Ah, 2011. Back when you could build a whole romantic comedy around the premise of a woman reading a magazine article. Throw in some strange sexual politics, a script that feels like it was written by an algorithm, and an ensemble cast of every up-and-coming comedic actor from the 2010s, and youve got Whats Your Number?, a sort of last-gasp of big studio rom-com filmmaking as the genre barreled towards a cliff. But Whats Your Number? has one thing that no other rom-com of its era had: Anna Faris and Chris Evans. Theyre a 21st-century Lucille Ball meets a real-life Troy Boltona duo who transform the movie from totally forgettable to agreeably amiable every time theyre on screen together.
For all its flaws, Whats Your Number? avoids the biggest hurdle that rom-coms faced in the late aughts: how increasingly difficult it was to get big-name male stars to appear in them if they werent at the top of the call sheet. Thats how you end up with something like Colin Egglesfields disastrous casting in Something Borrowed. But Evans is the perfect relaxed foil for Faris enjoyably high-key antics. Working on the film sparked a real-life friendship between the two actors, as detailed on a 2016 episode of Faris podcast. And their genuine chemistry is the crucial grounding force that keeps Whats Your Number? from going off the rails.
Faris is Ally Darling, an aimless Bostonian who panics after reading a Marie Claire article that claims the average American woman has 10.5 sexual partners in their lifetime. Already at double that number, Ally decides to track down her old boyfriends in the hopes of settling down with one of them without breaking thesocial taboo of sleeping with more than 20 people. For help, she ropes in her womanizing neighbor/amateur private detective Colin (Evans), fending off his own attempts to hit on her until a game of strip basketball at the Boston Garden eventually forces them to finally reveal their feelings for one another. A relatable love story if there ever was one.
To modern eyes, Whats Your Number? is a fascinating time capsule, and not just because of the oversized cargo shorts Evans wears throughout. He was in the strange post-Fantastic Four, pre-Captain America period of his careeran era that also led to rom-com roles in The Nanny Diaries andhis enjoyably subversive turn in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. After much hemming and hawing, he accepted Marvels offer to play Cap just five days after he was cast in Whats Your Number? The rom-com pushed back its release date in the hopes of capitalizing on Captain Americas buzzy summer debut. But what actually happened is that the R-rated Whats Your Number? was unfavorably compared to Bridesmaids (and to a lesser degree, Bad Teacher) during the summer that famously proved that, hey, women can be funny too even, and maybe especially, when theyre being raunchy.
Whats Your Number? ultimately failed to connect with either critics or audiences, even as Captain America launched Evans to new heights. Its one of the many moments in which Faris and Evans dovetailing careers offer a pointed case study in Hollywood gender disparity in the early aughts, when rom-coms faded from fashion and superhero movies rose to take their place. Faris and Evans both got their start in goofy parody movies, her making fun of horror flicks in 2000s Scary Movieand him sending up teen rom-coms in 2001s Not Another Teen Movie. But while Evans quickly became a go-to Hollywood hunk in films like The Perfect Scoreand Cellular, Faris faced a much bigger uphill battle when it came to carving out her own career.
Though she delivered memorably off-kilter performances in films like Just Friends and The House Bunny, Faris struggled to establish herself as a commercially viable leading ladya battle she still seems to be fighting to this day. Around the time Evans stepped into his first starring superhero role, Faris found herself playing a second fiddle superhero love interest in My Super Ex-Girlfriend. Its the sort of part Faris dismissively refers to as a bounce-card role, where the job is to giggle, look pretty, and reflect all the light back onto the male star. I hated being on that movie so much I was glad when it bombed, Faris admitted. These roles are destroying a generation of boys, who think well forgive any kind of assholey behavior.
That quote comes from a New Yorker profile that uses Faris career as a springboard to explore the state of women in Hollywood comedies circa the spring of 2011. And it paints an incredibly bleak portrait of just how bad things were pre-Bridesmaids, both for Hollywood in general and Whats Your Number? in particular. At one point, Faris describes shooting a scene you can still see in the films extended edition, in which Ally poses as Colins distraught fiance to help him get rid of a naked hook-up who wont leave his apartment:
Some studio exec basically said, Get some tits in the movie. So we did a reshoot where I go in to save Colin from this naked woman, the morning after, and it was so obvious it was a tit shot that when she got up in my face I said Tits! just to make it clear what we were doing.
As director Mark Mylod acknowledged, The whole process is desperately sexist. But there it is. And coming from a man who co-executive produced Entourage, thats really saying something.
