Kate Hudson, with her sunburst glow, has the slightly dazed loveliness of an actress who can warm up the gawkiest of scenes. At times, she reminds you of her mother, Goldie Hawn, except without the cuddly narcissism; she’s a Hawn who knows just when to stop holding her smile. That’s a good thing, too, since How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days looks virtually designed to be a guilty pleasure, the sort of bad-romantic-comedy-of-the-week that can make you ticklish with embarrassment simply to describe it.
Eager to succeed in the kitty-clawed, makeover-crazed world of women’s magazines, Andie (Hudson), a tender yet ambitious how-to columnist, brainstorms an idea that is just sassy enough to get her editor’s juices flowing. She’ll find some poor sucker to date, behave so obnoxiously that he dumps her within 10 days, and then write a cover story for Composure magazine that’s a cautionary catalog of all the things that modern women do to drive men away. At a bar, Andie meets Ben (Matthew McConaughey), an advertising executive who thinks he’s God’s gift, and she loses no time turning herself into the clingiest of moonstruck girlfriends.
Playing Andie as a make-believe pain, Hudson coos, she whines, she baby-talks, she spreads teddy bears around McConaughey’s apartment, she begs him to buy a soda during the climax of a Knicks play-off game – and then pleads with him to go back and make it a diet soda. (Final circle of hell: She drags him to couples therapy.) Hudson has the unenviable task of pretending to act like a callow, manipulative girly-girl in a movie that mistakes contempo chick signifiers for actual behavior. The wonder of it all is that the more annoying Andie gets, the more fun it is to watch Hudson flaunt and deconstruct the cliché mannerisms that couldn’t, deep down, look more wrong on her.
You’d think this would be gimmick enough, but the filmmakers have another contrivance up their sleeves. In order to win an account with the world’s biggest diamond distributor, Ben, you see, has made a bet – yes, a bet, like the one in ”She’s All That” – that he can get any woman to fall in love with him. Can Andie make him hate her before he makes her love him?
With its ungainly double-deception premise, ”How to Lose a Guy” feels like it was made out of two connect-the-dots drawings laid haphazardly on top of one another. Halfway through, the Andie-as-irritant routine is all but dropped so that the two can visit Ben’s ”genuine,” earthy family on Staten Island and fall in love for real. The better version of this movie would have shown them becoming secretly entranced all the way along. That said, there may be a reason that we aren’t getting the better version of this movie. From ”Sweet Home Alabama” to ”Two Weeks Notice,” it’s now part of the design of our romantic comedies that they be composed of equal parts saccharin and cheese. Like the magazine Andie writes for, they’re blithe packages designed to reduce love to just another consumer product. Why should the formula change when moviegoers are buying?