I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and language
Running time: 97 min.
Cast: Michelle Pfeiffer, Paul Rudd, Saoirse Ronan, Stacey Dash, Tracey Ullman, Job Lovitz, Sarah Alexander, Fred Willard, Henry WInkler (cameo), Sally Kellerman (cameo)
Director: Amy Heckerling
Screenplay: Amy Heckerling
Amy Heckerling once showed us that one can never be too old to make a comedy that speaks to young people, as she wrote and directed 1995's Clueless using vernacular that was very much in tune with the language of teenagers. Heckerling was 40 at the time she put together the script, and after the film's success, she would continue on as executive producer of the television series of the same name.
Now in her 50s, Heckerling returns with a new film (after hitting a creative speed bump with 2000's Loser), which features a divorcee at its front and center who spends much of her time trying to capture the lingo of the youth from her precocious 13-year-old daughter, Izzie (Ronan, Death Defying Acts), while serving as the producer of one of television's youth-targeting TV shows. Although still an attractive woman, this producer, 45-year-old Rosie (Pfieffer, Sinbad), finds that her age is beginning to show, and she's self-conscious about it, especially in a career that sees people regularly turned down for jobs strictly because the powers-that-be deem them as too old to know how to appeal to the much-prized teen and twenty-something consumer crowds advertisers love.
However, one thing that makes her feel young again is in catching the eye of an attractive new actor in her ensemble, Adam (Rudd, Reno 911!), who is 29, about as close to her daughter in age as he is to her. Although she enjoys the attention, and is attracted, she can't get over the age difference, especially as she feels Mother Nature catching up to her, both figuratively and literally (the mythical woman is embodied by actress Tracey Ullmann (Corpse Bride, Small Time Crooks), though only seen by Rosie). Not knowing if Adam truly does dig her as a woman, or if he's merely using her to climb up the ladder to stardom, Rosie has to come to grips with the state of her self-esteem, wanting to give in to the temptation presenting himself before her, but also not wanting to get duped by someone who doesn't plan on sticking around long.
Although not quite as sharp and clever as the aforementioned Heckerling vehicle, Clueless, I Could Never Be Your Woman (its rather odd choice for a title is derived from a lyric to the 1997 White Town song, "Your Woman", covered by Tyler James in 2005, the same year this was filmed), is actually quite inventive in its own fashion, with Heckerling drawing upon her own experience in being an older woman working in a youth-oriented industry, making entertainment meant to appeal to people about 30 years her junior. As with Clueless, much of the humor is topical, making fun of teen pop stars, teenybopper shows that appear on the WB and UPN (now the CW), and the plastic surgery boom that has become a staple among many Hollywood players, in front of the camera and behind, once they hit their 40s and beyond.
Although it is Heckerling's crisp writing that drives the film into the realm of something unique enough to earn a sense of respect, the quality of the casting is also key. Pfeiffer, who has often struggled being funny in comedies over the years, actually does deliver a likeable, and quite amusing performance, ingratiating herself by taking on the less glamorous role of a woman whose looks are fading to the point where she often feels like an outsider looking into a world she is supposed to be front and center of. Paul Rudd and Stacey Dash (Getting Played, View from the Top), two alums from Clueless, are also given some very choice comedic roles, and they deliver the energy and exuberance required to play much younger. Perhaps the biggest irony of the film is that Dash (still looking fantastic at 40) and Rudd (in his late 30s), are playing not only younger than they are in their respective roles in the film, but the characters themselves are stars of a TV show that requires them to be high school age. I guess it's OK to be older in the Hollywood system, so long as you don't actually look close to your age.
Although the film achieves enough high spots to carry it through as a winning comedy, it does have its share of lulls and wrong turns. Ullman's Mother Nature character begins the film, and appears from time to time, but she isn't much of an issue as far as the main story goes, and whatever laughs she garners (none, if you go by my laugh count) doesn't really justify her constant distractions. There is also a great deal of time spent exploring the torch carried by Rosie's daughter on one of her classmates, and while this is certainly not a complete burden on the spirit of the film, I wonder why so much time is given to exploring such pursuits when whatever parallels one can draw between the two different love interests, the older and younger, are so minimal. Murky subplots also abound regarding a 30-ish co-producer (Alexander, "The Worst Week of My Life") who has her sights set on Adam, willing to nab him at any cost, as well as Jon Lovitz (The Benchwarmers, Farce of the Penguins) playing Rosie's ex, who appears from time to time to try to add a few more zingers to the mix.
I Could Never Be Your Woman is a more than a little scattershot in approach, and probably could have been a better film with a more focused storyline and less superfluous side characters given nearly equal screen time to the main players. However, the poignancy of the material certainly comes out, and much of the humor is inspired enough to elevate the film from a sure misfire to one that is smart and witty, even if it isn't altogether memorable. Although Heckerling's interests have predominantly resided in the youth market, in this most personal of her efforts, it will be the moms in the audience that will probably like it most.
©2007 Vince Leo