Reading that New Yorker piece made me much more sympathetic toward what Whats Your Number? was trying to do and the ways in which it was hindered by sexist double standards.Buried somewhere in the movieis a sex-positive rom-com that doubles as an ode to messy, offbeat womenone encapsulated by the moment Ally proudly yells, Im a jobless whore who slept with 20 guys, and I want to be with somebody who appreciates that about me! The script came from screenwriting partners and TV vets Gabrielle Allan and Jennifer Crittenden, who adapted the story from Karyn Bosnaks novel 20 Times A Lady. They were hoping to bring some Bridget Jones messiness back to a genre that had become increasingly dominated by Type-A, Katherine Heigl characters. But it was a constant battle to create anything authentically uncouth.
The New Yorker article cites one prominent producer as saying, Both men and women can relate to Kevin James in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, whos the little guy being shat upon. If that character is played by Tina Fey, it wouldnt work, for the same reason that men cant relate to Rene Zellweger in Bridget Jones. Men just dont understand the nuances of female dynamics. Its the sort of statement thats so close to parody, you wouldnt even need to heighten it in a Hollywood satire.
So Whats Your Number? is a movie filled with concessions to an audience of imaginary men. Faris, who also served as an executive producer, originally wanted Ally to be a grungy bohemian who wore comfy T-shirts, had tousled hair, and wasnt stick thin. But the studio insisted she replicate her sexpot House Bunny look instead. Faris spent a month working out in the gym with a trainer, and lived on a diet of mostly turkey slices and carrot sticks throughout the shoot. Even Allys wardrobe got a glam makeover. It still bothers me, Faris told The New Yorker before the films release. Why would Ally be unemployed and wearing Prada shoes? But she also concedes, I felt they might have pulled the movie if we fought any further.
To be fair, the film also spends a good amount of time ogling Evans in various stages of muscled undress, so theres at least some equality at play on that front. But the problem is that styling Ally as a generically glamorous fashion plate really takes away from what nominal characterization shes supposed to have. In While You Were Sleeping, Sandra Bullocks slouchy sweaters immediately paint a portrait of a certain kind of cozy introversion. In Whats Your Number?, Faris has to shape a character whos completely at odds with her own wardrobe.
Its not hard to imagine the better movie Whats Your Number? might have been allowed to be in a post-Bridesmaids, post-Girls world. It would have more fun with montages of Allys madcap sexual escapades with her exes, who are played by the likes of Andy Samberg, Joel McHale, Zachary Quinto, Martin Freeman, Anthony Mackie, and Faris then-husband Chris Pratt. But the studio was obsessed with ensuring that Ally remain likable, which resulted in a lot of sanded-down comedic half measures. Some of these are still funny, like the reveal that Ally used a fake British accent while dating Freemans characterexactly the sort of ridiculous bit that Faris is uniquely great at selling. But most of them are just lazy, like the one-note sight gag of Pratt in a fat suit.
The fact that half of Whats Your Number?s male ensemble have gone on to star in superhero movies or other big genre blockbusters also drives home another inequity of modern Hollywood. The type of high-profile rom-coms that used to make women megastars in the 90s no longer really exist (potentially because studio execs noted them to death). And with women still drastically underrepresented in superhero films, theres no clear career path to full-on movie stardom for someone like Faris, who spent the years after Whats Your Number? starring on the CBS sitcom Mom before giving rom-coms another go in the commercially successful/critically panned Overboard remake.
Evans has also continued to make rom-coms (including one he directed himself), even well into his run as Captain America. He and Faris actually bring a lot of the same strengths to their rom-com performances. Evans once inadvertently summed up their shared appeal: I can speak fluent bro, but I dont consider myself one I was a big theater dork in high school, you know what I mean? Theres a certain humbleness to their onscreen personas, a just happy to be there vibe thats infectious to watch, especially when theyre paired together. The best moments of Whats Your Number? put that breezy charisma to good use. (There are even a couple scenes where Evans sings!) Its just too bad the rest of the movie is so by the numbers.
Next time: We kick off Pride Month with Alice Wus excellent indie Saving Face.
