She’s Out of My League is directed with workmanlike mundanity. And yet it possesses a wonderful vitality.
From Fur TV writer Jim Field Smith and unlikely leading man Jay Baruchel comes a rom-com that does everything it can to be bland, predictable and clichéd, but with an end result that somehow manages to be warmly charming, romantically endearing and emotionally honest.
Baruchel is Kirk, a full-time loser frittering his life away on a dead-end girl who’s already dumped him and a job as an airport security clerk that leaves him going nowhere. The ex, Marnie (Lindsay Sloane), is living with Kirk’s parents and being treated more like a member of the family than he is. At work, Kirk’s circle of friends recite tired mantras from the American Pie school of dating, and generally do everything they can to keep his ego at rock bottom.
But things take a turn for the better when the supremely gorgeous Molly (Alice Eve) comes sashaying through Kirk’s life and the two of them, through classic rom-com circumstances, end up in what his friends assure Kirk will be a doomed relationship. The problem? He’s a five and she’s a 10, which puts Molly way, way out of Kirk’s league.
As the film jumps through every genre hoop you’ve come to expect – romantic mishaps, misunderstanding, break-up and reconciliation – what keeps it afloat is the sheer, unencumbered humanity of Field Smith’s script. Even in its broadest comic moments, as when Molly’s parents drop by for a surprise visit just as Kirk gets a little over-excited, the reactions of the characters – and, crucially, the consequences that ensue – always come from a place that is recognisably real, and not merely a cinematic contrivance.
The OC may already have taught us that rich and beautiful people have problems just like the rest of us, but they were never as tenderly expressed, as sympathetic and as, well, normal as Molly’s insecurity and frustrations at Kirk’s inability to treat her as an ordinary human being. Kirk, meanwhile, guided by bad advice and the demons on his shoulder, simply can’t believe that goodness alone is enough. Here is a character untainted by the fallacies of the very genre in which he’s operating, and yet, finally, he will invest those fallacies with a measure of truth.
Eve and Baruchel are both excellent. For the male lead in particular this is a difficult role to pull off – he is not the charmer or the sophisticate we expect to see in the lead but then that, after all, is the point. Is this another example of one of those male-fantasy films where the ugly guy wins the girl? No, not really. The power in this relationship initially lies with Molly, but she cedes it, voluntarily, because that’s what her emotions tell her to do. Perhaps the film would be even more radical if it was a good-looking guy winning the unreconstructed ‘ugly’ girl, but that is a story for a different day.
She’s Out of My League is directed with workmanlike mundanity. The soundtrack is invasive and ill-conceived. The humour is not subtle. And yet it possesses a wonderful vitality that enlivens every frame and breathes life into a film that could so easily have had none.
Here we go again with another post-Judd Apatow rom-com.
Eve sparkles, Baruchel amuses and the film as a whole is irresistible.
Don’t get too excited or anything, but do think about it occasionally and smile.