A film review by Craig J. Koban September 27, 2009
ALL ABOUT STEVE
2009, PG-13, 87 mins.
2009, PG-13, 87 mins.
Mary: Sandra Bullock / Steve: Bradley Cooper / Hughes: Thomas
Haden Church / Mr. Horowitz: Howard Hesseman / Corbitt: Keith
ABOUT STEVE is a comedy of unpardonable and excruciating awfulness. I think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but the
film is altogether void of any hearty laughs, let alone any modest
chuckles. I think
it’s supposed to be a romance, but the underlining psychotic
nature of the main female character hits such an inexorably creepy and
sour vibe that I found myself hoping that she would end up in a
straight jacket and not in the arms of the man she “loves.”
Oh, and I think that the film is also supposed to be a sly media
satire, but its attempts at scathing and cynical commentary at the
expense of the oftentimes duplicitous nature of contemporary news coverage
has all the empty-headed soul and stunning irrelevance of a Glen Beck
even the film’s title is an anemic attempt at a desperate laugh.
Oh, wait…it’s a clever play on 1950’s ALL ABOUT EVE, but this
time they have put the letters s and t in it in reference to one of
the male characters of the film. By the beard of Zeus, that is fiendishly clever!
The comedy is a non-entity here, the romance is stuffy and clumsy, and the satire is ham-infested….so what else could be wrong with this mystifyingly inept film? Well, ALL ABOUT STEVE is also one of the most condescendingly phony films I’ve seen in a long time. It takes some painfully steps to force us to understand the mindset of its female protagonist and, ultimately, wishes us to inevitably like and root her on to final romantic victory with the man she desires.
the problem: the woman in the film
– even when played by the typically perky and amiable Sandra Bullock –
is not likeable. She
is not fun to be around. She
is not normal. She is not a
figure that is worthy of our rooting interest.
If anything, she is an incessantly talkative blabbermouth that
engages in behaviour that would be best described as mentally unstable.
She is obsessive to the point of stalking her male suitor, even
when, after numerous attempts, he has all but told her to leave him alone
and to never speak to him again. After
several verbal warnings, this utterly deranged nut bar continues on her
self-delusional way and stops at nothing to ensure that they will be a
couple, whether the man wants to or not.
This woman is not ordinary; she is a tyrannically insane person
that needs psychiatric assistance.
you were to tell me (before having see the film) that Bullock – who has
made a career out of effectively blending childlike adorability and
exuberance with a low key sex appeal and charm – would be the most
disturbed and repugnant element in this rom-com, than I would have rolled
my eyes in disdain. But ALL ABOUT STEVE is career kryptonite for her for how it
dissects all of the amiable traits that has made her a massive star;
instead, the film never once appeases her good performance
instincts. There is rarely a
moment in the film where Bullock even moderately makes her character
appealing and sympathetic. How
can any sane viewer find the repeated actions of a lunatic alluring on any
level? I surely have no idea,
but what I am positive of is that Bullock certainly deserves a gigantic
finger wag of shame for not only starring in, but also executive producing
this humiliating film.
on a minute! Maybe I am way
off base here, because ALL ABOUT STEVE starts by showing us the incurably
energetic and precocious Mary Horowitiz (Bullock) who just happens to be a
cruciverbalist (that is a person that creates newspaper crossword
puzzles). She is in her
forties, still generally attractive, but nonetheless still single, which
may or may not have something to do with the fact that (a) she cannot shut
the hell up for one second to allow someone else a chance to reveal their
feelings to her, (b) she is far too unhealthily infatuated with the
grandeur and importance of her job and (c) she wears big, clunky,
and ostentatious high heeled disco boots with a daily ensemble that
borders on whorish. She also
lives at home with her parents, albeit temporarily, which certainly
interferes with any budding sex life.
fate – as it always does in rom-coms – obligatorily steps in: Her parents arrange a blind date a strapping, good looking,
and well mannered Steve (Bradley Cooper, never once reliving the comic
heights he reached earlier this summer in THE
HANGOVER), who works as a TV cameraman for CCN, not CNN,
but CCN, a network that is apparently so distressed for ratings that it
continues to support on-air-talent like Hartman Hughes (Thomas Hayden
Church), even when he systematically reveals why he should never, ever
be in front of a camera. Anyhoo’,
when the sex and man-starved Mary first gazes on the hunky,
surfer-like Adonis that is Steve, it is instant lust, I mean, love at
first sight. In no uncertain terms,
she thinks that this is the man that
she must spend the rest of her existence with.
their very awkward meet-cute, Mary and Steve’s first date ends before it
nearly starts: He walks her
over to his news van and politely opens the door for her so she can get in.
