I like a good romantic comedy, even if I know what’s going to happen, but I strongly dislike movies aimed at women that insult my intelligence and engage in sexist stereotypes. Unfortunately, The Accidental Husband is one of those in the second category. A woman can want to be in love without being idiotic, childlike, or a criminal, although you wouldn’t know it from this.
There are many spoilers below because I can’t make my point without discussing how the ending comes about. I can’t imagine you’d want to watch this anyway, but be warned.
I had such high hopes, given the cast. Uma Thurman has to choose between Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as an everyday guy firefighter, and Colin Firth, as her publisher fiance. In small roles are Sam Shepard, Brooke Adams, Isabella Rossellini (!), and Ajay Naidu (aka “the Indian guy from Office Space“, although I knew him from LateLine, the Al Franken sitcom). But there’s a reason this went straight to DVD — it’s horrible.
Here’s the first big problem with the film: The premise is self-contradictory. JDM’s fiancee listens to Uma’s radio show and gives up on their wedding plans as a result. He’s so heart-broken that he wants to teach the snooty doctor a lesson, so he has a friend create a fake marriage license in the city’s computers. (First major crime.) Yet we know that the two are going to end up together eventually, so how deeply in love with the first girl can he really be?
There are the usual, supposedly funny scenes: Uma insists she can hold her liquor, but JDM gets her drunk so she winds up sleeping in his apartment. (Message: Women brag about things they can’t really do and need men to look out for them afterwards. It’s ok to get a woman drunk because then she’ll show her real, more human self.) JDM crashes a cake-tasting full of snooty people while Uma is worried about behaving properly. (Message: Politeness is for snobs, and everyone likes a real man who cusses and loudly says what he really thinks, regardless of whether it’s appropriate or not.) Due to a misunderstanding, Uma has to pretend JDM is her fiance, but he blows off a business meeting that will determine the future of her book and career to drag them all to an Indian bar mitzvah for his neighbors. (Message: His events are more important than hers. And his are more colorful and fun.)
Worst of all is the ending. Colin Firth’s character has been wonderful through all of this, realizing long before she does that she’s having second thoughts about marrying him. (Message: Regardless of who’s recognized as the expert — this is her area of study and her whole career — men really know more than women about relationships.) She breaks off with him to go sleep with JDM, but then she learns about his scheme, and she runs back to Colin. The marriage is back on. (Message: British men, while charming, debonair, thoughtful, and gorgeous in face and voice, are wimps.)
Let’s talk more about that plot for a minute. No one believes Uma when she says she’s never been married because the computer shows otherwise. She must be deluded or lying to catch her new guy, seems to be the message. And this doesn’t bother anyone. She dutifully sets off with big stack of annulment papers in hand to get JDM’s signature in order to fix the problem. She’s a media voice with big companies behind her. No one thinks there’s a better way to get the city government to acknowledge their computer glitch? She doesn’t ever get upset that no one, including her loving fiance, believes her?
Anyway, back to the ending. Believe it or not, Colin is the one who breaks it off, on the day of the wedding. He’s recognized that she’s unsure of herself and wants her to be happy. Yes, the man she’s leaving decides for her whom she should be with because she’s too confused to make her own choice. What a message! Once he’s made up her mind, she then sets off a fire alarm with a fake blaze to get JDM to meet her at the chapel. This is the second major crime, and one I would think would get someone in trouble.
This is the other major contradiction of the movie: By being so loving and self-sacrificing, Colin demonstrates that he is, actually, a much better choice and the guy she should be with. By choosing “tough guy with nothing in common who can kiss well”, the film buys into all kinds of stupid stereotypes about what love really is. The movie makes a big deal out of the statistic that 43% of all marriages end in divorce. (No idea how accurate that is.) People who believe this kind of garbage, that Uma winding up with JDM was the right, romantic choice, are why.
The end of the film has her, happily pregnant, letting him interrupt her radio show to order her around, while his friend has taken over from her previous assistant/call screener. Isn’t that a sign of a potentially abusive relationship, that all of your friends are now his? This movie is atrocious.