, she's on screen so little, it hardly matters.
There is barely a shred of originality in the entire enterprise and that it makes it hard for the audience to care about any of these buffoons. Of course, director Goldwyn (he was the bad guy in Ghost and, yes, is a scion of the Sam Goldwyn, the G in MGM) doesn't seem to care much for them either. There's no other way of explaining the light in which he allows his cast to be seen, or the fact that no rom-com cliché is left unturned. She even turns up at a New Year's party looking for him, à la When Harry Met Sally.
It's not a horrible film by any means. It's attractively shot with high studio production values, a big name cast and great locations. In a way it's a lot like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days: shallow but pretty. But it feels like someone sat down with five or six good films, picked the best bits from each of them and then tried to work a script around that. And that's the over-arching fault with the movie: it's utterly contrived, to the point that, when a sub-plot involving Jane's sister's struggle to start a family is introduced, it might as well have a flashing sign above it saying "Message: love is sometimes not enough, life can be hard".