2017 | rated R | starring Alexandra Daddario, Kate Upton | directed by William H. Macy | 1hr 29mins |
Studio Pitch: Two of the most beautiful women in Hollywood fight each other over some nobody.
2017 was supposed to be the female empowerment year in Hollywood where aligned with first female president we were to be gifted with Beauty and the Beast and Wonder Woman and told that now, for the first time in cinema history, women were finally going to have their say in strong leading roles (he said with pure sarcasm). Funnily enough even in the middle of that campaign, a movie like The Layover still gets made and distributed. The trailer alone, promising two independent single women fighting over a man for 80 minutes, was enough to put it in feminist jail for not just violating, but actively spitting on, The Bechtal Test. And weirder, it was directed by William H. Macy. How was a guy who once complained about the script for Jurassic Park III going to explain this abomination?
The Layover is certainly terrible. It’s important to check in on the state of the Hollywood romantic comedy every now and then and this movie is just as disposable, cynical, shallow, totally phony and complete with lame sex jokes as most of our studio romantic comedies. That’s the thing, people don’t like these movies not because they’re too sappy and romantic – but because they aren’t. They never are. They’re cold, unfeeling, preachy and manufactured and their characters are usually psychotic or manipulative in ways the movie itself never seems to understand. Harvey Weinstein is worth bringing up because now we have an idea of why these movies are as callous as they are. Why they so often seem to have such a bizarre view of romance, relationships and real world gender dynamics. Because they’re made by producers like Weinstein in a corrosive and dysfunctional environment.
The Layover falls in this shallow formula pretty tightly, though it works with an R rating and it is kind of fun to see Kate Upton resist being typecast as her The Other Woman ditz and freely drop the F bombs. For the record, the movie is also a tad more self aware than it’s genre sisters, spinning its story of female jealousy into precisely where it needs to go in the final minutes (ie. acknowledging that Upton’s character is terrible and that this entire feud is a waste of time). The problem is that it is only solving a problem that it created and wallowed around in for an hour and a half.
The movie business is a unique one in that it’s always been a business of glitz and glamor selling hope to the lonely, beauty to the average and wish fulfillment fantasies to those in the daily grind. One of these days men might rise up, declare with one voice we won’t take this crap anymore and won’t be sitting through these terrible movies from start to finish just because beautiful women are in them. But that day isn’t today because the pairing of Daddario and Upton too much to pass up. Yes, women are going to be annoyed by how this movie treats it’s leads as only existing to chase after a guy. But men are also going to be annoyed because it’s a terrible wish-fulfillment movie where the guy at the center of the attention is a total nobody. A bland, blank-faced, humorless, personality-devoid bore with surfer hair and a flesh-colored beard. Why these two women would be throwing themselves at this particular guy is too strange to invest in. The film sets up that this guy, Ryan (Matt Barr), is in Florida on his way to a wedding when he meets Upton and Daddario. From there start a stopwatch and see how far in advance you can predict the twist.
There is always a level of fantasy that goes with the studio rom-com. Because these movie need to star beautiful people to sell tickets, we’re supposed to go in, close one eye and go with a story that usually finds people like Upton or Daddario looking inhumanly glamorous but also unable to get a date. The Layover stretches that conceit to the breaking point, finding Upton and Daddario running around Florida playing “losers” while the guys they force themselves on for a 17 hour road trip act like they are the ones being put out and that these women are lucky to be with them. At one point Barr’s insta-friend and jeweler Craig (Matt Jones) musters out that he loves crazy women. And that’s about it. It’s absurd.
A much more interesting movie would have had these two leads being treated as they would be in the real world. It would have them cross the country on the backs of guys who just want to be around them. Except that movie was already made in 1942. It’s The Palm Beach Story and it’s a screwball masterpiece. The Layover is given script credit to two It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia alumni (including David Hornsby), so I’d like to imagine at some point in a far off draft it was a very different and more astute movie. But even then, it’s hard to imagine any version of this story that could match Preston Struges’ masterpiece of 1940s gender politics where Claudette Colbert gets herself down to Palm Beach, Florida on the backs, heads and wallets of men who want to be with her.
It looks fine and moves quickly. I’ll say that. Whether it’s a clueless sexist comedy where women exist only to chase men and feed their egos, a terrible wish-fulfillment sex comedy where the male characters take for granted opportunities presented to them that most men would kill for or as a modern rom-com that feels like the blind, deaf and dumb version of The Palm Beach Story, The Layover has something to enrage everyone.