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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

She’s Out of My League (review)

Necessary Reassurance

I must say that it’s awfully generous of Hollywood, after engaging in a decades-long campaign to winnow down the image of what it’s acceptable for a woman to look like if she expects to be received in polite company — or any kind of company at all, in fact — to finally acknowledge the impact this has had on real people.

Not on the women! Oh dear god no. Everyone knows that fat ugly chicks aren’t real people! No, the impact on the men. Men — ordinary plain schlubby unkempt men — have for so long been bombarded with images of impossibly physically perfect women that they’re beginning to doubt themselves. Even after all the reassurances they’ve received, via everything from Maxim to The Man Show to every other sitcom featuring an overweight idiotic jackass of a man with a slender beautiful wife, that they absolutely deserve a supermodel, regular schmoes find themselves obsessively pondering the notion: Am I worthy of such a goddess? The damage to men’s self-esteem is incalculable. Won’t someone — excuse me, I’m getting all choked up here — think of the boys?
Fortunately She’s Out of My League is thinking of the boys and their fragile, fragile egos. While also at the same time treating them like drooling, hormonal Neanderthals incapable of rational thought. But the boys won’t notice that — in fact, they’ll be celebrating this obnoxious movie — because it soothes them, tells them to just relax, of course you are worthy of that ridiculously hot Barbie doll of a sexpot. Of course you are.

There are, it’s true, a very few aspects of League to be commended. One is that drop-dead gorgeous Molly (Alice Eve: Stage Beauty) notices dorky-cute Kirk (Jay Baruchel: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist) because he treats her like an actual human being instead of a blowup doll when they meet at the airport security checkpoint where he works as a TSA guard and she’s hurrying to catch a plane. While every other person-with-a-penis slavers all over her and subjects her to government-sanctioned harassment — because she’s hot, see, and what else is a man with a modicum of authority supposed to do, just let her go on her way? — Kirk is polite and respectful, and not even in a way calculated to make her notice him. Astonishing!

While Kirk may see Molly as more than just a collection of random titillating body parts — swelling breasts, pouty lips, slender feet in fuck-me shoes — this is not how screenwriters Sean Anders and John Morris (who together wrote NBT: Never Been Thawed) and director Jim Field Smith introduce her. She’s got her own portable field of slo-mo and wind-machine as she strolls into the airport, and I suppose this is meant to be part of a joke, that the audience should see her as outrageously, fuckable hot and then be surprised when she turns out to be an actual person after all. (Fat ugly chicks may not be real people, but hot women aren’t either. They just get more unwanted attention from the men who don’t see them as human.)

In fact, the entirety of League seems constantly amazed, treating its own plot as a huge mystery: “Can you believe this bombshell can stand to be in the same room as this dork?” it appears to be asking — you can almost feel the movie shaking its head in bewilderment — as Molly and Kirk proceed to embark upon an otherwise normal dating relationship. “It feels like the universe is out of tilt,” one friend of his exclaims at this state of affairs. What’s worse, the film doesn’t have as much respect for Kirk as he has for Molly. Kirk is an object of derision both within the context of the story — his supposed friends and even his family treat him like dirt — and outside it: League’s own amusement at the sheer novelty of a man being able to treat a woman like a person never wears off.

Men should be insulted by this. Though I suppose it’s nothing to the humiliation a man should expect were he to treat a fat ugly chick like a person.


MPAA: rated R for language and sexual content

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • So, Kirk ends up having no personally redeeming qualities in in the end?

    I had hoped that the obnoxious POV presented by his friends in the trailer was intended to be deconstructed under their noses in this film by the girl and guy acting essentially normal but still getting along and the jerk friends never understanding why… sort of like a ‘take that’ to people who only think appearances matter, but I guess I was hoping for too much.

    I’ll guess I’ll skip this one after all.

  • Martin

    I hate it when I’m right sometimes.

    I almost had hopes that this film would be good but it turns out my cynicism was proved worth trusting as usual.

