Someone Like You
Screenplay : Elizabeth Chandled (based on the novel Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Ashley Judd (Jane Goodale), Greg Kinnear (Ray Brown), Hugh Jackman (Eddie Alden), Ellen Barkin (Diane), Marisa Tomei (Liz)
Someone Like You is about a decent woman who is burned by love, turns into a romantic cynic, then finds love again and ends the movie by disavowing her cynicism.
Ashley Judd stars as Jane Goodale, a casting agent who works for a local New York City talk show hosted by Diane (Ellen Barkin), an aggressive woman who is intent on hitting the big time. Jane becomes involved with Ray Brown (Greg Kinnear), a new executive producer on the show. Jane is sure that this is it, that Ray is the one. Ray charms her with romance and attention, and even asks her to live with him. The only problem is that Ray has been dating another woman for three years, and he is having trouble breaking it off even though he continually asserts that it's over. It turns out that Ray is not as ready to commit to being with Jane as he had led on, and Jane is left not only emotionally crushed and heartbroken, but without a place to live because she gave up her lease thinking she was going to move in with Ray.
Desperate for a roof over her head, Jane takes up an offer from another coworker, Eddie Alden (Hugh Jackman, in his first role since playing Wolverine in X-Men), to be his roommate. Eddie is a compulsive womanizer, a slick piece of work who views casual sex as "liberating" while Jane asserts that he is simply burying his emotions in promiscuity. Jane and Eddie end up making an interesting pair in that both of them appear to have practically given up on finding romance, although Jane's cynicism runs much, much deeper.
Her cynicism runs so deep, in fact, that she begins studying up on animal sexuality and psychology in order to lend scientific credence to her dark feelings. In The New York Times Science section, she runs across an article about how bulls will only mate with cows once, and then lose interest, which she then extrapolates to humans. She realizes that she is "the old cow," and Ray, "the bull," has simply moved on to "a new cow." Jane's wielding of her "New Cow Theory," phrases like "copulatory impulse," and statistics about only 5% of male animals being monogamous inspires her friend Liz (Marisa Tomei), who works as an editor at a major men's magazine, to ask her to write a column on men under a pseudonym. Thus, under the guise of a 65-year-old psychologist with a Ph.D. from Vienna, Jane begins spreading her cynical romantic findings, which, of course, strikes a chord with millions of readers.
The rather lengthy plot developments all point toward the eventual blossoming of romance between Jane and Eddie, the two romantic cynics, but to the movie's credit, that development is slow and believable, if not entirely unpredictable. The screenplay by Elizabeth Chandler, based on the novel Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman, inserts amusing title cards to establish the various stages of Jane's romantic development ("Attraction," etc.), and also throws in a few bits of humorous fantasy, such as when Jane imagines that a TV announcer is discussing on the air how she's been stood up by Ray for a date.
Ashley Judd is such an attractive, appealing, and energetic actress that it is virtually impossible not to like her. Even when she's in the deepest throws of cynical depression and you know that she's ruining her own life by feeling sorry for herself, you can't help but side with her. Judd's performance is nicely attuned to the character, and she does an excellent job with the little looks and gestures that make her emotions feel real (watch her face and eyes when Ray breaks up with her at a restaurant). Hugh Jackman maintains a certain stoic aloofness throughout much of the movie, although he warms up at the right moments. Greg Kinnear, on the other hand, must be getting tired of playing slimy, conniving men who draw the ire of decent women, but he does it so well that he will probably continue to be cast in these roles.
All in all, Someone Like You is an enjoyable romantic comedy with a slightly darker twist that is, of course, perfectly resolved in the end. The story gets strained near the end, especially when it requires a big climax in which Jane reveals her true identity as the Cow Theory psychologist on Diane's live talk show. The probability of this scenario is so low that it draws undue attention to the obviousness of Jane's "What I've learned is..." speech that follows. After all, how hard would it have been for the staffers at Diane's show to figure out that this fictional psychologists is a pseudonym when her biography states that she founded an institute in Vienna that doesn't exist? Ten minutes of background checking on the Internet could have uncovered that.
Still, despite the bad ending, director Tony Goldwyn (A Walk in the Clouds) has a light touch and a good feel for humor, and he makes most of it work quite well. Judd and Jackman have a nice chemistry that's rewarding, and even if the material they're working with isn't exactly new, the movie is put together with just enough inventiveness and charm to keep you involved.
©2001 James Kendrick