Critics really, really don’t like the new movie What’s Your Number?, in which a likable weirdo vows to get serious about life and stop sleeping around. My beloved Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it a D-, which strikes me as the cruelest grade of all. I saw the movie last night and kinda liked it, as did my row consisting largely of women. What’s Your Number? is far from great, despite the marvelous Anna Faris doing her best to serve up stale material in her fresh, offbeat, and occasionally uncomfortable manner. I loved Faris in The House Bunny and Smileyface, two movies far superior to What’s Your Number?, and am taken by her way of lingering over seeming throwaway lines. She’s at once the drowsiest and most perceptive person in the room.
There’s a scene in What’s Your Number? in which her hunky neighbor played by Chris Evans—whose muscles seem to be the most impressive evidence of his talent—ogles her boobs framed in a very low-cut red dress. In a response I’d bet the farm wasn’t in the script, she gives her chest a little shake that is both “I know, right?!” and “Grow up, loser.” She’s very good in What’s Your Number?, and I could watch the scene of her losing hold of her British accent in a bar on repeat, even as the movie saddles her with one pair of sexy little boy shorts after another. Couldn’t we just get one scene of the girl in pajama pants?
But a D-! It’s hard to find a review of the R-rated What’s Your Number? that doesn’t compare it to Bridesmaids or take the movie to task for not being as good. On the film review site Screen It!, Teddy Durgin wrote “I liked this movie the first time…when it was called Bridesmaids.” Zing! Except not really. Both movies share a backdrop of a wedding and feature women at loose ends.* Moving on. The trouble with these reviews is that most comedies—starring women, men, robots, dolphins—aren’t as good as Bridesmaids. Although the movie critic Leonard Maltin disagrees: ”As someone who—swimming against the tide—didn’t care for Bridesmaids, imagine my surprise to find another female-driven, female-written R-rated comedy so entertaining.” Imagine his surprise that while he didn’t find women funny in one movie, he did in another. Funny! Just because What’s Your Number? isn’t as shrewd or winning of a comedy as Bridesmaids shouldn’t effect Hollywood’s perception of whether audiences want to see complicated funny women who talk about their sex lives (and their professional and social and family and fantasy lives).
*All that said, What’s Your Number? and Bridesmaids do indeed begin with the exact same opening scene. You’ve seen it a dozen times before, but I’ll go ahead and describe it for you anyway: Our heroine wakes up, glances nervously at her still-sleeping bedmate, and tiptoes to the bathroom mirror. There she frantically runs a brush through her hair, whips on some makeup, and sneaks back into bed before sleepyhead wakes up. He does. Her eyes flutter open. He marvels over how beautiful she looks first thing in the morning. She flashes him a Who Me? smile. Now obviously both Anna Faris and Kristen Wiig already looked amazing in the opening shots of their movies. Their mascara wasn’t smeared, their skin wasn’t blotchy from last night’s booze, they still have shiny gloss on their lips. I get it—it’s the movies! Nobody actually wants to see the bloom of rosacea on a star’s cheeks. But if we’re forced to endure this cliche couldn’t someone in the makeup department fight for some runny eyeliner or dry lips?
What do you think moviegoers? Anybody else sheepishly surprised by their enjoyment of What’s Your Number? Does Chris Evans do it for you? Do you think there’s a danger in comparing all comedies written by and starring women to Bridesmaids from here on out? Do scenes of women waking up in full makeup bug?