  • TempestDash, I think that IS the IDEA, but the movie is too busy succumbing to stupid romantic comedy cliches (such as, as someone else put it, the “break-up-to-make-up” third act nonsense — which it has already enacted at the halfway mark, by the way) for that to be particularly obvious.

    As for the review, I sort of disagree with the first paragraph. While I admit, the schlubby dude who gets the girl is not “the road less traveled” when it comes to current comedies, I feel like it’s being dismissed as bad on that basis alone. If the genders were switched, but the film was otherwise identical (same script), would those same criticisms apply?

    I also didn’t think the characters were really bemoaning their supposed status as “5”s and “6”s. I didn’t feel like Kirk wished he was something other than a 5, just that he’s surrounded by people like Cam, and he’s worried that the disparity will screw him over. And (mild spoilers ahead) even at that, I thought it was more relevant that in the end, the idea is that looks aren’t important, and that it makes Molly just as uncomfortable as it does Kirk that Kirk is imagining the impending break-up in his head at every second.

    That said, the jokes just aren’t very funny, and Kirk’s friends are kinda obnoxious.

  • MaryAnn

    So, Kirk ends up having no personally redeeming qualities in in the end?

    No, he does. But the movie thinks that makes him worthy of being the butt of its jokes.

    If the genders were switched, but the film was otherwise identical (same script), would those same criticisms apply?

    There’s no way in hell that if the genders were switched, this would be anything near the same movie. Gender is too loaded with so much extraneous bullshit in our culture.

  • I say this movie needs an instant remake with Gabourey Sidibe as the TSA worker and Isaiah Mustafa (the guy from the Old Spice) commercials.

    If it still works when gender-flipped like that then I can buy it.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    You’re right, there’s no way this would be the same movie if the genders were switched. In fact, I doubt such a movie will be made in our lifetime. What, studly guy falls for frumpy chick? In the current scenario, they try to go for cheap laughs with the premise that a beautiful woman could go for a dork just because he’s nice to her and doesn’t appear intimidated by her looks.

    Switch it around and what do you get? The assumption would be that the only reason he’s interested is because of lots of sex. Men and women objectify each other–that’s not the issue. We also value physical beauty, and moreso in women than in men–that’s been the case in every culture known throughout all time, right or wrong. That’ll never change either and that’s not so much the problem, although I do get tired of *every* female character on TV looking like a supermodel. It gets tiresome because its so manipulative.

    But the message here seems to be that a beautiful woman just might be interested in a nice guy who is average looking. But we don’t even *joke* that a handsome guy would go for a plain Jane. No way! No guy would ever do that because all guys are just morons interested in titty bars and slinky bimbos, God forbid a guy be interested in a real silicon-free woman. I try not to take idiotic comedies too seriously, really I do, but good grief. Enough already! I wish we could find a way to celebrate physical beauty without obsessing about it. As it stands it seems were just too shallow for that.

  • MaryAnn

    It gets tiresome because its so manipulative.

    And it’s also untrue. Plenty of men find women who don’t look like supermodels attractive. But you’d never know that from watching Hollywood movies.

    As I just pointed out in the Gabby Sidibe thread, there’s no question that we are strongly driven by what we find attractive. But Hollywood has an extremely narrow definition of “attractive” that does not mesh with the experiences of real people in the real world.

  • I say this movie needs an instant remake with Gabourey Sidibe as the TSA worker and Isaiah Mustafa (the guy from the Old Spice) commercials.

    Funny you should mention that. After all, there’s a movie MaryAnn reviewed back in 2006 whose premise is not quite the same but similar…

  • JadeFox

    There’s also another movie that comes remotely close to the whole Hot Guy Falls For Ugly Fat Chick Senario: The Truth About Cats and Dogs. And even then Jeanne Garafalo was only Hollywood Ugly and Hollywood Chubby.

    I haven’t seen this one but yeah, the premise while, not new, might have been good in the right hands. I’ll definitely skip this.

  • Knightgee

    Men — ordinary plain schlubby unkempt men — have for so long been bombarded with images of impossibly physically perfect women that they’re beginning to doubt themselves.

