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maryann johanson, striking from a hidden base

All About Steve (review)

To: Sandy. Re: ‘Steve’

Memo to Sandra Bullock, star and producer of All About Steve: When people complain about how there aren’t enough roles for “older” women in Hollywood, I don’t think they were thinking that this was the solution. Plopping a 45-year-old actress such as yourself into a role clearly intended for, at best, a 23-year-old is a bizarre way to deal with the role shortage.
See, real women want to see some semblance of, you know, real women onscreen. But Steve goes way beyond the terrible plight afflicting Hollywood depictions of women, which typically are content to merely equate female careerism with romantic loneliness and sexual frustration and ownership of cats. But Mary, the Looney Tunes reject you play here, isn’t merely a sad chick with a one-day-a-week job that keeps her in kooky outfits and red leather boots. (Where does a chick find a job like that, anyway?) She’s an overgrown 12-year-old who talks to her hamster — because, as is always the case with these women, they have no women friends, like real women do, and so have only their pets to lament their patheticness to — and she still hasn’t realized that saying things such as “If society wants us to be normal, then normal we will have to be” are not things that 45-year-old women say, especially not to hamsters. Just-out-of-college women say that (see Post Grad). And it’s annoying when they do it, too. But at least it’s more understandable.

Then again, the fact that Mary has somehow managed to live decades of adult life without apparently doing any actual living contributes to the sense that she’s like Rain Man, only with extra sexual aggression. Was that intentional?

I’m sure it was fun, Ms. Bullock, to attack Bradley Cooper (The Hangover, Yes Man) like your Mary gets to do about five minutes into the flick. I mean, I don’t think I could have held off that long: he’s gorgeous. But, see, I’m joking: I wouldn’t really attack him, not literally attack. C’mon: what the fuck is wrong with you? No, seriously. Is this supposed to be cute? Is it supposed to be cute when Cooper’s news-cameraman Steve freaks out and makes up polite but clearly bullshit excuses to get out of your clutches, and so then you stalk him across the country because you don’t understand either how grownups behave or how we talk? What’s with the weird lack of socialization? Should we blame Mary’s parents for that? Was Mary locked in an attic from the time she was a toddler with no human interaction? (Or is this the second Asperger’s romance of the summer, after Adam?) Should we note that there are deeper problems with this family from the fact that Mary’s dad (Howard Hesseman: Martian Child, Teddy Bears’ Picnic) tells her mom (Beth Grant: Extract, Henry Poole Is Here) that if she ever wants to see any grandchildren — which is a stretch for 45-year-old Mary at this point anyway — she’s gonna have to burn those boots? This might be the most squick-inducing moment in the whole damn movie, which is a veritable cesspool of ick: Her father is comfortable saying out loud that his daughter is not, in his eyes, fuckable. Ugh.

And what’s the deal with those red boots, anyway? You know, Sandra, this is an indication of the special level of awfulness that is All About Steve: The characters are so ridiculous that I hate them, but at the same time the movie treats them so unfairly that I feel the need to defend them. (Though not in any way that makes the movie endearing, I hasten to add.) The script, by Kim Barker, keeps making reference to the boots as some sort of nightmare (as with Dad’s disgusting line mentioned above), as if she were walking about in public wearing dirty ragged old bunny slippers or something. And director Phil Traill lingers on the boots as if rubbernecking at a 50-car pileup. But the boots are genuinely cool and funky. Mary’s clearly got a sense of real style, in a way that anyone can see is unique yet not at all an indication of anything other than a willingness to be herself.

I know, I know: Hollywood would never make a movie about someone who was actually, genuinely, for-real weird. Mary is Hollywood-weird in the same way that Janeane Garofalo is Hollywood-ugly.

Ms. Bullock, you’re clearly not stupid. Not even like the way Mary is, who’s obviously brilliant but still an idiot. How could you possibly give an a-okay to such a dumb script, which doesn’t just hate its own protagonist but makes no damn sense at all, in story ways? How can Mary possibly make a living contributing one crossword puzzle per week to a local newspaper? (Having a snotty kid snidely ask her the same question does not dispense with the question.) If her stalkerish “All About Steve” puzzle — the one she submitted to her paper after her one date with Steve, which she clearly doesn’t recognize as disastrous and during which she is inexplicably smitten — is so “unprofessional,” as her editor says, and it is unprofessional, why does her editor publish it?

I know, I know: the unprofessional puzzle gets her fired from this one-day-a-week job, which sets the crosscountry stalking — and hence the plot — in motion. But maybe someone should have noticed that if it takes a pile of complete bullshit to get the story rolling, maybe this is a story that was not aching to be told.

Did anyone on the set notice that Bradley Cooper was looking as annoyed and embarrassed as Steve does on the screen? Or am I just projecting here, feeling protective of the poor guy?

Maybe, Sandy, you could have stuck to the satire side of the movie, all the cable news stuff with Thomas Haden Church’s (Aliens in the Attic, Imagine That) obnoxious field reporter — the one Steve serves as cameraman for — and the total fluffitude of what passes for news these days. It’s not outrageously funny or anything, but Church is a hoot and at least that side of the film tries. And maybe in that version of the movie, you’d have been able to avoid having to dumb yourself down and cute yourself up and pretend you aren’t an adult woman.


MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual content including innuendos

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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