What’s Your Number Is a Pretty Good Movie

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What’s Your Number? suffers from a stupid title,  some awful trailers, and release timing that forced it to live in the shadow of a much worse movie that people keep saying is great. Here’s the twist, it’s actually a good movie with relatable characters, some adorable moments, better realism, and a plot that doesn’t require its character to become deplorable assholes or mind-numbing idiots in the process.

The title is bad, but I don’t think France’s substitute of “Sex List” was any better.

Now, it’s not changing the world of rom-coms or winning any awards. But it’s a lot better than the trailers and title imply. It has some good comedy, a decent plot progression and resolution, and Anna Faris is really great comedienne, which is one thing that even the reviews that pan this movie acknowledge. Chris Evans as her co-star is adorable and enjoyable as well. And while I think this movie stands up on its own, it’s impossible to not compare it to Bridesmaids for a few reasons: the aforementioned timing of its release, everyone else does, and they do legitimately have similar plotlines. So here’s my breakdown on why I think WYN is not only a good movie, but why it’s better than Bridesmaids by a long shot. Some spoilers may happen, but let’s be honest, you all know how this movie ends already.

The Plot

Here’s the premise: Ally Darling (Faris) has bad luck in love. She also gets fired from her job, and while wallowing in that and her latest failed relationship, she reads a Marie Claire article about how most women have 10.5 sexual partners in their lifetimes; furthermore, women who have more than 20 tend to never find lasting love at all. Ally realizes she’s reached a total of 19, freaks out, and resolves to not sleep with anyone else until she know he’s The One.

She then gets drunk at her sister’s bachelorette party and sleeps with her ex-boss. Oops.

No less determined to not up her number, Ally enlists her hot neighbor Colin’s help in tracking down her exes to see if one of them has improved since they parted ways. A few important things to add: her sister is marrying an ex who changed for the better and is wonderfully happy with him now. Colin is notably and unapologetically promiscuous, and the son of a cop, hence his skills and his bargain to use Ally’s place to avoid his one-night stands in the morning in exchange for helping her.

Amusing antics ensue as they track down her exes, with Ally constantly asking Colin if he’s found her high school boyfriend Jake, a man she knows is in politics now. Ally also dabbles in making weird but impressive little sculptures in her more abundant freetime, something she loves but which she and everyone around her is convinced cannot be made into a career. And in the process, we of course see Ally and Colin get to know each other spend more time together and inevitably fall for each other.

The “black moment” comes when Ally learns that Colin does have Jake’s number but didn’t give it to her — obviously the reason is that they’ve now made their connection, so why would he want to? She gets mad, tells him to leave, and calls up Jake. Her mother is thrilled she’s “finally” getting it right, Jake seems like the ideal guy, and she invites him to go her sister’s wedding.

Here in the finale, Ally learns the important things: one, that Jake finds her “number” so high and distasteful that he legitimately doesn’t believe it’s that high. Ally realizes the only person who’s never judged her for said number (including her self-judgment) is Colin. Also that she’s been changing herself to try and be happy with all these guys, but the real happiness is being herself and with Colin, that’s who and what she is. So she runs off to find him, apologize, express her feelings, and they kiss under the moonlight and those pretty glowing paper lantern orb things they put in trees at weddings.

On its Own Merits

WYN is relatable. A lot of reviews make the argument, who really cares about their “number” nowadays anyways, as if most people don’t care at all and it shouldn’t matter. Well, without even getting into the rampant slut-shaming that some politicians want to write into our country’s laws, yes, people care. People think about it. Women think about it. You’re thinking about it right now! And those critics are missing the point of the movie: that no, the number doesn’t matter (and that’s why the title is an issue). More specifically, it should matter to only two people: you and your partner, and the only thing that needs to matter about it is that you’re both comfortable with it. Because if either of you isn’t, that’s when it’s a problem. And it’s your problem, specifically, because whether you like that number or not, it’s part of you and your life and it’s not going to change. The same goes for anything about yourself that you aren’t comfortable with: you need to be able to accept it and be comfortable with it in order to do the same with who you are. Your partner needs to do the same, because if he or she isn’t, that’s pretty shitty of them and will cause problems in your relationship. This dialogue between her and Colin illustrates the whole point of why it shouldn’t matter, incorrect expectations, and that in the end, it’s Ally who has the misconception. Because the “decent guy” she thinks she wants is Jake, who is the only one who cares about her “number”, and all he does is judge her unfairly for it.

Colin: I don’t know why you care so much about your number anyway
Ally: You guys all have this ideal girl in your minds, and if our number gets too high, we can’t be that girl.
Colin: The ideal girl. Tell me about her.
Ally: You know, you can take her home to the family, she’s smart, but not smarter than you, and she bakes apple pies with your mom and place catch with your handicap sister. But then when you’re alone, she takes off her glasses and puts on a vinyl cat suit and f*cks you sideways
Colin: That girl doesn’t exist, if she did, I’d be sleeping with her. And what kind of guy cares about how many people you slept with anyway?
Ally: Decent guys.

