One of the all time worst movies I have ever had to sit through was 2007’s “Lars and the Real Girl.” It was so bad it made me bilious. This one comes close. I wanted to vamoose within the first 15 minutes.
Mary Horowitz (Sandra Bullock) creates crossword puzzles (I really wasn’t going to do this but that’s apparently called a “cruciverbalist”). She is also incredibly antisocial but not in the way that she won’t talk with anybody. To the contrary, she never shuts up. I actually knew someone like this before. Lots of men think that women talk too much but this woman had some sort of a disease in that she wouldn’t shut up. I was at a party with her at Pickfair once (she was the date of a friend, more than a date, really, but that’s beside the point) and, naturally, she talked a lot. But there was a program, a stand-up comedian. This really set her off. She kept talking to me about the stand-up during his routine. Nonstop. Almost without taking a breath. It was maddening.
And that’s the way Mary is. Terminally dateless, her parents set her up with a good-looking guy, Steve (Bradley Cooper, from “The Hangover”). She falls for him hook, line and sinker. But she goes so overboard she tries to rape him on the first date before he can pull away from the curb in front of her parents’ house, where she lives. He invents a reason to get away from her but she’s hooked and basically becomes a stalker of Steve, which comprises the rest of the movie.
Steve is a cameraman for Hartman Hughes (Thomas Haden Church), an egotistical TV reporter, who encourages Mary, just to get Steve’s goat. They go on the road, and Mary pursues.
God, this is awful. It’s probably not much of a surprise because it’s written by Kim Barker, who was responsible for “License to Wed,” which defined “silly.” This is much worse than “License to Wed.” Directed by Phil Traill, a TV director, it has vignettes that are as ludicrous as the ones in “License to Wed.”
While it’s possible that the concept was to produce a movie with a moral with which you should be comfortable, that is, know who you are and just try to be yourself. If that’s the case, the result completely drops the ball. For one thing, this is a film with a protagonist with whom nobody could like, admire or sympathize. It’s extremely difficult to build up any empathy for Mary. Thus, the audience is condemned to sit through over an hour and a half, hoping that Steve can get away from Mary.
Another problem is that while this movie purports to be about someone who is abnormally intelligent and her inability to deal with people of lower intellect, this identical theme was covered in last year’s “Smart People.” The difference was that the smart people in that movie weren’t presented as goofy. They were smart and had difficulty dealing with people not as smart but they were still normal people. Here, Mary is presented as basically crazy just because she’s smarter. That’s an unfair presentation. Just because someone is smarter than others, or different, doesn’t make that person as wacky and devoid of common sense as Mary.
It’s hard not to put the blame squarely on Bullock for this debacle. She not only stars but she is the producer. I have never found her believable in a romantic lead. Even so, Church and Cooper give good performances, despite the deplorable script and concept.