She has Asperger’s.
That’s got to be it. Mary Horowitz, as played by Sandra Bullock in the new (alleged) romantic comedy All About Steve, must suffer from Asperger’s syndrome.
If I apply my own gross oversimplification of the condition from my recent review of Adam - that one has a reduced level of social interaction and similar lack of empathy for others - then it makes sense now. It makes sense that this Sacramento crossword constructor is fond of gaudy red boots and chatting with her pet hamster. It makes sense that she’s prone to spouting trivia and pouncing on unsuspecting blind dates like our eponymous cameraman before they even leave her parents’ driveway, and it makes sense that she then follows him from state to state after he bluffs his way out of said blind date.
In that case, Bullock gives a tremendously committed performance in her portrayal of a middle-aged woman with the hair of a Pomeranian and a mouth that won’t quit, a woman proud of how special and unique and utterly not normal she is, and a woman determined to make that man her own and not let any otherwise accurate allegations of stalking stand in her way, and in that case, it’s a pity to see Bradley Cooper play such a poorly communicative rascal who would lead her on with sarcasm and then straight-up denial as his California-based news team travels across most of the continental U.S. chasing leads on hostage situations, hurricanes, and the occasional flock of deaf children falling into a mine shaft outside of a state fair.
It’s all so inherently dramatic that it’s a relief to see Thomas Haden Church show up as a pompous newsman and help us all break a smile through so much adversity. After all, Mary does endure a tornado while on a road trip (bringing to mind Sandra Bullock’s own Forces of Nature and co-star D.J. Qualls’, um, Road Trip), and she does eventually fall down into said mine shaft where she finds one little deaf girl left behind, whom she calls “Little Deaf Girl” and proceeds to talk to incessantly, despite her little deaf disability. Katy Mixon shows up as a mere ditz to Bullock’s dysfunctional protagonist, bringing all of her own stupidity to the table but none of the sociopathic tendencies that really set Mary apart from every other bimbo fighting for the preservation of a baby’s third leg.
In fact, despite being named after the theme of the crossword puzzle that gets her fired, All About Steve is really all about Mary, in all her quirky, scary-thoughtful glory. Our gratitude goes to director Phil Traill and writer Kim Barker (of the similarly moving License to Wed) for keeping the focus where it belongs, on this timid and talkative woman. I mean, since this is a film all about Mary and her struggles to fight Asperger’s and find her one true love, we could probably see nominations for Bullock, Barker, and maybe even the movie itself (now that they have ten slots for Best Picture and all).
Because it is all about Asperger’s. Right?
William Goss lives in Orlando, Florida. But don’t hold that against him.