She’s Out Of My League might be the most important romantic comedy of the past twenty five years. If only it was funny enough to warrant such an accolade. For once, the hero of this romcom doesn’t have the fratboy goofiness of Ashton Kutcher, the Spartan bod of Gerard Butler, or the penchant for laidback shirtlessness as one Matthew McConaugheyhey. It’s a regular, gawky, not-totally-unattractive dude. Sure, the film’s premise is specifically about the ridiculousness of a gorgeous girl wanting to go out with said dude. But as a young man who dates a woman several rungs further up the ladder than himself, I appreciate a comedy that speaks for my people.
Jay Baruchel, carrying the torch for all us geeks, stars as Kirk, a twenty-something who has abandoned his dreams of ever becoming a pilot and has settled for working security at the Pittsburgh International Airport. Just as his career aspirations have subsided, so too have his dating expectations. That is, until he meet(cute)s Molly (Alice Eve), a genuinely warm and friendly young lady who also happens to be the slammingingest hottie he’s ever laid eyes on. They make a brief connection, but before he knows it, she’s boarded her plane. Thankfully, she has accidentally left her iPhone at the terminal, and Kirk promises to give it back to her once she’s back in town. He comes through, and she repays him by offering to take him to a hockey game, of which she is also a massive fan. As female readers may have already guessed, this film was written by two guys.
Believe it or not, Molly has genuinely fallen for Kirk. She thinks he’s sweet and funny, can stand his unbearable family, and is willing (if not eager) to make out with him. And he really likes her. But as Kirk’s friends remind him regularly, she’s well and truly out of his league. Cue self-esteem issues, the inevitable 2nd act break-up as well as the final race-to-the-airport reunion. If you consider these spoilers, you’ve clearly not seen many romantic comedies.
Baruchel is a very funny, very charming, and very emotionally in-tune young actor. Combined with his lead performance in How To Train Your Dragon, it’s nice to see him finally break out from supporting roles (he previously stole Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder from heavyweights such as Seth Rogen and Ben Stiller). Alice Eve, a fine British actress (check her out in Starter for 10), gives a star-making performance by playing her character as both realistic and lovable (pay attention Katherine Heigl). The supporting characters aren’t quite as well-drawn as in the films of Judd Apatow, but T.J. Miller and Krysten Ritter do some nice work as Kirk and Molly’s cynical best friends.
She’s Out of My League is pleasant enough, but its main problem is that it has the same self-esteem issues as its protagonist. Director Jim Field Smith (previously from British television) doesn’t aim particularly high with his feature film debut. Overall, the film can’t overcome its generic sitcom-esque premise and pacing. The laughs are big, but perhaps too infrequent. This is also the case with screenwriters Sean Anders and John Morris’ previous film, Sex Drive. Also, for a gross-out comedy, it’s not particularly gross. I’m not saying I would have preferred more filth, but it’s surprisingly coy about sex. Saying that, I’ll take She’s Out Of My Leagues’ naiveté over The Ugly Truth’s vile sexual ignorance any day.
The film is not nearly as interesting as the whole “romantic comedy” problem. As I said in the opening paragraph, She’s Out Of My League could have been the most important romantic comedy of the past twenty five years. Society has come a long way since Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (and even John Hughes’ romantic odes to awkward teenagerdom). Now, the very concept of a slightly un-hunklike guy dating an attractive woman is enough to send audience members into a state of shock (see: the, frankly quite offensive, tirade from those unable to believe that Katherine Heigl’s character could ever slum it with Seth Rogen’s in Knocked Up). She’s Out Of My League is willing to challenge this dangerously unpleasant trait in humanity that sees us all ranked on a hotness scale out of ten, by suggesting that, maybe, there is more to people than looks. Hardly revolutionary, sure. But when it comes to romcoms, I appreciate any effort taken to mix things up.