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|All About Steve
dir Phil Traill
scr Kim Barker
prd Sandra Bullock, Mary McLaglen
with Sandra Bullock, Thomas Haden Church, Bradley Cooper, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls, Howard Hesseman, Beth Grant, Keith David, Holmes Osborne, Katy Mixon, MC Gainey, Charlyne Yi
release US 4.Sep.09, UK 15.Jan.10
09/US Fox 1h39
Grin and bear it: Cooper and Bullock
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
How is it that in best year of Sandra Bullock's career (see THE PROPOSAL and THE BLIND SIDE) she also gave her worst performance? Sure, two out of three isn't bad, but this deeply unfunny comedy misfires at every turn.
Mary (Bullock) is a socially inept crossword creator for a local newspaper in Sacramento, California, where she lives with her oddball parents (Hesseman and Grant). They set her up on a blind date with news cameraman Steve (Cooper), who quickly realises that she's a nutcase. But she follows him and his crew (reporter Church and producer Jeong) from story to story across the Southwest, convinced that they're meant to be together. It all culminates at a collapsed mineshaft in Colorado.
It's hard to imagine how Bullock could have made Mary likeable; she certainly tries with this smiley, perky performance. But all that grinning only makes Mary creepier, transforming Bullock's charm into a scary grimace. Mary is a woman who knows far too much and never stops talking about it; no one could spend more than 30 seconds in her presence. And indeed the supporting cast members deliver appropriately uncomfortable, frightened performances opposite this "hyperactive stalker".
What may have looked goofy in the script is rendered flat on-screen by Traill's uninspired direction, which also magnifies the gaping plot holes. And the exaggerated depiction of TV newscasters is a big misstep: when the real thing is laughable, a corny caricature just looks stupid. Meanwhile, the comical treatment of disasters (including a hurricane and tornado) is in the worst possible taste even if, miraculously, no one gets hurt. No, wait: the extended sequence about a three-legged baby is in the worst possible taste.
We can almost see a glimmer of the original idea that attracted Bullock to this film about a fiercely individualistic woman who is unapologetically herself and has no reason to change that. But the finished movie destroys that theme by turning her into such an irritant. As originally conceived, it's a strong message, but this film instead tells us that, if you decide to be yourself, you should be prepared to live alone for the rest of your life.
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© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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