Go here to see the original:
Whats Your Number? didnt rank in the summer of Bridesmaids - The A.V. Club
- This TikToker watched 1,000 horror films and here are the ones she actually rates - Cosmopolitan UK - July 26th, 2021
- Horror film Old has one of the scariest scenes youll see this year - JOE.ie - July 26th, 2021
- Fear Street Star Olivia Scott Welch Pulls Back the Curtain on the Hit Netflix Trilogy - Hollywood Reporter - July 26th, 2021
- Night of the Kings, Lucky and More Streaming Gems - The New York Times - July 26th, 2021
- Everything coming to and leaving Netflix in August - Insider - July 26th, 2021
- The Dos and Don'ts of Watching Horror Movies - Flickering Myth - July 26th, 2021
- 11 Great Comedy Specials On Netflix From People Of Color, Including Russell Peters - CinemaBlend - July 26th, 2021
- Updates From The Batman and The Flash Are, Somehow, Still Both About Batman - Gizmodo - July 26th, 2021
- Movies on TV this week: 'Bonnie and Clyde'; 'Forrest Gump' - Los Angeles Times - July 26th, 2021
- New on Netflix: The Best Movies and TV Shows Coming in August - Vanity Fair - July 26th, 2021
- These 4 Pittsburgh businesses are keeping kids (and parents) entertained and educated - NEXTpittsburgh - July 26th, 2021
- The Biggest A24 Movies Of All Time - Looper - July 26th, 2021
- 40 Best Comedy Movies On Hulu [July 2021] - Looper - July 26th, 2021
- False Positive review: On Hulu, pregnancy is fertile ground for scary-movie thrills - Chicago Sun-Times - July 1st, 2021
- Movie review: The Conjuring 3 was alright for me - The Daily Evergreen - July 1st, 2021
- Scary good: Cleveland Heights new The Haunted House restaurant opening in old Melt space - cleveland.com - July 1st, 2021
- How Foley sound is used to create suspense in horror movies - Insider - July 1st, 2021
- 8 Classic Horror Movies Worth Buying on Blu-Ray - IndieWire - July 1st, 2021
- These 15 Paranormal Encounters Cast And Crew Had On Set Are Scarier Than The Horror Movies Themselves - BuzzFeed - July 1st, 2021
- This terrifying new movie on Netflix is chilling viewers to the core - BGR - July 1st, 2021
- This Week in Genre History: Steven Spielbergs 'War of the Worlds' was a 9/11 movie we didn't see coming - SYFY WIRE - July 1st, 2021
- Invasion of Japanese Knotwood is no movie, but it can be scary - WIVB.com - News 4 - July 1st, 2021
- Is This The Horror Movie You Should Watch Tonight? - Looper - July 1st, 2021
- Michael Myers Is Back and Scarier Than Ever in the New Trailer for 'Halloween Kills' - Yahoo Lifestyle - July 1st, 2021
- Screams, slashers and Thatcher: why horror films are going back to the 80s - The Guardian - July 1st, 2021
- Best Movies Coming to Netflix in July 2021 - Den of Geek - July 1st, 2021
- Sleepless Unrest coming to the Wildey - The Edwardsville Intelligencer - July 1st, 2021
- NJ filmmaker Anna Chazelle steps into the world of horror with 'Narrow' - Asbury Park Press - July 1st, 2021
- Is The Strangers a True Story? Is the Movie Based on Real Life? - The Cinemaholic - July 1st, 2021
- A closer look at the directors competing at Cannes for the first time this year - The National - July 1st, 2021
- Whats Coming to Netflix in July 2021 - What's on Netflix - July 1st, 2021
- Tam Cowan: Hancock hasn't popped up on Love Island.. but he did on CCTV - Daily Record - July 1st, 2021
- 15 Scary Movies You Need to Watch - Best Horror Movies 2021 - Cosmopolitan - May 21st, 2021
- Netflixs Fear Street Trilogy Brings Three R-Rated Horror Movies This Summer Watch The Trailer - Empire - May 21st, 2021
- Spiral and the Saw movies ask: How does tech challenge horror? - Polygon - May 21st, 2021
- Friends cast ages: How old are the cast of Friends now? - Heart - May 21st, 2021
- The Ads On Free Streaming Sites Are Absolutely Awful - ScreenCrush - May 21st, 2021
- Ella Purnell On Netflix's Zombie Heist Action Movie 'Army Of The Dead' - British Vogue - May 21st, 2021
- Everything Leaving Hulu in June 2021 - ComicBook.com - May 21st, 2021
- Woman discovers scary secret basement while renovating home: Someone has 100 percent been down here - Yahoo Sports - May 21st, 2021
- Here's everything coming to Hulu in June 2021, and what's leaving - MarketWatch - May 21st, 2021
