Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “What’s Your Number?”

Dear Frank,

Of all the elements of my genetic makeup I most hate, my addiction to romantic comedies might be number one. The lizard part of my brain that responds automatically to pop music montages, snarky best friends and dramatic climaxes where the girl runs down the street to tell the guy she loves that she loves him is not only annoying but time-consuming — I mean, Frank, do you KNOW how long it takes to rewatch all six seasons of Sex and the City mutiple times? (I do. But I’m not telling.)

I could be reading books, Frank! Real books with big words in them! Instead, I watch shit like What’s Your Number.

But in this case, I had real reasons for checking this movie out, aside from appeasing the girly moron within. First off: The film’s premise, which it could be argued is a refreshing twist on the standard romantic comedy plot lines, because it puts front and center the eternal question of how many dudes a lady can sleep with before society deems her a complete ho.

Except the movie basically answers that question…

The answer is 20. Which is why it’s bad, at the beginning of the movie, when Anna Faris does the math and figures out that she’s slept with 19 guys. And even worse when she gets super-drunk and sleeps with her ex-boss Joel McHale, bringing her count up to 20 guys. Whoops!

(Side note: Frank, I am a lady, pure and chaste, which means that if I ever were going to put my number on the Internet, I’d sure as hell lie about it. But here’s the key thing: It takes Anna Faris 10 minutes of screen time and a notebook to do all that math. I’m pretty sure that if you ask a real human being what his or her number is, he or she would not need 10 minutes of screen time and a notebook. Especially since dividing your real number by two takes like two seconds.)

Because she doesn’t want to be a super-slut, Anna decides that her only option is not a life of celibacy, but to marry one of her previous 19. And her often naked next door neighbor Chris Evans (whose dad is a cop, and thus imparted cop-like sleuthing skills upon his musician son) is happy to help track them down! Way to go, Chris Evans! Way to go, Chris Evans’s Captain America trainer!

The plot’s justification for Often Naked Chris Evans being around is that he’s a horndog who’s constantly fleeing his apartment to escape one night stands, often in some form of undress. I don’t know if this sort of structure technique is covered in screenplay manuals, but I’ve never sold a screenplay — who am I to argue?

Of course, Anna Faris and Chris Evans become super-close as they work through her sexual rolodex together, and eventually, as she strikes out with ex-guy after ex-guy, she ends up totally wanting that Evans ass, and they make out.

But she won’t sleep with him because of the whole trying-not-to-be-a-slut thing, and then she finds out that he’d found her quote-unquote perfect guy but wasn’t telling her because of he liked her hot ass, and they basically break up so that Anna Faris can begin dating said perfect guy, who turns out to be totally stuck up and basically a really obnoxious Kennedy type?

Eventually, Anna Faris decides that she wants to be with a guy who doesn’t care that she’s fucked 20 guys, and dumps the Kennedy during the reception of her sister’s wedding, then hunts down Chris Evans to kiss him on his face again.

Here’s a nice photo of Anna Faris, just ‘cuz.

If you were wondering, does this hunt involve a pop music montage, Frank — c’mon. DUH. It’s set to New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” because…

Wait. No. I got nothing. I have no logical reason for why the climax of a romantic comedy that does NOT feature a bizarre love triangle would be set to “Bizarre Love Triangle.” Someone should have noticed that the song was called “Bizarre Love Triangle” at some point, right? During editing or color correction or a test screening or something? And yet, they said nothing. Empires have fallen for less.

But this isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, Frank. It’s not even the worst romantic comedy. There’s good stuff! Like the fact that it’s rated R; it’s always refreshing to see a movie about young people and sex that sounds like real human adults talking about sex. (It’s then a bit sad to realize that according to the MPAA, real human adults talking about sex is as dangerous to young minds as Sylvester Stallone proving how many different ways there are to decapitate a Cambodian rice farmer, but let’s not get distracted.)

The casting is also great — from a voice-only cameo by Aziz Ansari to a brief appearance of Jane from Happy Endings to one of my top 10 TV boyfriends of all time, the people who show up in this movie are on average total delights.

And, oh. Chris Evans. Frank, in case you weren’t aware, Chris Evans is very good at acting being really charming whilst not wearing pants or shirt. (It may have, in fact, been a GIF-i-fied version of one scene from this movie that inspired the blog Chris Evans Takes His Pants Off. I say that almost as if I was there when that blog’s founder found some GIFs on Tumblr and was coerced into starting said blog during RuPaul’s Drag Race commercial breaks.)

It’s only gratuitous if it doesn’t illustrate my point.

Really, the only major disappointment is Faris’s real-life husband Chris Pratt, who has a small role as one of her exes, and is so fucking funny on Parks and Rec that him playing things relatively straight and boring for this movie was such a bummer.

For while also-married Amy Poehler and Will Arnett play off their real-life chemistry on screen by being deliberately weird with each other, Anna Faris’s scenes with Chris Pratt lack that same spark, because all they’re doing is riffing on that Heigl-esque “gorgeous girl dropping her awkward all over the place” trope, and it just doesn’t work.

Because the thing that’s the most frustrating about What’s Your Number? is this: In the lead-up to its release, much was made of how, unlike other attractive young actresses known for romantic comedies (::cough::Heiglyoudumbbitch::cough::), Faris is actually FUNNY. The key evidence cited for this is the film Smiley Face, which I have not seen, but HEAR is really funny (especially for a stoner comedy). And this scene, I agree, is a cut-up:

So maybe all those Anna Far-natics have a point. But the trouble is, Number is so much a straight-up romantic comedy that only occasionally are her true comedic skills relied upon — instead, the script relies on the usual tricks used to make pretty girls with no comedic talent seem the opposite. Which is to say — bitch falls down a LOT.

That said, I will take comfort in Faris’s next project, I Give It A Year, because that movie stars Rose Byrne and Frank, if there is one actress that Anna Faris should be hanging out with, it’s Rose Byrne. Rose Byrne is super-good in dramas and super-good in comedies and super-super-good in the BBC Casanova.

We all should be a little more like Rose Byrne, Frank. But Anna Faris, most especially.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on August 28, 2012, in All the Spoilers, Movies and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. OK – so I gotta ask you: what are your FAVORITE romcoms? Once you’d be proud to admit that you’ve watched more than two, three, seventeen times? (PS – might want to fix the title of this entry, plus the first paragraph, where you refer to the movie as “What’s MY Number,” which sounds like an Offspring song, or maybe a stoner movie…)

  2. ^oops, typo: “ONES you’d be proud to admit,” not “once”…

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