Once upon a time, we went to the movies to watch heroes in action; to look in awe upon our betters as they accomplished great deeds. Then, we decided that we wanted our screen idols to be more like us, a populist revolution that asked for more realistic body images, character traits, and problems to which we all could relate. Now, on this day, we are fully immersed in the latest, and perhaps most odious turn in the American cinematic experience. We do not wish to aspire, nor do we want a mirror. Instead, we need to feel superior; thus our craving for characters so beneath us, so ridiculous and insipid that for a few hours in the dark, we can toss aside our insecurities and daily dilemmas, comfortable in the idea that at the very least, we are not them. The latest in this long line of dimwitted comedies is Just Married, a relatively harmless but completely irredeemable hunk of trash that asks for our attention and cinema dollar. While this was by no means the worst film I have seen in the past year, it did manage to present one of the least sympathetic married couple in the history of the screen.
When we first meet Tom (Ashton Kurcher) and Sarah (Brittany Murphy), they are fighting, bickering, and shoving each other while walking through an airport, presumably after their honeymoon has concluded. They are so disgusted with each other that they have decided to get a divorce barely two weeks into their marriage. At this point, the expected flashback kicks in and we get to see “what went wrong,” which should be unnecessary given that it only took me thirty seconds to see that these two dipshits would realize their incompatibility once they attempted conversation. Of course, Sarah is the daughter of a wealthy businessman and Tom a part-time radio DJ with working class roots. Do I need to tell you that Sarah’s family objects and believes she can do better? Of course not, unless of course you have not seen a romantic comedy since the advent of sound. Fortunately, the Meet-Cute (he hits her in the face with a football) and courtship are brief, and we dive right into the honeymoon. Still, the dating period does require one comment. Haven’t Hollywood screenwriters figured out a device for allowing us to believe that two people have connected, thus gaining our sympathy? Showing two people kiss, flirt, and laugh hysterically might appear fun, but don’t people talk anymore? Get to know each other in a non-sexual manner? Perhaps not, but it would be nice to witness a love that is more than mutual attraction.
The honeymoon begins with a disaster, as the couple gets locked in an airplane bathroom after attempting to have sex. There’s a foot in the toilet here, a door smashing a flight attendant’s face there, and we are off to races of sophisticated comedy. After arriving in France, they are stuck with a tiny, slow-moving vehicle (the kind right-wingers say we all would be stuck with if we raised fuel efficiency standards). At their first hotel, a castle in the Alps, Tom overloads the circuits by forcing in the plug of a vibrator. Thrown out with nowhere to go, the couple is run off the road into a snow bank, where they spend the night kissing. They manage to make their way to Venice, Italy, where they are forced to stay in a roach-infested room where, you guessed it, the walls come crumbling down after an intense session of kissing. They begin to drift apart when Sarah insists on touring churches and museums, while Tom would rather spend his time in an American café watching baseball. Sarah’s alleged sophistication (she speaks several languages, loves art and history, etc.) is severely undermined by the fact that we are watching Brittany Murphy here, a woman who we expect to break into an impromptu lap-dance at any moment. Her words on ancient architecture are about as convincing as anything Denise Richards uttered as a nuclear scientist in that James Bond flick a few years back. We can believe that Sir Ashton is a mindless lunkhead, but it is pushing credibility way too far when we are asked to accept Miss Murphy as anything above barely sentient. An ex-porn star on the run after stealing money from her abusive pimp? I can believe it. An upper-crust lady as erudite as a British monarch? Not on your fucking life. As presented, Murphy’s character is as moronic as Kurcher’s, but the screenplay keeps insisting otherwise.
Tensions are exacerbated when Sarah’s old flame Peter shows up attempting to woo her back. Meanwhile, Tom has retreated to the sports bar, flirting with a fellow American twit with arguably less upstairs than Sarah. They go back to his hotel room, but after the tart removes her bra, Tom has a change of heart and reveals that he is on his honeymoon and must remain faithful (how very noble). Of course, she leaves her bra behind, thus setting up the inevitable scene where Sarah comes to apologize, only to find evidence of an affair. Tears are shed, insults are exchanged, and the two fly back to the United States prepared to end the relationship.
Still, no American film would ever be complete without the teary-eyed woman sitting in her room while the man comes to win her back. He is thwarted at the gate of her family’s estate and before he leaves, declares his love into a security camera, which of course she sees. She hears the loving words, defiantly tells her father that he is the one for her, and the two embrace, together forever, or at least until the next trivial incident causes a major blow-up. The film ends on a note hinting that true love defies all odds, but nothing we have seen demonstrates anything more than two horny retards who can’t stay apart because the drive for an orgasm is simply too overpowering.
A few more issues to discuss. First, what in the hell was Raymond J. Barry doing in this mess? After his Oscar-worthy turn in Interview With the Assassin, I did not expect his presence in such puerile nonsense. Still, Barry gives a performance (consisting of only one scene, as Tom’s father) so earnest and heartfelt that it seems to be from another movie. I have to believe that Barry did not read the rest of the script, or his agent is an unscrupulous bastard with unparalleled powers of persuasion. Next, this appears to be Brittany Murphy’s final role before settling into the skeletal hell of anorexia. Unfortunately, being a PG-13 film, Just Married is noticeably lacking any real revelations of flesh, giving us only a hint of the breasts that lie beneath. I would have liked one last look at Murphy’s frame before the flesh disappeared, but all I got was that annoyingly raspy voice spewing forth the sort of dialogue no man should have to hear twice in a lifetime. Alas, I have heard such words three times in one week, as I have also suffered through Kangaroo Jack and National Security.
It has become a custom of mine to discuss the audience at each picture I attend, and this film should be no exception. There were only seven other people in the theater with me, and I can’t say that they enjoyed it any more than I did. One couple, a few rows in front of me, talked throughout, often in tones that were more appropriate for a dance club. Normally, even the rudest people have the courtesy to whisper, but these pukes made no effort to lower their voices at all. Given the film I was in, I didn’t care. But when a young kid came down the aisle shouting someone’s name (no lie, shouting) I had to act. I doubt my “Jesus Christ, shut the fuck up” was heard above the din, but at least I made the effort. Two other Latino girls got up several times during the film, presumably to call their boyfriends about their post-Super Bowl beatings. It was just another day in Thornton, where dreams go to die, and each and every film in my local cineplex brings out the worst humanity has to offer. But I do it all for Ruthless; I do it out of love.
Special Ruthless Ratings
- Number of times Brittany Murphy wore tight leather pants: 2
- Number of times that it simply wasn’t enough, goddammit: 2
- Number of times I was genuinely surprised by the screenplay: 0
- Number of times I welcomed a surprise if it involved Brittany Murphy in a shower: 34
- Number of times I thought that Ashton Kutcher has clearly sold his soul to the devil to secure his fame: 77
- Number of times I would do the same if the contract also contained Brittany Murphy: 11
- Number of times I wondered if this was the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon: 9
- Number of times I realized that, yes, it was the best I could come up with: 7