Anna Faris gives sub par film remarkable respectability
One of the beauties of High Fidelity is that we got to see into the mind of a man reflecting upon what had brought him up to his current point in life. Viewed through the prism of his past relationships, seeing a man genuflect on the moments of his life that led him to his state with the focus on the relationships that defined critical periods of his life gave insight into how he got to where he was and how it brought about the parts that turned into the man he had become. But we’ve never really seen this from a woman’s perspective. Thus comes What’s Your Number?, based off the novel “20 Times a Lady” by Karyn Bosnak.
Ally (Anna Faris) has an unfulfilling relationship, if you can call it that, with Rick (Zachary Quinto) and still yearns for the concept of true love. Accompanied by her womanizing neighbor (Chris Evans), Ally wanders back through her romantic lives to the roughly 20 men she’d been with over the years. From Gerry (Andy Samberg), the puppeteer, to recently gay Tom (Anthony Mackie) and a Brit (Martin Freeman) who she had used an obnoxiously bad version of his accent while with, we get to see Ally over the years through the romantic relationships she maintained. Is there true love waiting for her in the discard pile of her life? Or is there true love waiting right in front of her and she just doesn’t see it yet?
And what could’ve been a fiery condemnation of the sort of double speak from women’s magazines that the film starts out as ends up being a typical romantic comedy that wastes the talents of its star, Anna Faris, in the same way it seems her entire cinematic library can be described. This is a film that has a strong opening but just can’t quite capitalize on it. Faris has a mercurial presence that raises this film to much stronger places than it would by any other means, because it doesn’t know which tone to take. It starts out subversive and interesting but then takes a u-turn to predictable and bland.
This is a film that screams to be a subversive take on the genre while also being a great entry and winds up being a typical genre entry. But it finds itself in fairly strong territory because Faris is easily the best working comedic actress in the industry right now. How do we know this?
Because she takes mediocre to subpar material and makes it engaging by sheer force of will.
Faris has such a presence to her and remarkable timing in the film that it’s a shame to see such a great performance wasted in a film that can’t quite stretch to her talents. Even simple pratfall gags that are usually predictable seem fresh because of how she does them; Faris has a gift with physical comedy that not many actresses have and it’s on full display here. She takes what should be a bad film and elevates it to fairly enjoyable.
We feel bad for Ally because it’s not as if she’s some sort of sorority girl gone bad to embraced; she’s a free spirit who has indulged more whims than she should’ve and is now looking back on a love life of regret. It’s a fully realized character because Faris embeds her with a likeability that’s not written into the character. Faris adds a lot to Ally that isn’t written into it by sheer force of will; it’s a poor character as written and it’s a surprise considering two women adapted the screenplay based off a novel from another woman.
What’s Your Number? falls into the same category that The House Bunny and other films in the Anna Faris cinematic resume can be categorized: films raised by a substantial degree because of her presence alone.
Director: Mark Mylod Notable Cast: Anna Faris, Chris Evans, Andy Samberg, Anthony Mackie, Martin Freeman, Ari Graynor, Chris Pratt, Blythe Danner, Ed Begley Jr. Writer(s): Gabrielle Allen and Jennifer Crittenden based off the novel “20 Times a Lady” by Karyn Bosnak