Are human males—like bulls and other mammals—genetically predisposed to serial monogamy? That’s what Jane Goodale wants to know when her love life takes a turn for the worse. If the answer is affirmative, she’ll rest assured that getting dumped by a suave coworker wasn’t really her fault, but rather a hormonal glitch that prevents the male of the species from making long-term romantic commitments. Of course, if she’s wrong, it will leave her feeling like tainted beef.
Jane books talent for a popular talk show in New York City. Its host is a feminist pit bull hybrid of Diane Sawyer and Sally Jesse Rafael. The men on staff include sensitive, handsome executive producer Ray Brown and a callous, womanizing hunk named Eddie. Disgusted by Eddie’s tomcatting, Jane snipes with him over matters of the heart. Ray, on the other hand, is Mr. Right. She falls hard for him and, at least in the beginning, Ray is equally smitten. But just as the two are about to move in together, he gets cold feet. Jane is devastated, not to mention homeless since she has already surrendered her apartment. So she moves in with Eddie, who conveniently has a spare room (vacated by his own live-in lover). As a platonic roomie, Jane observes Eddie’s parade of one-night stands and solidifies her theory that men feel a biological urge “to spread their seed.”
Meanwhile, Jane’s best friend, Liz, is a nicotine-addicted magazine editor intrigued by all of this extracurricular research on sex and dating. She coaxes Jane to pen an advice column under an assumed identity (Jane poses as an elderly woman with a Ph.D. from the Vienna Institute of Pathological Narcissism). It becomes a huge hit. So what happens when Jane’s don’t-take-no-for-an-answer boss insists that she book this elusive European sex therapist as a guest on her talk show? And what conclusions about men will the sweet Jane draw after having been emotionally tossed like a salad?
See Jane. See Jane fall in love. See Jane get her heart broken. See Jane explore the mysteries of physical attraction. See Jane have an epiphany and realize that true love may be right under her nose.
positive elements: Friends look out for one another, sharing joys and sorrows. When Jane’s sister miscarries, she rushes to her side and is impressed with the devotion and compassion shown by her husband. Ray regrets hurting Jane and tries to make amends through small acts of kindness. Jane finds it in her heart to give him a second chance.
spiritual content: None.
sexual content: Beyond shots of copulating wildlife, this film is riddled with sexuality from a distinctly amoral perspective. It could be summed up by Eddie’s statement just before he picks up a woman in a bar for a quick fling: “Don’t underestimate casual sex, Jane. It’s very liberating.” Ugh. Eddie’s medicine chest overflows with boxes of condoms, and his dates come and go like pizza delivery girls. After a few lunches and walks in the park, Jane dusts off her diaphragm and has sex with Ray (physical passion seems to be the basis of their relationship since the script doesn’t bother to develop any other common bonds). The pair furiously undresses each other as the camera cuts back and forth between their activities and innocent schoolgirls defining the words “joy” and “rapture.” Only after the couple has been sleeping together for more than a month does Ray risk saying “I love you” (which isn’t even viewed as odd in this morality-free environment). Cohabitation is commonplace. When Jane tells Liz that Ray wants her to live with him, Liz reacts as if she’d just been shown an engagement ring, though rings and lifelong commitment are deemed unnecessary. Women are shown in immodest clothing. Jane spends several scenes in her underwear. A man palms a bedmate’s clothed breasts. A woman struggling with infertility alludes to her husband’s reliance on masturbation and pornography.
violent content: None.
crude or profane language: More than 30 instances of profanity or crass anatomical slang, including one f-word and nine s-words.
drug and alcohol content: Eddie and Liz smoke cigarettes throughout (Jane tries one and ends up choking and gagging unattractively). Alcohol is consumed at holiday parties and in bars. Beer. Champagne. Scotch. To “ease the pain,” Eddie offers Jane a glass of whiskey.
other negative elements: Diane Roberts gets kicks from grilling conservative guests, one in particular who tries to build a case for stay-at-home moms. The filmmakers conspire by creating dialogue that makes Diane seem like the noble one. Jane and Liz consistently express an unhealthy cynicism about guys (“Men never fail to do what’s in their nature to do”).
conclusion: Is it any wonder these women feel like “old cows” used and discarded in favor of fresh meat? The guys may indeed be scum, but the girls cheapen themselves by sleeping with mere boyfriends. While we’re on the subject of cow-as-sexual-metaphor, didn’t Jane and Liz ever hear the expression, “Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?” For all of its concern about sexual politics and the subsequent emotional fallout, Someone Like You never stops to consider that showing a little self-respect and withholding that most intimate of acts for the marriage bed may actually be the way to reverse the social condition that ails them. (At one point, Liz admits resignedly, “The world is one giant used cow lot.” Sad, but true.) The answer is simple: self-control before marriage, faithfulness after. Of course, watching people respect themselves and each other sexually wouldn’t get guilty giggles from morally numb viewers who drop $7.50 apiece to live vicariously.
On another level, the film and its characters are strangely endearing (making its moral vacuum all the more dangerous). The cast is excellent. Especially Ashley Judd. I have a confession to make. During Ashley’s senior year at the University of Kentucky, I was in my first year of graduate school there. The buzz was that this unknown member of the popular country music family would be heading to Hollywood after graduation. My initial reaction was that she was using the family name for her own crack at show-biz fame. Shame on me. Judd is a fine actress who has handled action films and dramas well, and here shows the same spunk, sweetness and emotional dexterity that made Meg Ryan so likable in romantic comedies like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. She’s quite charming in the role of Jane—which makes the film’s ending all the more frustrating …
[Spoiler Warning] When Jane chooses Eddie in the film’s closing scene, it defies logic and makes you wonder if all of that romantic navel-gazing caused her to blow a fuse. In effect, her decision turns the most morally bankrupt, sexually irresponsible character in the entire movie into the most desirable. Just as Julia Roberts’ prostitute emerged as Cinderella in Pretty Woman, this unrepentant cad becomes Prince Charming. And if there’s any truth to the conventional wisdom that when you sleep with someone, you are actually sleeping with everyone that person has ever slept with, this sweet little girl next door is in serious trouble. Jane is about to sleep with half of New York City. It’s just one more example of how Someone Like You subtly undermines good sense.