he new film Laws of Attraction offers the ultimate in wish fulfillment for the modern girl: act like a grating spaz, and Pierce Brosnan will still want to fuck you.
The spaz in question is Audrey Woods (Julianne Moore), a divorce lawyer successful enough to afford a giant two-bedroom apartment with French doors. She’s calmly reassuring an anxious client about a challenging trial, then … cut to her quivering in a courthouse bathroom stall, calming herself with a Sno-Ball. You know, that girl. Prickly and uptight, she refuses to go on even a single date because she’s seen firsthand how sucky marriage can be. Her mom (Frances Fisher), who apparently had her when she was eight, says this is just an excuse; I say it’s because all she does is eat Fiddle-Faddle, watch the Weather Channel, and look infuriated when opposing counsel (Brosnan) does something rascally. They spar, he pursues, she rejects, saying things to her mom (her only friend) like, “Like him! Are you crazy!” All of which, of course, can lead to only one thing: negation of what I thought was an incontrovertible law of the universe (“Julianne Moore Can Do No Wrong.”)
(It occurs to me that, following the logic of this movie, insisting I hate it only means that by the end of this article, I’ll admit I’ve been in love with it all along.)
I know it’s just a movie. But I submit that the “laws” posited in its bizarro world see “grating spaz,” supra are part and parcel of a pop culture that, like a meta Mean Girl, only pretends to be friendly to single women. To wit:
“Eighty percent of single women who say they’re ‘too busy to have a relationship’ are really lonely.” (This is the first line of the movie, later repeated, spoken by our heroine’s mom.) Well, eighty percent of single women are sick of being told how they really feel. The other twenty percent are, too. This, you see, is what I call the Single Double Standard. Say you’re interested in finding a life partner, and you are bereft, desperate, betraying your sistah-friends. (I once said “Yeah, I’d like to get married,” and someone said, “Really? I didn’t think of you that way.") Say you’re "fine on your own," and you are both impressively independent, and lying. I’m supposed to rail against the fact that every “happy” ending equals “girl gets guy,” but the fantasy ending I’m holding out for is this: “girl gets guy if she wants one, while everyone else leaves her the hell alone.”
Uptight women just need to get laid. This logic breaks down when Audrey does get laid and is still uptight.
The person who irritates you the most is the one you’re meant to be with. Centuries of stage-and-screen history support the notion that the couple that spars together stays together. And it’s actually not terribly misleading advice, considering that contrary to popular fixation on dating “horror stories" the chief complaint of my single friends is that so-and-so was “nice.” You know, boring. (Relax, nice guys! I don’t mean that nice equals boring; I mean that “nice” equals boring.) Or more to the point, that the conversation was boring. No click, no spark, just a polite exchange of data. (“Brooklyn’s not as far away as people think,” “Mostly patent law,” “Okay, then I’ll get the tip.” blah blah blah.) And far too many women to say nothing of Hollywood studios figure they ought to give a chemistry-free match a chance.
But I also have a friend whose first dates always seem to end in either a massive argument or sex. (Or both.) I figure she’s on the right track. Truism: conflict, even hatred, are at least about passion.
Trouble is, this movie’s hardly an ad for, well, that. Some promos have said the film is “in the tradition of Tracy and Hepburn,” which is true insofar as Epcot is “in the tradition of” Paris. Brosnan’s character is crafted in the tradition of Hugh Grant; Moore’s in the tradition of charmless ball-busting (“I’m gonna catch him with his guard down and then kick him in the body part of my choosing!”) When Brosnan gazes at her and says, “Could you be more fascinating?” it sounds like a request.
So save your $10. Next date, rent Adam’s Rib. And if it happens to spark a good argument, you’re off to a excellent start. n°