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Dustin Putman

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How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by Donald Petrie
Cast: Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Kathryn Hahn, Annie Parisse, Adam Goldberg, Bebe Neuwirth, Thomas Lennon, Michael Michele, Shalom Harlow, Justin Peroff, Robert Klein, Celia Weston
2003 – 116 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for sex-related material).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, January 25, 2003.

Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) is a cute, talented journalist for the popular women's magazine, "Composure," who writes monthly "How To" columns. Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey) is a handsome lifelong bachelor struggling to get his ideas heard at his advertising job. When Andie concocts her latest column, "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," in which she will initially attract a man and then purposefully make the mistakes women often make in relationships, she chooses Benjamin as her target. What she doesn't realize is that Benjamin has made his own bet: if he can make a woman fall head over heels in love with him in ten days, he will finally be allowed to pitch his advertising ideas to the head of a diamond company. With Andie secretly attempting to turn off Benjamin for her assignment, and Benjamin determined to make her fall for him, an unsaid battle forms that leaves both parties unavoidably attracted to the other, and wondering if they haven't made a terrible mistake in their initial schemes.

Directed by Donald Petrie (2000's "Miss Congeniality"), "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" would seemingly have all of the ingredients needed to make a charming romantic comedy, including the well-cast pairing of lovable star-on-the-rise Kate Hudson (2000's "Almost Famous") and the equally able Matthew McConaughey (2002's "Frailty"), but it takes too many wrong turns on its path for the inevitable happy ending.

For a while, it seems as if Hudson's Andie and McConaughey's Benjamin have been written as unusually intelligent individuals for this type of mainstream romance, but the screenplay (by Kristen Buckley, Brian Regan, and Burr Steers) lets them down in the end. The climax, set at the gala reception for the diamond company Benjamin wants to pitch his ideas to, dissolves into a disheartening series of revelations and misunderstandings. The way in which Andie and Benjamin handle their mutual discovery of what each has been doing to the other is terribly frustrating, as their IQ levels are knocked down several notches and they come off seeming needlessly selfish.

To all individuals with at least part of their brains working: if you were playing a trick on someone, and then you found out that the other was doing the exact same thing, wouldn't you laugh it off and get on with your life? For Andie and Benjamin, they become irate at each other, causing an on-stage charade at the reception and then continuing their one-sided argument outside. Sure, both of them finally come around, but this kind of dumbed-down plot development makes the leads look bad and the audience feeling messed around with.

Lest it seem like the film is a complete bust, "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" does have its sharp moments. The lengths in which Andie goes to in her desperate quest to scare off Benjamin is quite funny, as she tricks him into taking her to a Celine Dion concert, raids his weekly poker game with his buddies, and digitally superimposes their faces to make a family photo album, complete with fantasy children. As they reluctantly start to really like each other, there are quite a few engagingly sweet and romantic scenes, to boot, helped immeasurably by the chemistry Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey ignite.

For Hudson, this is her first big lead role, and she is fabulous as Andie even when the screenplay lets her down. Repeating a character quite similar to the one he played in 2001's dreadful "The Wedding Planner," McConaughey's role as Benjamin is undemanding, but he does it with effortless skill. In supporting roles, Kathryn Hahn (TV's Crossing Jordan") is a bright new face as Andie's best friend; Adam Goldberg (2001's "A Beautiful Mind"), in a role way below his proven abilities, is Benjamin's best friend; and Bebe Neuwirth (1999's "Summer of Sam") has the thankless part of Andie's stringent boss.

Since the minor roles are just that—minor—this is Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey's show all the way, and they carry the film as far as they can on their own before the ill-conceived third act brings them to a road block they don't recover from. "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" is an entertaining trifle to a point (complete with a poppy, catchy soundtrack), but it doesn't treat the character's or the audience's intelligence with the respect they deserve. By the end, you just don't care anymore.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman