We’ve not had a good hate-watch for a while, so How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days arrives bang on time to provide a fix of absolutely awful cinema. There’s a certain kind of rom-com that gets the rom wrong and doesn’t even bother with the com. Donald Petrie’s Manhattan-set, Toronto-filmed confection is so convoluted that even those seduced by the fancy clothes and expensive jewellery will be questioning their will to live by the time our lovers put aside their differences.
“Frost yourself,’ says Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey), a womanising advertising executive who takes a bet that he can make a woman fall for him in ten days; he’s talking about frosting her with diamonds. Meanwhile Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) takes a different wager; once she’s hooked a guy, can she dump him within the same allotted period? Her reward is to be allowed to write anything she wants for ladies mag Composure; we’re constantly told that Andie dreams of writing about international politics, although she seems to have zero interest in the subject. With so many expectations and assumptions, will Benjamin Barry ever gets round to ‘frosting’ Andie Anderson and find true happiness?
Lars von Trier’s Dogville ended memorably with the entire cast of character lined up against a wall and removed from this earth by a hail of machine-gun fire. It was a striking finale, and one I’d happily have seen transposed to the glamorous but idiotic characters portrayed here. Andie is the kind of magazine hack who discusses her next story over champagne with her editor while coddled in throw cushions, while Benjamin’s office looks more like a gentleman’s club. It’s hard to understand how the couple can actually fall for either other given that everything she says and does is a complete lie, and it’s pretty hard to see what Benjamin might see in her other than that they both have teeth like a velociraptor. With no sparks struck, it’s left to a odd-looking dog to do the heavy lifting, urinating on Ben’s pool table, urinating on his card-table, and generally peeing all over their inexplicably growing relationship.
A brief appearance by Kathryn Hahn briefly raises hopes of jokes or comedy, but the vapid central two-some suck the life out of any mirth; supposedly riding around Manhattan on his motorcycle, neither of them have a hair out of place, and that trait alone seems to serve as character development. As the credits roll, you feel that you’ve seen a film that discredits the idea of romance as something genuine that might happen to anyone normal. In the interests of romance, and cinema, it would probably be for the best if both film-makers and cast went and frosted themselves as a matter of some urgency.