Some Kind of Nonsense: Vaughan’s Unintentional Antithesis of the RomCom
Not long into Some Kind of Beautiful, the new film from director Tom Vaughan, a man best known for his 2008 Ashton Kutcher/Cameron Diaz film What Happens in Vegas, it becomes achingly clear that someone, somewhere pitched this film with intentions of crafting a romantic comedy. However, the film wasn’t painted in shades of either, and has the opposite effect of deadening emotional receptors. Staunchly filled with resolutely sturdy clichés in the hoary tradition of the aging lothario coming to uncertain terms with his playboy instinct and need for companionship, Vaughan and first time screenwriter Matthew Newman glide through this set-up with an icy dazedness, as if daring us to wade through its fretful yet uneventful schemes to an outcome prophesized from the moment its three leads converge.
Richard (Pierce Brosnan) is a Cambridge poetry professor, aging gracefully as he carries embarks on regular liaisons with nubile young students. Currently, he’s a bit serious about Kate (Jessica Alba). But when he meets her older sister Olivia (Salma Hayek), he accidentally flirts with her before he realizes who she is. Hold that thought. Richard marries Kate and follows her to Los Angeles where she lands some kind of job doing something. Years pass, they have a kid. However, just as Olivia becomes engaged, Richard discovers Kate is having an affair with Brian (Ben McKenzie). More time passes after their separation, and Richard gets into a legal situation demanding he attend AA (where he meets another possible love interest in none other than Marlee Matlin). But the stars at last seem to be aligning for his paused romantic interest in Olivia.
One can’t be shocked at the inclusion of Jessica Alba in this trainwreck trifecta, an actress who readily admits to eschewing the necessity of something called a screenplay. Nearly thirty years younger than co-star Pierce Brosnan, it also isn’t just her age making her ill-suited for the job. But then, it’s hardly fair to pick on her considering the resounding discomfort of having to watch Brosnan and Hayek labor through the fumes of a romantic entanglement that is also supposed to involve sexual chemistry.
Brosnan, in particular, suffers the brunt of this stilted endeavor, forced to wallow in this clutch of clichés perhaps surpassing the risible depths of titles like Mamma Mia! or The Laws of Attraction. The ever vibrant Hayek does her usual va-va-voom shtick, but it’s hard not to feel embarrassed for her when she loudly vocalizes an imitation of the exaggerated male orgasm within the hallways of an elementary school, the kind of behavior exhibited by the emotionally unhinged.
Malcom McDowell appears as Brosnan’s father, even though he’s actually only ten years his senior. McDowell, ever the eloquent thespian, can’t quite churn his horny old caricature touched with a life threatening ailment into anything remotely relevant either. He’s merely a tired foil for Brosnan, a once virile Cambridge professor of the Romantic poets who serves as the benchmark his son can’t quite reach.
The film’s solution is predicated on the easy assertion of the ‘sometimes, it just takes a self-help group’ sort. Finally, after years of being unable to discover why he has failed to inspire students and women with the same fervor as good ole dad, an AA mediator (underrated character actress Lee Garlington) has to spell it out for him by confirming it’s the meaning, not the words themselves. And, of course, like a magical salve, all falls into place.
Originally titled How to Make Love Like an Englishman, the meaningless bit of vagueness is actually more apt, since Some Kind of Beautiful actually has nothing at all to say about anything in particular.