The Ugly Truth
Running Time: 95 Minutes
In the movie poster for “The Ugly Truth,” there are two stick figures, icons ripped straight from a public restroom door. They are adorned with hearts. The woman’s heart is in her head. The man’s heart is in his crotch. How original.
So we are introduced to Abby Richter (Katherine Heigl) and Mike Chadway (Gerard Butler), the two main characters in this tepid romcom. A rational, sensible, and borderline-feminist young producer, Abby has met her match in the misogynistic, boorish Mike. Abby is struggling to turn around her morning show, whose ratings are in the single digits. Her boss tells her to bring in Mike, the epitome of modern Homo Chauvinistus, to do a love and relationships segment. Audiences love his misogynistic advice, and the ratings go up. Abby fumes.
While the anachronisms of the protagonists are impressed deeply onto the audience, their characters are rather flat, if not outright predictable. Abby is a capable woman, comfortable in “unsexy” clothing and an unabashed perfectionist. A workaholic who is hopelessly clumsy at love due to her high standards and laundry list of characteristics she looks for in men, she is the cliché of the working professional. When she falls for the George Clooney-esque surgeon neighbor, Mike offers to lend a hand in exchange for her settling aside her hostilities and collaborate properly.
What unfolds is more than predictable. Despite the toothpaste-commerical smile and Ralph Lauren model looks of the surgeon neighbor, Abby ends up finding herself attracted to the brutish Mike. What is unconvincing about The Ugly Truth comes down to the incompatibility of the actors. Katherine Heigl has the glamour of Old Hollywood — even in frumpy sweat, she is still sexy. She does not need a sexy makeover in order to draw in the men. Gerald Butler, after 300, has most unfortunately developed a gut and is better off as a father figure than a romantic interest. The chemistry between the two appears forced, and the story unravels into something akin to The Taming of the Shrew. The surgeon is also a bit too good looking. Though it’s clear he was intended to be blandly handsome, he tends to steal the scene.
Furthermore, the writers never really explain why Mike became such a womanizing chauvinist. Bad luck in love is the hollow explanation. Instead of attempting to delve deeper into the inner workings of Mike — and men in general and why they act the way they do (we know all the physical mannerisms and aspects they look for in women, but the emotional needs are never quite answered). Abby is ultimately a character one cannot empathize with — she’s too uptight and idealistic. Although as all romance comedies go, there has to be a neat ending, “The Ugly Truth” does not provide fulfillment. The experience is akin to a non-fat frozen yogurt. Lesson learned: Women should have lower standards in men and misogynistic behavior is forgiven if said man is loving.