In more movie news that makes me feel old, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days turned 20 this month. The 2003 flick, which introduced us to the pairing of Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey — undoubtedly the Y2K version of Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks or Richard Gere and Julia Roberts — was a box office success. And in more depressing news than the film’s age, it’s probably one of the last truly great rom-coms to hit the big screen. Is it formulaic and corny and schmaltzy? Yes! But that’s what makes it so great; it’s a screwball comedy for the millennial generation. The natural chemistry between Hudson and McConaughey together feels like red wine and a cherry-glazed rack of lamb, or something else just as warm, refined, and delicious (you’ve gotta watch the movie to get the reference). Anyway.
For those who need a refresher, Hudson plays Andie Anderson, a “how to” columnist at Composure Magazine (a wink at the real-life Cosmo) who is writing a story on how to lose a guy in 10 days as a bet with her boss. If she succeeds, she’ll be allowed to write whatever she wants, and what Annie wants is to write “serious” stories like war, refugees, the bubonic plague, that kind of thing. Meanwhile, McConaughey plays Benjamin Barry, a ladies’ man and advertising executive competing with two female co-workers (the Judys) for a major diamond campaign. He cuts a deal with them that if he can make a woman of their choice fall in love with him in 10 days, the account is his. Of course they choose Andie, and all chaos and chemistry break loose!
I’ve watched this movie at least a dozen times since it premiered, and I got the chance to see it most recently with a group of girlfriends for Galentine’s Day. Honestly, there was no better opportunity to gauge how 20-year-old rom-com lands than with a group of women hopped up on wine and chocolate.
Here are my thoughts. (Spoiler alert: It’s still got it!)
I hope Composure Magazine is dunzo in 2023.
I’ve worked in the editorial world for a long time, and while it’s sad to see many great outlets fold over the years, I wouldn’t be sad if, in some parallel universe or the much-anticipated sequel, Composure Magazine was one of them. Let us not forget how much Andie desperately wants to write about Tajikistan or anything remotely “important.” But her editor, played by Bebe Neuwirth, is all, “This is Composure. Women don’t read about serious stuff; they only want to read about shoes” — as if women are not multifaceted — and then proceeds to ask everyone to take off their shoes during the editorial meeting and “breathe.” It’s both so cringe and so real at the same time #IYKTK.
Not surprisingly, Composure only wants pitches that are “upbeat,” including harrowing tales about bikini waxes, meaning readers can only handle these so-called “difficult” topics if there’s a positive spin attached. Puke. Even worse, Bebe’s character wants to make a mockery of Kathryn Hahn’s character’s love life (which is why Andie has to jump in the first place). This whole vibe environment reeks of toxic vibes, although I envy all the free luxe samples they receive.
However, one must question why Andie is able to duck out of work and rescue her heartbroken friend. Maybe this is why Composure Magazine ultimately folds — poor HR management.
Why are women always portrayed as needy?
OK, I know. Women do a lot of weird and wacky things when dating someone. Maybe we do cry after sex (hey, I’ve done it). Maybe we do drop subtle (OK, not so subtle) hints so we can manipulate a man’s reaction to get what we want (hey, I’ve done that too). And maybe we do call his member some weird nickname and leave some tampons in his medicine cabinet (yep and yep). But what about the men and the weird and wacky things they do when dating someone?
When it comes to cis-het relationships, I’m really tired of the trope that women are “needy” when it comes to love and men are the “normal” ones who have to contain the crazy. Much of the narrative and content we see about relationships and dating is geared towards a woman and what she needs to do to get and keep a man — as if to suggest women are the only ones who need to change because there’s something “wrong” with us, and men are these flawless creatures who merely put up with us. Uh, no thank you.
Is it funny that Andie speaks in baby talk and adopts a love fern? Yes. Is it relatable? Of course, it is (hence why it’s so funny). But it doesn’t mean I don’t wince whenever Ben asks Andie what happened to “the cool and sexy and fun” Andie he first met. You know, the one who loves basketball and drinks beer and is so bro-y and unopinionated, with just the right hint of mystery, and, let’s not forget, like, sooooo chill.
What, like men only want the “cool girl”? Another tiresome and unrealistic trope that’s impossible to manage 24/7. I mean, who’s that chill and bro-y all the time? No one. Not even the impossibly cool and sexy Andie Anderson.
Where was Andie’s back story?
One of the best sequences in the movie is the Bullshit card game that Andie plays with Ben’s family in Staten Island. We get a whole picture of Ben’s background, including his parents, brother, sister, nephews and nieces, and his intestinal-challenged Uncle Arnold. We get it — Ben’s a family man who loves his family dearly. So much so that he changes his baby nephew’s poopy diaper without a scowl or frown to be found on his chiseled face. In fact, he volunteered for diaper duty! The Barrys are clearly close-knit and the type of family who enjoys the simple things in life, like barbecues and playing card games and doing… whatever people do on Staten Island.
While the sequence in Staten Island is short, we understand Ben’s character more. He’s not that much of a cad. He can’t be when he loves and respects his mama so much! We see his loyalty and commitment to his family, and we also get a better perspective on who he is. From this, we can probably empathize more with Ben. He’s just a down-home boy who likes to have fun and wants to do right by his family — he’s not that bad for possibly stringing Andie along! No wonder they have sex in his parents’ bathroom! Who wouldn’t?
So, where is Andie’s back story? We know she went to Columbia and wants to be a very serious journalist, but what’s her story? How did she come to New York? How can she afford a luxe apartment with rooftop access in Manhattan? Why is she so obsessed with the Knicks? It seems almost unfair that we didn’t get a more personal inside scoop on Andie’s life as we did Ben’s since he becomes more of a full-dimensional character by the film’s end, and she remains almost aloof. The impossible cool girl that we want to know but can’t know at the same time. Or maybe that’s the point?
If there is any sequel in the future (please let it be so), maybe we will get a deeper look into Andie’s family life (could Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn potentially star as her parents)? At least we know what their future kids would look like: “very attractive.” And while the love fern has surely perished by now, I’d like to think Andie and Ben’s love hasn’t, and somewhere on Staten Island, they’re still calling each other out on their “Bullshit.”