It’s really hard to even begin a review of a movie like What’s Your Number? without selfishly floating a few things out there, so bear this in mind as I try to figure out what, exactly, I saw:
- As a man in a household consisting of myself, a sister, and a mother, I’ve seen a ton of romantic comedies. I was practically raised on a diet of Audrey Hepburn and John Hughes, so I’d like to think that I know what works, what’s funny, and what’s romantic. I consider myself not dude-at-a-chickflick, but an unbiased judge of these things.
- As a frequent grocery shopper, I often catch glimpse of magazines like Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, the former being the magazine with the article that is the crux of this film. Other than learning a few overly-complicated methods to the male orgasm (hasn’t friction worked for centuries?), I’ve learned that a good amount of the magazine publishing industry relies on making women feel insecure about their looks, their weight, and how many men they have or haven’t slept with.
- As a human being, I can’t help but be sad (and a little angry) about how much money our society pumps into these industries. It seems like every other romantic comedy is an artless slice-of-“life” debating the merits of one relationship crisis article or another. He’s just not that into you? You’ve worn twenty-seven bridesmaids dresses but have yet to be the bride? You’ve slept with twenty dudes? Whatever. There are well over six billion people out there. Twenty isn’t a fraction; it’s a crumb.
But our biological clocks are ticking from the moment of conception, so I suppose it’s not all that unreasonable to feel pressure/begin panicking when, on the eve of thirty, no significant headway has been made towards our mutual goal of not dying alone. This, I suppose, is why I’m supposed to feel sympathy for the plight of Ally Darling (Anna Feris), the woman who has slept with twenty dudes and who is freaked out about the Marie Claire article (researched by a Harvard doctor, no less!) that says she’ll never find happiness.
This, of course, is absolute crap, but go along with it for a bit. In an effort to find her one true love, Ally decides to put off everything, including her sister’s (Ari Graynor) wedding, to track down her twenty ex-loves. Because a woman can’t be expected to do these things on her own, she turns to her neighbor Colin (Chris Evans) who, as the movie has it, knows how to find people. Of course, some people are right out. Colin, for one, since he’s a womanizer and would put her over her number. Julie, a girl she slept with in college, because she’s a dude now. Gerry, a puppeteer, because puppeteers are probably more interesting than divorced guys and Miami gynecologists. She’s really hoping to settle for two options, though: A Senate hopeful (Anthony Mackie) and the son of an incredibly rich guy (Dave Annable), neither of whom question her motives for looking them up again some 5 or 15 years after their last contact. Naturally, the one who’s right for her is right under her nose, having sex with every woman in Boston. Naturally, he comes to realize that she’s the only woman he’ll ever need to have sex with again.
I’d feel bad about spoiling the end of the movie were it not a bastardization of the same ol’, same ol’. The film’s every element is predictable. For example, if I told you that the black senatorial candidate was a Republican, would you be able to guess his sexual orientation? If I said that Ally had a “weird” hobby, would you guess which smokin’ hot bro suggests she make it her career? If I told you that the events of the film surround the wedding of her sister, would you be able to guess which character would grab a fretting Ally by the shoulders on that day to say “Go to him?”
If you can (heck, even if you can’t), it’s probably obvious that Ally’s not a person worth your interest. To the point, she seems like a terrible person, oddly infatuated with the idea of snatching money and power without earning either, to the point that she makes her sister’s wedding about her. None of this would be a problem were the situations comic in nature, but the movie can’t, at any point, decide if Ally is somebody we should be rooting for or somebody we should hate for being a slut, and Anna Ferris, once tabbed as one of the funniest women in Hollywood, can’t make anything about her stick. In a way, the movie’s funniest moment is when Ally’s father tells her to be herself. If she really followed through on that advice, she’d be a gibbering collection of lies she’s told men so she’d get laid.
But getting laid, as every romantic comedy would have you know, is terrible unless it’s with one partner, for the rest of your life. Last night at a Waffle House, I wound up having a conversation with the waitress about this movie. She was pretty drunk during it and couldn’t remember much, but she said “There was nothing wrong with her [Ferris]. A number’s a number. You should own it.” Her number was one. At this, the restaurant Awwwwed. Maybe someday romantic comedies will go back to being about nice women like the waitress at Waffle House, who fall in love with nice people and whose lives are complicated by more than magazine-issue stereotype. Until then, we’ll always have the rom-com slut. We’ll always have our insatiable appetite for slutshaming.
What’s Your Number? Directed by Mark Mylod. With Anna Faris (Ally Darling), Chris Evans (Colin Shea), Ari Graynor (Daisy Darling), Joel McHale (Roger), Blythe Danner (Ms. Darling), Andy Samberg (Gerry Perry), Anthony Mackie (Tom Piper), Dave Annable (Jack Adams), and Aziz Ansari (Jay). Released on September 30, 2011, by 20th Century Fox.