“She’s Out of My League” – For the Love of a Long Shot

By Michael S. Goldberger, film critic

“She’s Out of My League,” a flawed but often endearing romantic comedy, explains in feature length proportions what it is that makes people watching so much fun. Sitting in the park, studying the couples that walk by, you tally who got the best of each deal. Oh c’mon, you do it. Wide disparities in attractiveness inevitably elicit a, “What’s he got?”

But the great truth behind the cynical exercise in comparative anatomy is that our inner idealist hopes we are wrong. Yes, one is more beautiful, but the other is not necessarily rich. To the contrary, they are hopelessly smitten couples…proof positive that love is blind. Of course it’ll take some doing to make our film’s ugly duckling buy the fantasy.

Kirk, a TSA airport security agent enjoyably played by Jay Baruchel, is a dweeb, a nerd, and a loser. It’s a comfortable identity he’s come to accept, foisted on him by a cretinous family that doesn’t know any better. We almost absolve the poor soul of his complicity when he informs, “I wanted to go to college, but my Dad wanted a swimming pool.”

A better movie might have examined just what’s at the bottom of all this self-pity and excuse making. But director Jim Field Smith’s impetus is decidedly farce. And while Sean Anders and John Morris’s script does also mine some heady truths, too often the masks of comedy and tragedy work at cross purposes.

Happily, Mr. Baruchel and Alice Eve as Molly, the impossible dreamboat in question, create a nice chemistry that often trumps the inconsistencies. It starts with a good deed when the lovely, highfalutin event planner with a law degree mistakenly leaves her cell phone at airport security. Doing the knight in shining armor thing, Kirk returns it.

During the exchange, which takes place to the backdrop of a tony soiree at Pittsburgh’s Warhol Museum, Mr. Baruchel’s rube manages enough cute and funny faux pas— prior to being tossed out—to endear himself. Before long, they’re an item. Problem is, while we’re willing to accept it, Kirk’s friends and folks are not. Actually, they’re rather upset.

The boors at home, including an obviously more preferred brother and his very pregnant girlfriend (they’re planning a NASCAR-themed wedding), lay on the cruel jabs when Molly comes to dinner. Adding insult to injury, the gal who dumped our boy, as well as her new beau, have been taken in like family. They readily join the chorus of contempt.

The ne’er-do-wells feel the match goes against nature. And push literally comes to shove in a very funny basement scene wherein the oafish bro outlines his displeasure at the unintentional expense of his fiancée. That a Venus like Molly might fall for he who they’ve held in such low esteem for so long might even be a sign that the end is nigh.

In all fairness, Kirk’s ragtag gang of lifelong, chiding friends, most of whom also work at the airport, is hardly as egregious in their appraisal. But only Nate Torrence’s sympathetically realized Devon, the fat married one who draws a Disney analogy from every scenario, is optimistic from the start. The others just don’t want to see him get hurt.

It’s even possible that Stainer (T.J. Miller), the chief naysayer whose nickname origin is the subject of a minor subplot, might not be beyond redemption. He confides that his dire admonitions are a result of experience. He, too, once vied for the hand of a goddess. But alas, a mere 7 cannot land a 10. And, he cautions, Kirk is but a 5 or a 6 at best.

Still, thanks mostly to Molly’s stalwartness and brio, in its nascent stages the relationship survives the misanthropic onslaught. But after a bit the film clumsily switches gears, and the trouble that must brew in every paradise takes its stereotypical course. A breakdown in communication and misapprehensions replace militant incredulity as love’s chief foes.

Getting serious now, the film has obviously run dry of the raucous diatribes that have heretofore kept it afloat. And while we’ve by now invested a modicum of empathy in the professedly mismatched pair, the pedestrian psychology that follows can’t assuage the sudden drop off in laughs. The movie limps home solely on its promise.

But the potential is undeniable. A dramatic script peppered with seriocomic divulgences instead of this broad burlesque with only a few dabs of wisdom might have even resulted in a modern addendum to “Marty” (1955). As it stands, “She’s Out of My League” could have had class. It could have been a contender, instead of an also ran, which is what it is.

“She’s Out of My League,” rated R, is a Paramount Pictures release directed by Jim Field Smith and stars Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve and Nate Torrence. Running time: 104 minutes

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