When they about ready to pull out of her parent’s driveway the
ravenous Mart thrusts herself on the surprised Steve and hauls him into
the backseat for a quickie. Initially,
Steve thinks things are going well, but the heated foreplay very abruptly
morphs into something very far from being erotic when Mary can’t stop
persistently talking about needless and redundant facts about nothingness.
That, and she also can’t keep her trap shut about how badly Steve
and her are destined to be together.
Of course, all of this crazy babble from a stranger would bother
any rational man, and Steve certainly becomes very disturbed.
With blinding luck, he receives a cell phone call from his bosses
as CCN that he needs to be called away on assignment ASAP, which
thankfully means that he can immediately end his date with the loony-tunes
Mary and part ways, hopefully forever.
Regrettably, Steve gives her to worst brush off line in the alpha
male playbook, which never once
hints that he never wants to see her again.
has become so enamored with Steve that she spends the night creating a unique – if
not alarming – new crossword puzzle for the next day’s
edition that she calls “All About Steve”, which, of course, only
contains Steve-centric facts and hints based on her limited time with the
man. Now, the film exists in
some sort of bizarre alternate universe where the editors of the paper
don’t even do so much as a proof read of the puzzle before printing to
see that it is the work of a mad person.
Yet, publish it they do, and when it becomes apparent that Mary is
instable, the paper fires her. However,
she does not let this bad news get to her, as she hatches a plan to travel
across the country to reunite with Steve – while he is on assignment –
so that they can live happily ever after.
very rarely wish any ill will on anybody, fictional or not, but there is
a point in the film where – I kid you not – Mary ends up in at
the bottom of a collapsed mineshaft with a deaf child (don’t ask) that
is rapidly filling up with deathly, carbon monoxide fumes that threatens
to poison and kill her. The only bit of mercy that ALL ABOUT STEVE could have levied
on fidgety and wearisome viewers at this point would have been to let her
perish. But, of course, her
being there, facing death, leads to a media circus – that Steve’s CCN
crew is a part of – arriving to cover the event. This, in turn, leads to the film’s patronizing attempts to make us feel pity
for Mary which further leads to some of the film’s wretched social
satire about how the salivating media makes people like Mary into freakish
caricatures. And, if these
events were not degrading and putridly inauthentic enough, viewers are
forced to sit through an embarrassingly counterfeit moment when Steve
begins to rethink his feelings for Mary because – gosh darn it –
she’s not a clinically mad woman that’s been endlessly stalking him
wherever he goes, but just a happy, free-spirited, and independent woman
that “should not change for anyone” as he tells her later, because
she's just got a big heart of gold.
me, but I must now barf.
consider this: if the sexes of the film’s two characters were reversed
and Steve was the incredulously zealot-like cretin that tried to perform
near-date rape on Mary, could not take a hint from the woman that no means no,
and then continued to peruse her anywhere to the point of incurable
dementia, then I believe that female viewers would find the film
wholeheartedly vile and nauseating.
Yet, many of the female viewers in the film laughed it up all
through ALL ABOUT STEVE when the abominably weird and unnerving Mary
repeatedly shadows her male prey with a salivating determination and
oppressive vigor. Mary’s behavior
is never funny or cute, but just eerie.
The manner with which the film indefensibly tries to make us
empathize with her latter in the story is disdainful and pathetic: the feel-good
message here, I believe, is that Mary is just a misunderstood diamond
in the rough that just has trouble fitting in.
There has rarely been a more smugly manufactured and lethargically
convenient rationale for a character's madness than what is on display
I would rather spend 90 minutes pulling out all of my hair and ramming my head against a concrete wall while doing the most impossibly hard crossword puzzle than to sit through the overwhelming objectionable and monumentally unfunny ALL ABOUT STEVE again. To say that it just may be one of Bullock’s lowest points in her comedic career may be the grandest of understatements, because she all but squanders her beauty, tact as an actress, and delightfulness here by playing a character that is a human embodiment of fingernails on a chalkboard. Compared to other recent rom-coms that tenderly and plausibly tapped into the pulse of what doomed relationships based on lust masking as love are like – like the wonderfully sublime (500) DAYS OF SUMMER – ALL ABOUT STEVE has absolutely no grounding in any earthbound reality. It’s simply one of 2009’s most dreary, unauthentic, and improbably wrongheaded comedies. Much like the character within it, the film itself is helplessly insufferable and lacks any redeeming virtues.