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November 17, 2013

What’s Your Number?

by Franz Patrick


What’s Your Number? (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

After being fired from her job by a boss who likes to sniff his fingers (Joel McHale), Ally (Anna Faris) stumbles upon an article on “Marie Claire” about women and their sex lives. It claims that the average number of men women have sex with in their lifetime is about 10.5. Ally has been sexually intimate with nineteen. That scares her and right then she decides to make a change: she will remain celibate until she finds “the right man.” In her mind, one of the nineteen had to have been Mr. Right.

Inspired by “20 Times a Lady,” Karyn Bosnak’s novel, the film, based on a screenplay by Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, is carried entirely by Faris’ wide-eyed charm. Ally’s joie de vivre is contagious. When something funny happens, she laughs loudest and longest. When something sad happens, she tries to make the most out of it. She does not necessarily make smart decisions, especially for a relatively successful city girl, but I wanted to see her find happiness because, at least in my eyes, people who radiate so much positivity deserve it.

The picture is forty-five minutes of relatively entertaining material stretched into over a hundred. At times it is most frustrating because it appears content with underachievement. For instance, Daisy (Ari Graynor) is underused as Ally’s sister and a bride-to-be. Ally makes a speech during her sister’s wedding. The toast’s theme is about what being a big sister means to Ally. It would have had emotional resonance if we had a chance to observe their relationship go through ups and downs. Instead, whenever the two women are in front of us, they are always so perky and happy—which does not ring true.

It fails to prove to us why Daisy will allow her older sister to contact former flames. There is a difference between being supportive and being practical. What if the guys are bitter and angry toward Ally? Is safety not a concern? Speaking of the ex-boyfriends (Chris Pratt, Zachary Quinto, Martin Freeman, Andy Samberg, among others), would it have been too much to ask if they were more… less weird? The quirks, though played for obvious laughs, are more distracting than amusing. I was not at all convinced that a woman of Ally’s caliber, even though she has moments of desperation, would put out with a guy who has a fixation for performing magic tricks—even in bed. It feels too much like a sitcom.

If the screenplay had allowed Ally to spend more time with her ex-lovers and we are able to point to at least one reason why they were together in the first place, there might have been tension and complexity in the sudden (forced) reconnections. Most of the time, when we unexpectedly bump into our ex-es in a cafe, a restaurant, or a movie theater, it is not always awkward or strange. Not everything has to be dramatic: sometimes we simply realize that the feelings are still there and wonder if they feel the same.

What the film lacks is emotional range with respect to the interactions. Only one is right on point: Ally meeting up with Tom (Anthony Mackie), an aspiring politician. Just as quickly, it moves on to others like Colin (Chris Evans), Ally’s neighbor from across the hall who seems to bed a different woman every other night. We can anticipate from a mile away that they are going to end up liking each other. Worse, there is no originality in their flirtations.

Directed by Mark Mylod, I was annoyed with the screenwriters because they chose not to make Ally a sharp character by allowing her to face difficult, life-changing decisions. They do not allow her to act like a real person either. What would it take for her to get so angry, she stops being cotton candy lovable?

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