The Ugly Truth
In many ways "The Ugly Truth" is not just the title of this film, or the posterchild for Hollywood's obsession with meaningless non-sequitur titles, it's a telling statement on what's wrong with mainstream romcoms.
On one hand, this flick is a refreshing change of pace from your typical neurotic-girl-meets-perfect-guy movie, and on the other hand it comes tantalizingly close of exploding the genre altogether, but still retreats into that shallow happily-ever-after dreamworld.
But we're getting a little ahead of ourselves. Here's the story: Abby (Katherine Heigl) is your typical successful career gal: sexy, smart, and driven, but her career just gets in the way of romance. Her meticulous, control-everything nature that serves her so well in her TV newsroom--she's the producer of the morning news at a struggling Sacramento TV station--also hinders her on dates.
Yes, she has a checklist of items that the perfect man possesses. A potential mate not satisfying all of her conditions throws her into a tizzy, and she ultimately sabotages the date and quashes the potential relationship before it starts.
Enter Mike (Gerard Butler), whose crass cable-access relationship call-in show is besting Abby's news channel in the ratings. He's arrogant, in your face and doesn't hesitate to tell it like it is (hence his show, "The Ugly Truth").
The suits in charge bring Mike and his schtick to Abby's show, which offends her perfectly PC little attitude. Mike challenges her relationship status, then bets he can help her land the big fish--the guy who meets all of her checklist criteria.
From there they play a little Cyrano de Bergerac, with Mike coaching Abby via cell phone/earpiece.
And there so goes our gift-wrapped setup.
Butler and Heigl have decent enough chemistry, and the laughs are spotty, with the best drawing legitimate laughs and the worst being standard Kate Hudson fare.
The difference between "Truth" and most romantic comedies of this type is the studio allowed the filmmakers to make an R-rated adult comedy, allowing more frank language, which frankly suits this film like Armani.
Butler is mostly allowed to be as naughty as he wants to be, and it seems legitimate when Abby is offended by it.
But the film wavers a bit, coming oh-so-close to being a treatise on the cat-and-mouse between single man and woman, and frolicking in Hollywood's usual poppy fields of sanitized romance. At one point Heigl and Butler begin to debate whether "good relationships" actually exist, then stop to do some sexy Cuban salsa dancing instead.
But "Truth" seems to bounce back a bit, mixing in portrayals of real relationships, early on with the husband-and-wife news anchor (Cheryl Hines and a movie-stealing John Michael Higgins) who have lost the spark in their relationship, then later with Abby and Mike.
And so it goes: for each instance of vibrating-panties shenanigans, we get a scene that shows the dual pain of being unable to figure out where the last relationship went bad.
The larger point that "Truth" tries and largely succeeeds in making is that a guy who embraces his inner caveman, and the sexless, career-minded woman are extreme ends of a spectrum where right lies somewhere in the middle, while wrong splits on either side.
And ultimately it's that notion that in real life, when you make the big kiss the credits won't be rolling within the next five minutes. You still have a lifetime of struggle in a relationship, constant work and miscommunications and bad moods to fight through to have that "good relationship."
Luckily, "The Ugly Truth" gets it. I think.
Rating: 3 1/2 Yaps out of 5