Sometimes, I really am a fool.
I walked into the screening theater to see “The Bounty Hunter,” with positivity in my heart. I was hopeful, thinking it might be a lighthearted romp, with roots in “His Girl Friday”-style sex comedies. I thought maybe it would have sharp tongues and a leading couple who, goshdarnit, are just made for each other. I hoped for Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. Hell, Aniston’s character is even a reporter!
I really should have known better.
This movie is not “His Girl Friday.” It is not funny. It is not witty. Its characters are not likable, and the clothes are not fabulous. This film is about a bounty hunter named Milo (Gerard Butler) who has to arrest his ex-wife Nicole (Jennifer Aniston) for skipping bail. It is an angry, joyless little work of misanthropy that pretty much ruined a perfectly good Tuesday night.
Why am I so vehement about a movie that most would think of as awful but harmless? Because it forsakes the golden rule of rom-coms: Thou shalt never make the couple unlikeable. Milo is a gambling addict who thinks it’s great fun to lock his ex-wife in the trunk of a car and steal her credit card. Nicole is a reporter who needlessly puts her anonymous sources in danger and uses Milo’s addiction to try to win money for her escape. She has a co-worker named Stewart (Jason Sudeikis) who’s in love with her, and we’re supposed to think it’s funny that Stewart is stalking Nicole and sexually harassing her in the workplace. OMG, isn’t it hilarious the way he follows her into the ladies room and propositions her!?
Written by: Sarah Thorp
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Christine Baranski
Runtime: 110 mins.
The saving grace is Christine Baranski, the woman who has made a career out of being the saving grace in terrible movies. Baranski is her usual resplendent self as Nicole’s mother and an aging Atlantic City showgirl, making even the most tedious lines crackle with her dry and scathing delivery. The only moment she can’t save is this eye-rolling bit of dialogue, delivered to Milo when he comes to find out where Nicole is hiding.
“You know, on the outside she may be a strong, independent woman, but on the inside she’s just a girl who wants to be loved by her man!”
The fact that writer Sarah Thorp made her say this line at all should be classified as a crime against humanity. Christine deserves better than that.
What starts out as just a guy trying to drag his ex-wife to jail segues into a murder mystery Nicole has been trying to solve in between fending off Stewart’s advances. The plot is clear enough, but hastily concluded and really beside the point. This is a story about two people who hate each other but belong together. Or at least it would be if we cared enough about either of them to have a stake in whether they get together or not. But we don’t care. Because we don’t like them. And breaking that rom-com commandment is something I cannot forgive.