The sad reality is that there is actually only one romantic comedy. The couple meets, they’ve both got zany friends, they fall in love to a montage, they break up by being morons, they’re depressed to a montage, they get back together (usually with help from those zany friends). It’s really a sub-genre of documentary film making if you think about it, since it’s so true to life. Why, I’ve already had three montages just today, and my zany friends and I just couldn’t be happier, what with all the hilarity ensuing.
She’s Out of My League stars Jay Baruchel as Kirk Kettner, a dorky TSA security screener who sticks out to Alice Eve’s Molly McCall by being a really nice guy. “Really nice guy” is code for being the only person with a penis who doesn’t do something worthy of a restraining order to her on her way through security. They hit it off, Kirk can’t believe his good fortune, neither of their sets of respective (and don’t forget zany) friends understand why the hell she is lowering her pretty little size zero ass to his scrawny level. From that point, the film is firmly locked into the standard route and doesn’t deviate in the slightest.
Molly’s a party planner, because of course she is, that’s one of only three jobs that a female romantic comedy lead can hold. She was a lawyer but she quit that career in order to follow her dreams and do something she was really good at. Ok, screenwriters, let’s just clear something up for you. Being the person that your sorority sends to buy chips, vodka and red cups every Thursday isn’t the basis for a career in the real world. It just means you’re the one who has a car.
The funny thing is that the script is so incompetently written that it actually manages to acquire a entire subtext that I doubt is intentional in the least. Kirk’s family and friends are blue collar, lower middle class slobs who have no respect for education, play hockey in the basement, go swimming in tidy whiteys, plan NASCAR themed weddings and think flying to Branson is the height of chic get aways. Molly’s friends and family are highly educated snobs who speak a little bit of French, visit Europe on occasion, have condos in the city and are always impeccably dressed. The disconnect between this couple has nothing to do with their different levels of attractiveness and everything do with class, and the film is too obtuse to do anything but reinforce that that’s ok. On their first date, Kirk is mistaken repeatedly for one of the waiters. Note that Molly’s parents stick their noses up at Kirk, not until they realize that the pair are really in love, but until they are misled into thinking he’s a pilot. Kirk only manages to go be with Molly once he rejects his family entirely and of course ends up in piloting lessons, because of course he wants to be something more.
In a sense, it’s a complete inversion of the fairy tale cliche in which a handsome prince takes the modest peasant girl and shows her his wonderful castle where they then get married. The only difference here is in the genders and in the blatant way the film pisses down its leg on ordinary sorts of people, you know, the ones who don’t get to be party planners and airline pilots.
The two leads actually do fine with their roles. Baruchel is suitably dorky and nervous, but manages a genuineness especially in the sweetness of his interplay with Alice Eve. For her part, Eve avoids bobbleheaded bimbo and manages to invest the character with more emotional depth and snarkiness than the script deserves. The problem is that these characters, while decently acted, have no real substance other than their basic outlines.
All that being said, it’s difficult to be all that critical of She’s Out of My League. It accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do. It’s just color by numbers film making. It’s not a good film by even the loosest interpretation of the word “good,” but at least it isn’t offensively stupid like When in Rome.
Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at www.burningviolin.com. You can email him here.