Amid the plethora of films with Freddie Prinze Jr., Mena Suvari, Chris Klein, and Jason Biggs, it's nice -- in theory, at least -- to see a contemporary romantic comedy, like Someone Like You, in which the characters, while hardly over the hill, are all over 30. In practice, however, "nice" is really about as strong an endorsement as one can manage. Fifteen minutes after you leave the theater, you are likely to forget you've even seen a movie.
Ashley Judd stars as Jane Goodale, a guest wrangler for Diane Roberts (Ellen Barkin), an ambitious daytime talk-show host. The thirtyish Jane is, like many a savvy young career woman -- not to mention the rest of the human race -- baffled by her inability to develop a permanent romantic relationship. Her non-work time is primarily spent comparing notes with her similarly frustrated best friend, Liz (Marisa Tomei). (It says something about Tomei's career arc that she's been demoted to Star's Best Friend in precisely the sort of film she would have headlined a few years back.)
During a whirlwind courtship by new co-worker Ray (Greg Kinnear), Jane gives up her apartment so they can move in together. When Ray, like all of Jane's previous flames, suddenly gets cold feet, she's forced by circumstance to become roommates with Eddie (Hugh Jackman), the most notorious fuck-'em-and-shuck-'em womanizer in the office.
While watching a TV documentary, Jane suddenly realizes that the problem is biological: Human relationships are determined by Darwinism and chemistry as much as animal relationships are. So compelling do her arguments become that Liz, who works at a major men's magazine, hires her to pour them into a monthly column. The embarrassed Jane insists on a pseudonym, so the friends contrive the persona of 65-year-old Dr. Marie Charles. It doesn't take much to predict where all this is headed: Dr. Charles becomes fabulously popular, putting all sorts of pressure on Jane, and the putatively feminist heroine finds herself growing increasingly close to her macho pig roommate.
Someone Like You is adapted from Laura Zigman's 1998 novel Animal Husbandry, which achieved some kind of literary reputation. Whatever qualities the original might have are not particularly evident on screen. The central premise is especially weak: The world drops to its knees in admiration over the revelation that human relations are comparable to those of the animal world? Huh? The word "bitch" migrated over from the canine kingdom a long, long time ago.
Actually, given that, in the real world, equally banal psychobabble from the likes of John Gray and Barbara De Angelis have attracted large fan bases, maybe this hook isn't quite so unbelievable. But that doesn't make it any less lame.
Judd has a tremendously likable screen presence: She almost generates enough goodwill to finesse us past this problem. The script manages a dozen or so really funny lines, and Tony Goldwyn's direction is well paced. But in the end, the various talents on display aren't enough to overcome the sheer blandness of the material.