because I said so


Some folks are automatically dismissive of romantic comedies. I’ll admit that a lot of them blow, and when you stumble upon a particularly rancid one like “because I said so”, it does make you want to track down the people responsible for it (that means you, director Michael Lehmann and screenwriters Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson!), gag and tie them up, fly to a war-torn region and drop them in the crossfire while yelling, “There, you bastards! This is the world you live in! No one cares about your personal drama! You can’t choose between the two dudes you’re dating at the same time? Your mother is overcontrolling? Boo-fucking-hoo!”

Okay, that was harsh. But “because I said so” IS that innocuous, self-centered and disconnected from any parcel of meaningful human experience. I’m not saying that every film has to take place in fascist Spain or involve one’s family being slaughtered. I actually like romantic comedies – good ones. It’s nice to forget about global warming and terrorism for 90 minutes and lose yourself in a universe where people meet-cute, walk through postcard-like locations, exchange banter and fall madly in love. But unlike what detractors of the genre think, it’s not easy to make this work. Clich├ęs and sentimentality are unavoidable, but you have to make it snappy, charming and at least a little bit smart.

The plot is monumentally stupid, contrived and predictable right from the start, as it asks us to believe that cutie pie Mandy Moore is unable to find a man. Then we have her unbearable mother (Diane Keaton) who decides to take matters into her own hands, placing an ad on the Internet to find a suitable suitor for her daughter. She settles on some architect (Tom Everett Scott), but a musician (Gabriel Macht) who witnessed the audition process gets it into his head that he too oughta go after this girl he’s never met.

Dumb, right? It gets worse, as the Mandy Moore character conveniently falls for both guys and alternately dates -and shags- each of them. Even if we accept this nonsense, why should we give a crap? There’s not a single character to root for: the mom is a manipulative bitch, the daughter is a two-timing dolt and the boyfriends are assholes for pretending that they found her out of the blue and not through idiotic scheming. Everyone is lying to everyone and thinking only about their own selfish shit, and they deserve all the heartbreak they might get. Needless to say, a romantic comedy is a miserable failure if you not only don’t care about boy and girl ending together but actively hate them and everyone in proximity. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, “Who ARE these people???”

Sometimes, even though the central relationship is stillborn, you can at least enjoy the general romantic atmosphere, the comedy or the supporting cast. Alas, the industrial suckiness of “because I said so” extends to every single aspect. The direction is sub-sitcom flat, the attempts at humor are embarrassing and all the actresses are wasted. As Mandy Moore’s sisters, my beloved Piper Perabo and Lauren Graham have the good fortune of not being made into such contemptible cretins as the other characters, but that’s probably because they aren’t given characters at all! They just stand in the back of a few scenes, make a few remarks about sex with their sister and their mother (eww) and take part in the utterly pointless singing numbers.

This is every bit as worthless as Hanging Up, that other Diane Keaton dud about annoying women endlessly blabbering on their cellphones. How can an actress who’s been in so many masterpieces (The Godfather, Annie Hall) have such poor taste in projects? At least she had “The Family Stone” a few years back, a picture superior in every way to goddamn “because I said so”.