REVIEW: Execrable You Again Tests the 5 Stages of Moviegoer Grief

Movieline Score: 3

Infinitely worse than you dared to hope it wouldn't be, You Again dumbfounded and then defeated me. That's a pretty limited spectrum of response, and yet I left the film feeling like I'd just crossed the Gobe with four actresses on my back. The shock is still too great to talk about the fifth -- Betty White -- except to say that, although like the rest of the free world I am glad that she's back in heavy rotation, someone needs to lay down the rules of fair use, and penalties must be called when she is deployed to such pitiable effect.

There are perhaps only four stages of grief involved in watching this kind of shrieking, meretricious dreck, beginning with the necessary folly of the film critic: Denial. You Again has an enviable cast, after all, led by Kristen Bell as Marni, who radiates the kind of pragmatic savvy you might imagine would keep her away from films like this one. Marni was a goober in high school, as the opening flashback sequence makes unimaginatively clear. Marni is openly tormented by an alpha hose beast named J.J. (Odette Yustman, an elongated, adobe version of Megan Fox) while suffering through acne, braces, and shampoo-starved hair. Bell is such a game comedienne, and so fully committed to her inner nerdlinger, that it seems possible she alone might make the film worth watching.

Marni grew up blonde and beautiful, of course. Driven to defeat the self-doubt fostered during her adolescence, she pursued a career in PR and now dresses well and makes lots of money. She returns home for her brother's wedding on top of the world, only to discover that the woman he is marrying is none other than J.J. (now Joanna). After the death of her parents, Joanna claims to have started on a path of charity and self-sacrifice, though she won't offer up even a hint of recognition when she sees Marni. Marni's mother Gail (Jamie Lee Curtis) brushes the old rivalry aside until she meets Joanna's rich, affected Aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver), her former BFF. The high school rivalry between Ramona and Gail is sketchy and remains that way, although their passive-aggressive pre-wedding competition screeches right off the screen.

Hence, the second stage: Anger. Why are writer Moe Jelline and director Andy Fickman (whose rap sheet includes the similarly nuanced play on gender stereotypes She's The Man) not only wasting but flat out embarrassing these grown women with Nick-at-Nite pap? Is this what women who can be funny are reduced to on the big screen? Some lowlights: Betty White handing over her dentures and making insipid double entendres; Kristen Bell covered in mud, ant bites, and finally pea soup; Jamie Lee Curtis humiliated by a dousing of water; Sigourney Weaver vamping around like a lonely, ostentatiously multilingual spinster who chose her career and was punished accordingly. The four central characters place their self-worth squarely on their looks, so that when the ant bite incident (which follows a bang-cutting incident) leaves Marni looking spotty, awkwardly coiffed, and back in her 10th grade glasses, she regresses fully. Women, you see, are only what they are perceived to be, and their identities and moral rectitude can be controlled entirely by circumstance.

I tried to bargain with this movie, I really did, although admittedly that constituted perhaps the briefest phase. Bell and Curtis in particular are so appealing that it takes a heroic effort for them to blow their stores of goodwill. I seized on every flicker of interest in the difficulties of reconciling who you were with whom you want to be. There is also still much to be said and done on film around the vagaries of female relationships, and in particular Marni's resentment toward Joanna as an interloper in her family could have amounted to more than wedding sabotage and a climactic catfight (that is, sadly, doubled by the older but not wiser generation of ladies). The copious gags are bluntly horrifying, and the disingenuous, therapized language of confrontation and reconciliation between the women would be insulting if it didn't numb my senses into a sort of suspended function.

You know who gets numb like that? Depressed people. And depressed is how I left You Again, having reckoned with the fact that nobody forced Kristen Bell to utter the fighting words, "Ooh, kitty likes to scratch." Nobody -- I presume, though it would certainly clarify things -- threatened the actresses with the exposure of upskirt photos lest they sit through several scenes in which they were to be drubbed and berated by the men in their life like stupid little girls. No, as hard as it is to believe, admirable, capable actresses were willing participants in the creation of a hateful, boneheaded, bar-lowering exercise in one of the lowest forms of female profiling, and -- with apologies to Kubler-Ross completists -- for that there is no possibility of acceptance. I'd kind of rather die.


  • TurdBlossom says:

    All I need to know about women I learned from crappy rom-coms.
    1. They all live to shop, get married, and then pop out bebehs.
    2. If they have a successful career, it's usually at the expense of a significant relationship and the aforementioned bebehs (leaving them longing and unfulfilled).
    3. All extremley beautiful women who are nice were awkward losers in school.
    4. All women who never went through the awkward phase were total bitches to their less fortunate peers (even though at heart they're just insecure/misunderstood).
    5. They can never be just friends with a handsome guy (unless he is their main gay).
    6. They may like sex, but they like love more (except maybe for shopping and behbehs)
    7. A huge epiheny will come but only after one of the following a huge fight, a major cry, an all night case of the drunks, a betrayal by a jealous friend.
    8. They are not worthy unless two gorgeous guys fight over them (that in the real world would be more inclined to date each other).
    9. They are either Daddy's little girl or a constant source of disapointment.
    10. They all age to become fiesty independent Grandmas if they give embrace marriage/bebehs or Aunties if they don't.

  • Might be a rhetorical question, I'm actually curious about the answer. When male comedic actors participate in horrendously inane and ridiculous "comedies" which feature bland and shallow characters and horrendous lines, is it taken as a statement on how horrible the gender profiling of men as drunken fratboys and mousy geeks is? Or is it just taken as a really shitty script which decent actors star in because they probably got a decent paycheck out of it?
    Let's face it, as much work as it is, pretending to be someone else for money can be fun, and even a bad production can still be enjoyable for the actors. It's disappointing, sure, but it can't be that shocking.

  • The Winchester says:

    " it taken as a statement on how horrible the gender profiling of men as drunken fratboys and mousy geeks is?"
    No, they usually take the writer or director to task for not being Apatow. (Unless it is him, in which case critical accolades trump those complaints, and most are forced to complain about how he needs to stop casting his family).

  • casting couch says:

    At least Movieline still has the wonderful Michelle Orange writing reviews that are worth reading.

  • iod says:

    Movieline's always been good for a smart beatdown of an insulting piece of shit movie. Thanks, Movieline.

  • John M says:

    In a perfect world, Michelle Orange would be getting screenplays greenlit all up and down town.