    Isn’t one of the conflicts in the film that he has no confidence because she used to date a guy the film deems to be her “equal” in attractiveness and this unnerves him because he doesn’t think he can compete? Not to minimize the experience of women, who receive far more media bombardment daily that gives them complexes about their image than men do, but they most certainly aren’t the only ones that are made to feel bad when they don’t fit into a particular physical mold.

  • Even if bullcrap would get in the way, I don’t see why, in theory, anyway, the parts of the script primarily concerning Kirk and Molly couldn’t have been made with the genders flipped (with the exception of the “stain” and ball-shaving jokes, which would obviously have to be altered, at least on the surface).

  • RogerBW

    Knightgee: yup, since cosmetics sales to women flattened out in the late 1990s, it’s been time to make men just as insecure about their appearances as the women were supposed to be.

    I can’t buy into the premise of this film because I have trouble finding any sort of sympthetic feeling with the male protagonist – who’s apparently so bound up by what his “friends” think of him and by conventional standards of attractiveness-apartheid – that he’s prepared to contemplate dumping this person who seems to be everything he wants in a partner…

    Does the film deal with Molly’s thoughts at all? Or is this just another case of woman as black box, press the right buttons and the candy comes out?

  • AlsoKT

    While every other person-with-a-penis slavers all over her and subjects her to government-sanctioned harassment — because she’s hot, see, and what else is a man with a modicum of authority supposed to do, just let her go on her way? — Kirk is polite and respectful, and not even in a way calculated to make her notice him. Astonishing!

    So, wait, he is not an asshole, and not a Nice Guy, but a real, honest-to-cheeses, lowercase nice guy? And he gets the girl?! Surely not! Ah, such a fantasy world these Hollywood types create for us.

  • Does the film deal with Molly’s thoughts at all?

    The film covers both Molly’s thoughts on this, and another woman’s. (Mild spoilers.) At the end, trying to get some information that will convince Kirk to de-board a flight to Branson, one of his buddies tracks down his own ex in the airport and asks her why she dumped him. She replies that he was already imagining all the break-ups in his head, and eventually it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Then, the three guys convince Molly to go talk to him by informing her that they’ve realized Kirk’s personality makes him a 10.

  • MaryAnn

    Even if bullcrap would get in the way, I don’t see why, in theory, anyway, the parts of the script primarily concerning Kirk and Molly couldn’t have been made with the genders flipped

    I didn’t say it couldn’t be made, just that it would be a very different film. In the same way that switching, say, the races of the protagonists in a movie about racial politics would make a movie very different.

    So, wait, he is not an asshole, and not a Nice Guy, but a real, honest-to-cheeses, lowercase nice guy?

    He’s very much a doormat in a lot of ways — which is part of the definition of the Nice Guy — but he lacks that sense of entitlement and the passive-aggression that Nice Guys have. Yeah, for the most part, he’s a genuine nice guy. But that’s part of why he’s the butt of the jokes of the movie itself.

    Does the film deal with Molly’s thoughts at all?

    A bit. Not much. Not enough to make her an interesting character. Not that anyone’s really very interesting here.

  • Erik Goodwyn

    MJ said: “Plenty of men find women who don’t look like supermodels attractive. But you’d never know that from watching Hollywood movies.”

    That is so true! I think most men really don’t care much for supermodels–meaning 5’11” 105 lbs. The research on attractiveness tells a totally different story. Men like curviness cross culturally–waist:hip ratios of about .7 is usually preferred, and weight is rarely an issue. Other preferences are symmetry, large eyes and small chins, proportionally longer legs (though actually shorter stature is preferred), prominent and developed breasts (that’s no surprise), narrow shoulders, clear skin–nowhere does any of this say “stick thin supermodel”. Evolutionary psychologists think all these preferences are linked to the fact that women who display these characteristics have higher levels of estrogen, low mutation load, and are more likely to be able to successfully reproduce, hence the biological preference.

