Published Jul 23, 2009Posters for The Ugly Truth feature Katherine Heigl holding a heart to her chest and Gerard Butler with a heart to his groin, leering mischievously in her direction. It's fascinating when a poster serves as an accurate plot synopsis isn't it?
Heigl and Butler go through the rom-com motions laid down by countless up-and-coming stars before them. Heigl plays Abby, a Sacramento TV morning show producer who, coming home from her latest bad date, turns on the TV to find a cable access show called The Ugly Truth, hosted by professional chauvinist Mike (Gerard Butler), who claims men are only interested in sex. When Abby calls in to protest, Mike easily shuts her down by asking about her relationship status.
But Mike draws ratings and the network hires him to contribute a daily segment to the morning show, much to Abby's chagrin. The calls come pouring in and Mike becomes a celebrity, which is odd, considering he seems to have only the one insight, which he repeats every morning with only surface variations — one day he's wrestling with bikini girls in a Jell-O pool, next he's dressed as an ape and drawing parallels between the mating habits of monkeys and men. Would Mike really be able to sustain seven segments a week, let alone an entire fan base, with such a limited repertoire of topics? He makes Dr. Phil look like Ed Sullivan.
Abby's new neighbour, Colin, is a sensitive, handsome surgeon who I will place on my shortlist of "Movie Men Who Could Never Exist In Reality," right next to Mr. Big and Superman. Abby instantly falls for him and reluctantly enlists Mike's advice to catch his eye, leading to many, many scenes in which Mike explains the ins and outs of flirting, teasing and breast-accentuating. If men really just care about sex and beauty, I'm not sure why a woman who looks like Heigl would need coaching but never mind. If nothing else, these scenes introduced me to a term for female masturbation that I was previously unfamiliar with: "flicking the bean."
Surprise! Abby and Mike fall in love, but why? Even after spending time together their interests and worldviews are remarkably different. The film positions their love as the defiance of the expectations of male/female stereotypes. I think it takes some nerve for a movie to traffic in stereotypes for 90 minutes and then say, "Well, not really."
It's dispiriting to see a film so soulless and mechanical, and to see talented people wasting their time with such a routine, idiotic and vaguely unsavoury script. The Ugly Truth efficiently checks off all the usual rom-com plot developments and I liked Butler's cheeky performance but this is the type of mediocrity that should be viewed only on a long, dull flight. Or you could just read a book. (Sony)