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What’s Your Number

October 1, 2011
What's Your Number?

A lot of buzz has gone around since this summer saying that the sleeper crossover hit Bridesmaids changed a lot in Hollywood. I’m not so sure that’s true, if only because it seems more plausible that much of the buzz is self-congratulatory, the same way that idiots would say that since we’ve elected an African-American president there is no problem with race anymore. Saying Bridesmaids changed Hollywood’s relationship to women — and particularly to women in comedy — is easier than actually changing anything. And yet, I have to admit that Hollywood studios are sort of like lemmings; when one goes over an edge, others will surely follow. The catch is that it’s easy to kill momentum; the second wave will be judged in the light of the first, and so it’s impossible not to see What’s Your Number? without this context. And while it breaks no real new ground, it’s a perfectly (in)decent romantic comedy with a bit more raunch to it than we might have seen just a few years ago. This will not be the film to turn the tide.

Ally Darling (Anna Faris) is a relatively well-off young woman in Boston with a shambles of a love life. She’s just read an article claiming that the national average number of sexual partners a woman has in her life is 10.5, which she finds dramatically low. Talking with her friends makes it clear that her “number” of 19 puts her half again ahead of the second-most well-traveled of them, and further that some study shows that once a woman passes twenty partners her chances of finding a husband plummet. Personally, if this is even true I would look to factor out a correlation between number of partners and age, since that has more chance of affecting marriage prospects, but this is why I’m a huge geek writing movie reviews between mathematics and programming and not starring in romantic comedies. Either way, Ally resolves that she will not give it up to another man until she’s sure he’s The One, and what better place to make resolutions about good decision-making than while downing shots of Patrón at a swanky bar?

So the next morning Ally wakes up to number 20, and is only able to get him out of her apartment with the assistance of Colin Shea (Chris Evans), a struggling musician and womanizer who lives across the hall with no discernible source of income and a convenient talent for private investigation. Ally realizes that she can avoid going past 20 if she can find one of her exes who has somehow improved in the meantime, and Colin is just the guy to help her. So we set off into her past like Rob in High Fidelity, where we find the Criss Angel wannabe, the puppeteer dweeb, the British guy, and so on. But I think we’ve all seen enough rom-coms to know where this is going.

Still, there’s more to it than a parade of losers; the main premise is balanced out by Ally’s relationship to her younger sister, Daisy (Ari Graynor), and her grating social climber of a mother (Blythe Danner) as they approach Daisy’s upcoming wedding. Daisy’s relationship with her fiancé is remarkably unremarkable, and it’s actually sort of nice to have a normal, undramatic relationship in the periphery; even more so since Ally’s relationship to the fiancé is all but nonexistent, where in too many movies it would overshadow her relationship with her sister.

This is not a great movie the way that Bridesmaids was, but it’s a good, light romantic comedy. Yes, it’s formulaic at times, and the takeoff is a bit overlong, and the dialogue gets downright clunky at times. But it has a good heart, it knows when and how to drop a joke, and Faris makes Ally into more of a woman — more of a person — with a richer inner life than most female characters we get to see these days.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: pass.

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