Fri, May 30, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Clever love games end as expected

Sickly sweet but leavened with some tasty moments, `How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days' is a pleasant but average movie

By A.O. Scott  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Matthew McConaughey as Ben and Kate Hudson as Andie in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT

I'll say this much for How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days : it is a little better than the two other recent high-concept romantic comedies based in New York, Two Weeks Notice and Maid in Manhattan. This is largely because the writing is a bit sharper and the two stars, Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, have a prickly, hot-and-cold chemistry. The screenplay is by Kristen Buckley and Brian Regan, who wrote 102 Dalmations, and Burr Steers, who wrote and directed Igby Goes Down.

An expert in the higher mathematics of the movie industry might come up with an equation to show how the treacly gruesomeness of Dalmations divided by the scabrous brilliance of Igby might yield the intermittently beguiling averageness of this movie, which opens nationwide today. The answer might lie in the smooth, ingratiating style of the director, Donald Petrie, who also did Miss Congeniality and Mystic Pizza.

Hudson, who has been charming but not terribly exciting in movies like Almost Famous and Dr. T and the Women, at last shows that she has inherited something more than blond good looks from her mother, Goldie Hawn. She has a similar knack for screwball sexiness, often ricocheting from bombshell to dingbat and back again in the course of a single scene. For his part, McConaughey steps into the role of comic foil with gentlemanly aplomb. You don't believe this scrubbed and gleaming pair are really the love-struck and ambitious young Manhattan professionals they are pretending to be, but for the most part the pretending is reasonably enjoyable to watch.

Hudson plays Andie Anderson, who writes how-to columns for a glossy women's magazine called Composure. A journalism school graduate, Andie yearns to write about more substantial topics than shoes, orgasms and yoga, but her editor (a deliciously feline Bebe Neuwirth, who should have been given more to do) is no more interested in seriousness than the filmmakers themselves.

Film notes

How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Directed by: Donald Petrie

Starring: Kate Hudson (Andie), Matthew McConaughey (Ben), Adam Goldberg (Tony), Michael Michele (Spears), Shalom Harlow (Green), Bebe Neuwirth (Lana)

Running time: 100 minutes

Taiwan Release: Today


Observing the romantic woes of a hapless co-worker (Kathryn Hahn), Andie decides to write the article that gives the movie its title. She will snare an eligible man and then, through a combination of clinginess, neediness and borderline psychotic behavior, drive him away. Unknown to Andie, her designated mark, Ben Barry (McConaughey), has his own professional reasons for hanging around. His advertising firm is going after a big jewelry account, which he and his buddies want to wrest from a rival all-female creative team. To prove he can sell diamonds to women, Ben, an updated swinging bachelor from a Rock Hudson-Doris Day picture, must sell himself to one. His boss (Robert Klein, who has even less screen time than Neuwirth) gives Ben 10 days to make an eligible woman fall in love with him.

So he and Andie, at clever cross-purposes, begin a cynical relationship, which almost too late turns into the real thing. After this elaborate and promising setup, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days manages to come up with a number of not terribly inspired but nonetheless well-executed funny bits.

After her initial seduction of Ben, Andie turns into a needy, weepy, manipulative monster, sending him off to buy her a soda in the final seconds of a close Knicks game, sniffling over the rack of lamb Ben has prepared for their second date and giving his penis an embarrassing nickname. Hudson mugs and minces her way through these scenes with delighted shamelessness, and McConaughey makes a fine show of swallowing his exasperation.

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