May 26, 2003 -- "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" is an old-fashioned romantic comedy based on the idea of two people falling in love over a bet. Instead of one bet, there are two involved in this story. Other than that, there are no real surprises, just a funny comedy with some romance on the side.
Kate Hudson of "Almost Famous" stars as Andie Anderson, a magazine writer who comes up with the idea for an article about the things women do to inadvertently drive their boyfriends crazy. The article will be based on her own experiences. She proposes to date a guy, get him romantically hooked, and then drive him away in 10 days by purposely making common dating mistakes, like being dependent, interfering with his friends and family, and various other alienation behaviors. The man she chooses as the subject for the article is Ben Barry (played by Matthew McConaughey of "Reign of Fire"). Barry just happens to have a work-related bet of his own going. In order to land a big diamond advertising campaign based on romance, he bets his boss he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days. You would think it would be pretty unlikely for two people with the same kind of bet to just happen to meet each other at just the right time to get into this situation, but the script does have a good explanation for how this happens. It involves manipulation of the situation by other characters who know about both bets, and have a good reason for wanting Barry to lose his bet.
Anderson's bait and switch tactics are very funny. After getting him hooked on the first day, she begins to drive him crazy with very annoying behavior. She puts stuffed animals around his apartment. She fills his medicine cabinet with tampons and other feminine hygiene materials. She talks baby talk around his friends. She clings to him like glue, but bosses him and his friends around at the same time. She interferes with his enjoyment of sporting events and interferes with his family. The pranks go on and on, but Barry hangs in there. He refuses to quit on their relationship. Anderson can't understand why Barry hasn't given up. She knows she is driving him crazy. Barry begins to despair he will not win his bet. Anderson's behavior is bizarre and he cannot seem to get through to her. She keeps deftly deflecting his advances. She says that she loves him, but avoids intimacy.
Of the two main characters, it is easier to sympathize with Anderson. She was maneuvered into pitching the story idea to her editor and she doesn't like what she is doing to Barry. At the same time, Barry seems like a fairly shallow, self-centered womanizer. He goes into the relationship fully intending to break Anderson's heart. We find out later in the film that he has never brought any woman home to meet his parents, and he isn't all that young. In a sense, it seems as if Barry deserves the punishment that Anderson inflicts upon him. The comedy in the film works very well. The romance isn't quite as convincing. Matthew McConaughey is one of the best romantic leads in show business and Kate Hudson is extremely talented and charming. Their chemistry together is such that they manage to pull off a believable romance despite a couple of creaky plot twists at the end of the movie. They are ably supported by Adam Goldberg (who plays Barry's friend, Tony), Thomas Lennon (who plays Barry's friend, Thayer), Robert Klein of "Two Weeks Notice," who plays Barry's boss, Phillip Warren, and by Bebe Neuwirth, who plays Anderson's boss, Lana.
Director Donald Petrie ("Miss Congeniality") shows a nice touch with romantic comedies, and he overcomes the problems in this one. The script has some sharp, witty dialogue. Despite the lack of character development in the story, it works pretty well, especially as a comedy. This film rates a B.
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