- 15 Scary Movies You Need to Watch Explica .co - Explica - May 21st, 2021
- Five of the most hilarious shootout scenes in movie history - We Are The Mighty - May 21st, 2021
- H.S. BASEBALL: Andrew Middleton's blazing start has Canton riding high at 5-0 - The Patriot Ledger - May 21st, 2021
- Is it too soon to say goodbye to movie theaters? - Utahstatesman - April 5th, 2021
- What's on TV Monday: 'Race to the Center of the Earth' - Los Angeles Times - April 5th, 2021
- All the Horror You Need to Stream in April 2021 - Film School Rejects - April 5th, 2021
- All the movies and TV shows coming to Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime in April 2021 - Boston.com - April 5th, 2021
- Every One Of Hulu's 'Into the Dark' Horror Movies, Ranked - Mashable India - April 5th, 2021
- All the sci-fi TV and movies streaming in April 2021 - SYFY WIRE - April 5th, 2021
- Movies on TV this week: James Dean in 'Giant' on TCM and more - Los Angeles Times - April 5th, 2021
- Will The Unholy movie be available on Blu-ray/DVD? - Hidden Remote - April 5th, 2021
- Its Time to Make April Fools Day the Halloween of Comedy - Vulture - April 5th, 2021
- 'Godzilla vs. Kong' is in theaters and on HBO Max - Yahoo News - April 5th, 2021
- Watch: LeBron James and Bugs Bunny team up in 'Space Jam: A New Legacy' trailer - indie88.com - April 5th, 2021
- 'It was like a horror film': inside the terror of the Covid cruise ship - The Guardian - April 5th, 2021
- Janelle Mone on new horror film Antebellum: "There is nothing more horrific than what happened to Black people" - RadioTimes - April 5th, 2021
- Shakey Graves on His "Roll The Bones" Reissue and the Records That Shaped Him - InsideHook - April 5th, 2021
- The New #9 Show on Netflix Retells Terrifyingly Real Ghost Stories - Yahoo Lifestyle - April 5th, 2021
- 'Antebellum' stars discuss the timely 'horror of the human experience' (exclusive) - Yahoo Movies UK - April 5th, 2021
- Analyzing the Hit-and-Miss Parody of 'Scary Movie 2' [Horror Queers Podcast] - Bloody Disgusting - March 9th, 2021
- The Boo Crew Gets Creepy with Kesha to Talk Horror and More! [Podcast] - Bloody Disgusting - March 9th, 2021
- David Letterman's old interviews with famous women are going viral for their inappropriate nature. Here are the most uncomfortable ones. - Yahoo News - March 9th, 2021
- 10 Vintage Movie Monsters That Could Be Terrifying Today - Screen Rant - March 9th, 2021
- 10 Twisted Horror Films That You Have To Watch Twice To Understand - Screen Rant - March 9th, 2021
- Every Paranormal Activity Movie, Ranked By Rotten Tomatoes - Screen Rant - March 9th, 2021
- Let's Talk About The Time A Large Eddie Murphy Head Toured The Country - UPROXX - March 9th, 2021
- 10 Things You Didn't Know about Andi Matichak - TVOvermind - March 9th, 2021
- 'The Lord of the Rings' Cast Reunites For Anniversary Screenings - ScreenCrush - March 9th, 2021
- Huge drive-in festival coming to Edinburgh in May with RuPaul's Drag Race stars - Edinburgh Live - March 9th, 2021
- Film made in Kamloops a love letter to horror genre directors - Kamloops This Week - March 9th, 2021
- SONS OF ANARCHY Creator Kurt Sutter Is Set to Direct Blumhouse's Horror Film THIS BEAST GeekTyrant - GeekTyrant - March 9th, 2021
- The Shawshank Redemption & 9 Other Poorly Received Movies That Became Classics - Screen Rant - March 9th, 2021
- 10 Movies Based On H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man, Ranked - Screen Rant - March 9th, 2021
- Scream: darkly funny, extremely meta horror and a 90s time capsule that never gets old - The Guardian - February 16th, 2021
- Horror movies for Valentines Day that prove true love really exists - Netflix Life - February 16th, 2021
- Winter storm: Scary weather wont get Texans (or Californians) to move - East Bay Times - February 16th, 2021
- Column: HBO's 'Chernobyl' puts catastrophe in perspective The Daily Eastern News - The Daily Eastern News - February 16th, 2021
- Curious Cape Cod: Horror in Provincetown? Wait until you've seen the scary side of P-town. - Cape Cod Times - February 16th, 2021
- Super Exciting Ideas to Have Fun with Your Friends on Halloween - mySanAntonio.com - February 16th, 2021
Reviewed and Recommended by Erik Baquero