What’s Your Number?
In a recent article for The New Yorker, comedy writer Mindy Kaling admitted that rom-coms were her favourite type of movie. She apologises for this, even saying “I feel almost embarrassed revealing this, because the genre has been so degraded in the past twenty years that saying you like romantic comedies is essentially an admission of mild stupidity.” She’s right, of course. Romantic comedies are possibly the most predictable genre in the sphere of film-making.You can discern the entire outcome for most romantic comedies from the trailer alone, but should that really affect how much we enjoy them for the escapist fluff they are?
I’m saying this, of course, to distract from the fact that I enjoyed watching What’s Your Number? I didn’t enjoy it ironically, I didn’t think it was “so-bad-it’s-good”: I just honestly enjoyed it. They shoot film reviewers, don’t they?
In case you haven’t discerned from this very methodical trailer, What’s Your Number tells the story of young-ish woman Ally Darling (Faris) who, after reading in Marie Claire that a woman’s chances of marrying go down after she’s slept with 20 men, becomes paranoid about the uncomfortable possibility that she may die alone. Things aren’t dire though: she’s only up to number 19. Breathing a sigh of relief with her soon-to-be-wed younger sister and fellow bridesmaids, she vows that the next man she sleeps with will be her husband. Unfortunately, this does not go quite as planned when she gets utterly wasted and sleeps with her ex-boss (Joel McHale), mere hours after he has fired her. Determined not to raise her number, Ally decides that her husband must have been one of the 20 she has already slept with. Naturally, she enlists the help of her misogynistic and oh-so-dreamy neighbour Colin (Evans) to help her track them down. And before you say it, yes obviously they get together. But it’s what happens in between that makes What’s Your Number so oddly enjoyable.
Faris, for her part, succeeds in carrying the film’s comic chops. Dozens of actresses have built careers on what is already being termed the “Katherine Heigl” character: the woman who is pretty, smart, funny and is for some reason utterly repellent to men. This was nauseating in The Ugly Truth and its various counterparts, but Faris just about pulls it off. While she is attractive and likeable, you are still convinced by her utter failure at establishing healthy relationships. An aura of nerve-driven desperation surrounds her, constantly giving the impression that she is at least slightly unhinged.
While she obviously exists in the heightened, impossible universe of the romantic comedy (great clothes, an amazing apartment and the metabolism of a cheetah) she’s still universally relatable. When attempting to google her ex-boyfriend, she is baffled on how to narrow down the ten million hits to her “Jake Adams”. She begins drunkenly typing in identifiers, starting with “loves Bruce Springsteen” and ending with “massive balls, tiny penis”. She awakes the next morning, face on her keyboard, to an animated gif of a singing pair of testicles. Romantic interest Chris Evans gives a similarly credible performance, and although their story is obvious, it’s not hard to believe in their relationship. The pair bounce off one another effortlessly (“Pant-suits are sexy. Katherine Hepburn wore pant-suits.” His response “Audrey Hepburn was sexy, Katherine Hepburn was a dude.”) to an extent that their inevitable pairing doesn’t feel too laboured.
For all its simple charm, What’s Your Number? is obviously swimming in faults: there’s some long, unnecessary wedding porn, an obligatory curveball when the couple briefly break-up, and an even longer “I have realised I love him and now I must go to him!” scene. It’s not as clever as Crazy Stupid Love and it’s not as laugh-out-loud funny as Bridesmaids, but for all its faults, there’s a simple, stuttering charm to What’s Your Number? While the easiest option would be to dismiss it for what it’s not – original, thought-provoking or inspirational, it may be just as easy to like it for what it is – feisty, fun and forgettable.