    All of this translates into the fact that there are about a zillion ways a woman can be attractive without fitting into the Hollywood mould. I think men sometimes drool over the Hollywood ‘beauties’ because for the most part men aren’t all that picky and just like women in general.

    I remember there was a lot of stir caused by the actress in “paranormal activity” because she *wasn’t* a supermodel clone. There were lots of men who argued that she was very attractive despite this.

    As an aside, they’ve done a lot of work on male attractiveness too, not surprisingly, the markers found attractive are related to the physical effects of testosterone–square jaw, broad shoulders, narrow hips, muscular physiques, etc. Shocker, I know.

  • I remember there was a lot of stir caused by the actress in “paranormal activity” because she *wasn’t* a supermodel clone. There were lots of men who argued that she was very attractive despite this.

    Well, she was attractive. And she was far more believable in her attractiveness than a similar character in Open Water who seemed more like something out of a computer template than a real person.

    And even before that movie came along, it was not unusual for surveys in the late 1990s to show American men responding more to the “girl next door” looks of a young Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts than the classic “blonde Aryan bombshell that we’re supposed to like” beauty of a Pamela Anderson. Not that Ms. Anderson isn’t attractive, too, but not everybody wants a Pamela Anderson.

    But then it has always seemed to be in Hollywood’s interests to stomp us all into little boxes and then tell us what we’re supposed to like rather than react to suggestions in regard to what we already like.

  • Shadowen

    I’m…I’m getting something from a much better version of this movie. I’m picking up the “quiet drama scene” that makes almost every non-quiet-drama-movie great. Yes, yes, the vision is coming quite clearly…

    The real problem in this much better film is that Kirk is not really worried that she’s so much more attractive than he is. It’s that he’s quite aware of what first attracted her to him: he was polite and respectful and professional with her. He treated her as a person, when literally no one else did. And he’s worried that she’s settling for “good enough” because he’s the only person who’s ever both treated her like a person and shown interest in a romantic/sexual relationship. In short, he’s not worried that she’s so much “better” than him–he honestly thinks she is, but that’s not the issue. He thinks that despite her deserving so much better, she’s with him only because he’s the only boyfriend she’s had who treats her like she deserves.

    When she finally confronts him on the weird bullshit he’s been pulling, he explains this to her, waiting for the revelation to light up her eyes, and she goes, “…you really don’t see the contradictory premises in that argument, do you?”

    …hrm. I could see the scene in my head, but apparently I’m not as good a writer as I think I am, because reading that again that’s shit.

  • Victor Plenty

    Shadowen, even the best writers often produce shit on the first draft (which is why every writing class hammers relentlessly on the concept of revising and rewriting) but nevertheless, I find your ideas intriguing, and wish I could hope to see some version of them, no matter how poorly written, in this movie.

  • I not quite sure whether you’ve seen the movie or not based on what you’re saying, Shadowen, but what you described happens in the movie. And she acknowledges it, eventually.

  • I was an extra on this movie (2 seconds of screen time in the hockey scene – yes! ;-> ).

    The script is not brilliant, but I didn’t think it was complete dreck either. Frankly, it strongly makes the point that if you are attracted to X, you need to keep talking to him/her rather than listen to what your “friends” are telling you. Also, confidence matters.

    There are many, many odd things in the script, like Molly’s former job. But, on the other hand, as much as Kirk’s family and some of his friends should have been taken out and shot, I liked much of the stuff with his family, and I liked much of the stuff with Nate. I even generally believed his relationship with his jerky ex-girlfriend until the end. Kirk wasn’t that much of a schlemiel.

    I think the script might have originally been more slapstick (beyond the dog scene, the “manscaping” and the inevitable chase scene in the airport). There was a very long stunt shot for HOURS in the hockey game that was never used.

    I have to say, in real life, Jay Baruchel is better looking than he is in the movie. Alice Eve is very good-looking too, and was (is still?) dating someone breath-takingly gorgeous – Rufus Sewall. Hard to pay proper attention on set that afternoon! ;->

  • I don’t get it. Is Jay Baruchel supposed to be ugly or something? Because I don’t see it.

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