She’s Out of My League

She's Out of My League poster

She’s Out of My League opens on Friday, but I was lucky enough to see a preview earlier this week. I recommend it.

When it comes to R-rated comedy romances, I’m never sure what to expect. Some of them are raunchfests or expect you to find laughs in watching a bunch of potheads kill time. This one takes a different direction. While quite funny, it also has a sense of heart. Fundamentally, it’s an ugly duckling love story, the tale of how a nice guy learns he’s worthy of a relationship with a hot girl.

Jay Baruchel (previously in Knocked Up and Undeclared) is gawky Kirk. He’s still obsessing over Marnie, his ex-girlfriend who broke up with him two years ago. One of the reasons he can’t move on: his family has “adopted” her and her new boyfriend.

Jay Baruchel, T.J. Miller, Nate Torrence, Mike Vogel in She's Out of My League

Jay Baruchel, T.J. Miller, Nate Torrence, Mike Vogel

Kirk and his high school buddies work at the airport. He’s still hanging out with the same people he did all his life, with a job going nowhere (ironic, right?). He’s well-spoken and thoughtful, and his dry wit shows he’s too smart for those around him, his family and friends.

Alice Eve is Molly, the “10”, a conventionally pretty blonde. She’s generically skinny but busty, with big white teeth in a nice smile. She’s not particularly distinctive in looks, but she also demonstrates personality, making her character more than a plot device.

Alice Eve in She's Out of My League

You have to get through her introductory scene to realize this, though. Her first appearance attempts to be something like the introduction of Jayne Mansfield in The Girl Can’t Help It (only with less cartoony slapstick), where everyone in the room stops what they’re doing to notice how gorgeous she is. Frankly, her looks can’t live up to the expectation. Once past that, though, things settle down and the movie treats her beauty more reasonably.

She's Out of My League poster

The two, on their first date (which Kirk doesn’t realize is one), bond over hockey, which I found timely after the recent Olympics. Molly wants someone nice and different from her past boyfriends, while Kirk is paralyzed with fear and nerves due to his low self-esteem. His friends are the wrong guys to get advice from, while Molly’s best friend, Patty (Krysten Ritter, who’s making a career out of these roles), exists to advance the plot and spew profanity, which resulted in much laughter in the theater I was in. I don’t find a vaguely goth-looking foul-mouthed girl inherently funny, but apparently that’s just me.

The introductory scene does show that Kirk is the only guy who treats Molly like a person instead of sex on legs, since he’s the only one not distracted from doing his job. We’re supposed to take her harassment as comedy, something played from laughs, demonstrating the guy perspective that drives the plot. That’s why, later on, when we’re asked to understand how hard it is to be a hot girl, that scene doesn’t work. Up to that point, while Molly is a reasonably well-rounded character, we haven’t seen anything from her perspective. This is Kirk’s story, so suddenly switching to worrying about how hard her life is isn’t believable. The movie was complicit early on in the same behavior we’re now supposed to condemn. But that’s the only real misstep.

Otherwise, this film does a lot of things right. It’s not too long, and it moves well, keeping events going. It even makes Pittsburgh look like an attractive and fun place to be. And the idea of a Hall & Oates cover band called Adult Education is funny in itself; to see it is just icing. The film does deserve its R rating, though, due to language. There is copious use of both the F-word and saying “Jesus” as an expletive.

I must compliment Baruchel’s work, because he does a great job carrying this movie. His portrayal is nuanced, good-hearted, and sweet. He demonstrates an old-fashonied skill at handling both verbal and performance humor. Baruchel really rounds out Kirk to be a person instead of a walking joke, someone to care about, not just laugh at. His work with Eve creates a comfortable relationship you root for.

She's Out of My League couple

I’m guessing this was a relatively low-budget film, because the only other actors I recognized were Debra Jo Rupp, from That 70s Show, playing Kirk’s mom, and Marnie, Lindsay Sloane, whom I always remember from Grosse Pointe. Also notable is Nate Torrence (Get Smart) as Devon, one of the buddies. He’s naive, and unlike the other guys, married, and he makes weird allusions, including plenty of Disney movie references. He doesn’t curse, and his good humor and general ineffective niceness round out the guys’ gang well.

The movie isn’t too gross, although there are two scenes that will stick in your head. One involves a large dog and a guy embarrassed after getting too excited; another … well, if you ever wondered how someone could outdo Steve Carrell’s waxing scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, they found a way here.

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