I don’t know that I would vote All About Steve the worst movie of 2009, but it rightly deserves some Razzie love for an ill-conceived story about an awkward woman who’s not doing a great job of fitting into society. Those who manage to watch until the end will be awarded with some tender moments when the film seems to find its moral core, but damn, it’s a long, uncomfortable ride there.
Sandra Bullock plays Mary Horowitz, a crossword puzzle writer for the local paper and the type of person who would assert that “crosswording is the most fun a person can have without passing out.” As it is, she also lives with her parents, is single, and wears her cherry red latex boots everywhere. After some teasing from a group of middle schoolers, she decides to go ahead with a blind date arranged by her parents. He turns out to be Steve (Bradley Cooper), a cameraman for a news network, and man, is he gorgeous.
Mary is immediately smitten, but her infatuation soon morphs into something bordering on obsession. First, she writes a puzzle all about Steve, which gets her fired, and then she takes this as a sign that she should pursue him across the country. Steve’s colleague and on-air reporter, Hartman (Thomas Haden Church), essentially invites her along, hoping that her encyclopedic knowledge will give him the edge he needs to be bumped up to the anchor desk.
There are plenty of Marys to be found in movies and television, and it isn’t her lack of social grace that makes the film hard to watch. She’s an oddball, she knows it, and she tries in her own way to fit in, even if that means standing with her back pressed firmly against the outer edges of society. Instead, it’s the way everyone else treats her that makes you question the movie’s intent.
As a comedy, All About Steve is interested in laughs foremost, and those come solely at the expense of Mary. But what is supposed to be funny comes across as cruel, whether it’s Hartman giving her false hopes that Steve is mad about her or that she is bullied off a bus and left to her own devices. There’s a nagging feeling that everyone’s eyeing each other, trying to make a getaway, but not before needling her just because she’s an easy target. It isn’t until well into the movie that Angus (Ken Jeong), Steve and Hartman’s producer, tries to put a stop to the snickering. He reprimands them like a pair of ill-mannered school children, declaring that Mary is “just a really smart girl with weird boots.”
The actors do their best to extract some compassion out of the script. Cooper avoids playing Steve as a jerk and is more invested in the character as a decent guy who finds himself in a situation he doesn’t know how to get out of. Sometimes this causes him to act in less than admirable ways. As Mary, Bullock puts on her bubbly personality and ends up making her character even more pathetic, like the woman who’s laughing at her own jokes to the sound of crickets. But there’s also a hopefulness to her that gives the film a lift. Maybe she just hasn’t found the right lunch table yet.
Prod: Sandra Bullock, Mary McLaglen
Dir: Phil Traill
Writer: Kim Barker
Cast: Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper, Thomas Haden Church, Ken Jeong, DJ Qualls, Katy Mixon, Keith David, Holmes Osborne, M.C. Gainey, Howard Hesseman, Beth Grant, Jason Jones
Time: 99 min
Country: United States