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maryann johanson, ruining movies since 1997

The Ugly Truth (review)

The Pig and the Prig

I’m trying to figure out when “romantic comedies” turned into “let’s throw two really despicable and unpleasant people together in the first act so they can hate on each other through the second act until they magically fall in love in the third act.” Cuz this is a cinematic development to be despised, and possibly one to start a revolution to overthrow.
I’m trying to figure out what kind of self-hating circle jerk is involved on the parts of three female screenwriters who collaborate to create one of the most horrid female protagonists since, well, The Proposal, and then go on to treat her in such an unforgivable way… while also being so easy and tolerant of their pig of a “hero.” Cuz this is an antifeminist development to be despised. Not that women writers must always create likeable female characters, but even complicated, fucked-up female characters deserve to be treated fairly by their creators.

Why, it’s almost as if Nicole Eastman and the team of Karen McCullah Lutz and Kirsten Smith (The House Bunny, Ella Enchanted) were taking their own distastefully retro advice. You know, the advice they not-so-subliminally slipped into The Ugly Truth: If women are romantically unhappy, it’s all their own fault for expecting too much from men, who are merely simple, beastlike creatures, after all. Women should just let men be men. But women should not expect the same courtesy from men — oh no. While women are letting men be who they are, women must be what men want them to be: if men want to fuck Playboy bunnies in tubs of cherry Jell-O, then a woman has to become a fuckable Playboy bunny with Jell-O at the ready.

Now, sure, it’s true that Gerard Butler’s (Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter & Under the Hood, RocknRolla) Mike is — you’ll be shocked to learn — a condescending, misogynistic asshole only because he’s a deeply emotional guy who’s smarting, way down inside his itty bitty little boy self, from an unhealed broken heart that damaged him so badly that, gosh, he may never recover. But hey, he’s a guy: we have to expect this of him! The Ugly Truth is awfully tolerant of Mike’s peccadilloes, even down to his anti-woman, anti-romance, pro-random-fucking ravings becoming a huge hit on Sacramento morning television. Mike is, we’re meant to see, loose and laid back and charming and just an all-around regular guy who’s been burned. Awwww. And he’s only tellin’ it like it is, anyway (even if he does sorta learn a teeny weeny bit later on that maybe he’s not entirely right about women, and what men want from women). Anyone can see that.

Katherine Heigl’s (Knocked Up) Abby, on the other hand… She’s Mike’s morning-show producer, and though she’s ostensibly an adult, I can’t recall a more childish woman onscreen since, well, perhaps Heigl’s own atrocity 27 Dresses from last year. She lets herself be completely undermined not only by her male boss but her male colleagues and her male underlings. She’s incapable of asserting herself in the least bit, even when it’s a matter of some personal necessity. She’s petulant, uptight, anal, and intensely, profoundly annoying. But are all her weird idiosyncracies allowed by the film as symptomatic of her own heartbreak or hurt or romantic disappointment? Of course not! The script as well as director Robert Luketic (21, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!) are entirely unforgiving to Abby. When Mike brands her a “psycho aggressive freak” and “desperate” for having the audacity to ask out a new neighbor she finds attractive (Eric Winter: TV’s Moonlight and Viva Laughlin), does Mike turn out to be wrong in his assessment? Not at all. Mike’s a pig, but he’s got women all over him. Abby’s just sad and lonely.

And just when you think she cannot possibly get any more juvenile, surprise! Abby turns out to be a prude and a prig, too, and so must be taught a lesson. Twenty years ago, Meg Ryan’s Sally was faking an orgasm in a restaurant as a demonstration of her own sexual power. Today, Heigl must be humiliated in a scene that’s the flip side of that classic one by having control over her own body wrested away… for her own good, you understand. Oh, absolutely everyone will be talking about that scene, because it involves a sex toy, and because it confirms the notion that there’s just one thing that a bad-tempered shrew really needs…

As Abby might say, in her demure pseudo daintiness, What the F?


Watch The Ugly Truth online using LOVEFiLM’s streaming service.


MPAA: rated R for sexual content and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine

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