Ally only cares when she reads this insipid article and measures her life against her sister’s. She fixates on it rather than dealing with the real problems of denying what she wants to do with her life, her career, and tries to change herself to fit into a mold she thinks she needs to fit into. The lesson, ultimately, is that this is the wrong way to deal with the problem. And it’s a mistake everyone makes at some point in their lives.

Despite that misfire of how-to-deal, Ally sticks to the principles she’s set out for herself. She decides she’s not going to sleep with anyone else until she’s sure, that she’s going to slow down on the physical, and she does. Once that promise is made, she doesn’t have sex with anyone else in this movie. She has every reason and desire to do so with Colin at one point — but she says no, let’s not have sex yet, and he completely respects that.

And it’s funny! Yes, there’s a lot of raunchy humor — liberal amounts of frank sex talk and use of the word vagina — but it’s all delivered with good pacing that doesn’t poke at the viewer to react. “Hey, hey, did you hear that part? We talked about vaginas! Isn’t it funny, and raunchy, and aren’t we so progressive for it? Huh, huh? Was it gross? Don’t say it’s gross or you’re an old fogey!” Seriously, can we all agree that the use of raunchy humor for shock value has gotten old? The horse, she’s dead, and my beatin’ stick is broke, folks. The language here isn’t raunched anymore than you might hear from a group of twenty-somethings at a bar on any given weekend night. Sure, you might not want to watch this one with your mom (depending on your mom — I’ll sure never recommend it to mine!), but it doesn’t act like these terms are any worse than any others. (You hear that, Wisconsin?)

Compared to Bridesmaids

I’ve written about how Bridesmaids is a terrible movie already, so let’s skip the review and get to the compare.

Well, they got that much right.

Bridesmaids came out in May 2011, an original script written by Kristen Wiig. WYN came out is September 2011 and is based on a book published in 2006. No one’s accused WYN of being a rip-off that I’ve found, but just in case you were considering it, your argument has been invalidated.

I mentioned how WYN doesn’t make anyone an irredeemable asshole for sake of the plot. Colin makes a misstep and lies about having Jake’s number. Not a great idea, but you get why he does it and it’s understandable. Ally gets angry and tells him to get lost — not a great idea but you get why she does it and it’s understandable. When she apologizes, she goes directly to Colin and makes her apology straight out. When Wiig’s Annie makes her misstep, she ruins a bridal shower by making a huge scene, making it all about her, uses a good man by sleeping with him and never calling him again — none of them great ideas, you may get why she does it, but by no means are all of them understandable. And when she apologizes, she does it to the wrong person (the man, not her best friend) and she does it by baking him a cake and leaving it on his doorstep instead of dealing with it like an adult. In fact, she never seeks out her best friend to apologize to her, and there’s no indication this is done out of a feeling of ‘oh, I screwed up, I hurt her, I should just leave her alone.’ When her friend does need her, at the last minute on the wedding day, she wastes even more time trying to get the good man back in her life under the excuse of it being to help and find the friend.

What I just said about how WYN uses raunchy humor without treating it like it’s there for shock value? Well, if you’ve seen Bridesmaids, I think you get the point.

Realism. Okay, rom-coms always have a degree of realism that goes out the window as a given. The only one that jumps out at me from WYN is the scene in the closed Boston Garden — even if Colin has a leftover key somehow, the place had guards, come on. Bridesmaids on the other hand…the airplane, the bridal shower, the increasing number of speech-stealing, the public scenes, the dress fitting, the arrest-me-for-speeding-antics, the actual wedding, everything about Melissa McCarthy’s character…that’s just the major ones, but the movie overdoes it by a longshot.

Relatability. The strong point of  rom-com is supposed to be how relatable it is to the viewer. We’re not here to see superheroes we could never be kill aliens and smash buildings, we’re here to see a slice of life that maybe could be our own. The characters should feel like they could be us, their friends could be our friends, their romantic interest is someone we wish was real. WYN has these things, plus some real and heart-warming moments with friends and family — Ally’s sister constantly calls her for help with dealing with their divorced parents, attacking as a united front. Then there’s this gem while she dances with her dad at her sister’s wedding.

Mr. Darling: Your mom only wants what’s best for you, you know.
Ally: I know.
Mr. Darling: Unfortunately she thinks what’s best for you is being exactly like her, only you’re not, Ally. You may have her looks, but you have my rhythm, kid. I’m afraid it’s a little off beat.
Ally: I guess that explains why she’s always disappointed in me.
Mr. Darling: I think it’s hard for her to look at you and see so much of me.

Heart-warming fatherly reassurance plus a dose of a real-life situation that sucks, but it is what it is. Bridesmaids doesn’t have this, it has over-the-top scenes and moments featuring shitty people being shitty to each other, even when they’re trying to be decent to one another.

In Conclusion

What’s Your Number?  was surprisingly fun and enjoyable, felt real, was funny, and I didn’t want to hate anyone in it at any point in time. Bridesmaids is an overdone raunch-fest for the sake of raunch, and I hate just about everyone in it for just about the duration of the movie. Plus WYN takes place in Boston, which is always a bonus in my book. So if you’re looking for a funny, modern, feel-good rom-com, try out What’s Your Number.

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