Make Up Your Mind is a series where I review movies whose tomato meters are between 40% and 60%. It’s an attempt to find a consensus on how good the movie actually is, because a critical split of 50/50 isn’t helpful. This time, it’s She’s Out of My League (2010), which currently sports a 58%, based on over one-hundred reviews.
She’s Out of My League is a romantic comedy, starring Jay Baruchel, from films such as Knocked Up (2007) and This Is the End (2013), and Alice Eve, who most recently starred in Bombshell (2019). Like several other movies in its genre, it focuses on a not-so-attractive “nice guy,” and his underdog nature, against the perfect, soul-lifting woman. The main problem with this movie, however, is that’s its only focus. Rather than being a generalized description of the film, that one statement could almost be the plot synopsis. The end result is a sad attempt at movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Superbad (2007), when it lacks both the strong performances and multi-dimensional stories that make those movies great.
The movie starts off with the protagonist, Kirk, attempting to win his ex back; despite being apart for over two years, and her being in another relationship. As he’s talking to his group of friends, it becomes apparent that he doesn’t get out much, and feels he has no other option. While we’re not given many details of why, we find out he works a miserable job as a TSA employee, and has little to no life direction. This is a decent introduction to the film, and Kirk as a character, as it gives us reason to root for him. But it doesn’t provide Kirk with any strong traits or even autonomy to play off of later in the film, and this will become a problem.
Enter Molly, the female lead, who finds herself running late for a flight, and forgets her phone at security. When she uses her friend’s phone to call it, Kirk picks up, and offers to bring it to her later the next night, at a party she organized. During this process, every man alive, except Kirk, is drooling over her, and in very unsubtle ways. Kirk, then, is the knight shining in the pit of pigs, and she appreciates that. The only issue with this is the labeling of every other man as a hormone-filled, misogynistic person. While there certainly is/was this issue with several men in real life, it’s a bit over the top and makes it hard to care about many of the other characters. But overall, it was a well-placed introduction to our couple. Their dialogue at the security station in the airport is actually understated and refreshing for these kind of movies. It seemed like they had an okay initial chemistry, and it wasn’t forced.
After Kirk brings back Molly’s phone, he accidentally spills his wine on the man in charge of the party, and gets kicked out. As a way to make up for that, Molly offers him tickets to go to an NHL game, with her. This goes well, and leads to another date. Which leads to another, etc. It’s a pretty simple development, and progression. Outside of a few short samples, though, Kirk doesn’t show any initiative, or even personality. His entire being is summed up to “nice, quiet, push-over.” Because of this, it doesn’t feel right, or understandable, or real. The only piece in this entire section of the movie in which their relationship seems believable, is a brief conversation on their first official date, where they’re talking about their families and childhoods. Once again, the chemistry and writing here is super raw, interesting, and kind of cute. But everywhere else, you can barely hear Kirk say a word, and he doesn’t even look in her eyes 90% of the time. I guess he’s too shy.
In the progression of their intimacy, there are two main issues. The first, is when Kirk meets Molly’s parents. After their first semi-sexual encounter, her parents come in unannounced, and it turns out, Kirk stained his pants in his… excitement. So, he has no idea what to do, acts like an insane person, and leaves immediately. This causes a rift that’s finally closed when Kirk tells the truth several days later. The other issue is Kirk’s self-esteem issues (surprise). In, of course, their next attempt at sex, he starts to feel off and insecure, sparking a very large argument that ends everything between them. This leads to the final climax of the movie, where we find out Kirk is going to Branson with his family, and his ex, whom he is now dating again. His friends disapprove, and do their best to get Molly back, delaying the plane, and driving her all the way to the gate, where they meet back up, and everything is perfect. And aside from a brief scene where he’s seen flying a plane during the credits, that’s the end of the film.
Of course, I’m oversimplifying a lot of these scenes, and the movie as a whole, for the sake of time and explanation. But, genuinely, little to nothing happens aside from what I’ve described. In almost every scene with Kirk and Molly, Kirk is essentially just a body that’s there. He doesn’t stick up for himself, he doesn’t ask questions most of the time, he doesn’t do much for her, personally. He’s just likable because he listens, I guess. It isn’t an issue with Jay’s performance, but is instead, how the character himself is written. I suppose they wanted to double down on his underdog nature, but at some point, we need to see who he is, and why we should care. Or at least, why Molly likes him. The excuses they give, while they sound good, aren’t really enough for me to believe it.
I will say, there is a nice message and heart behind the movie in the end. In many of the interim periods between main scenes, Kirk is with his guy friends, being berated by his best friend, Stainer; being constantly told he’s a 5, MAYBE a 6, and she’s a 10. So none of this makes sense, right? Then, Stainer realizes he’s the reason that Kirk has no self-esteem, and understands that everyone should believe in themselves, and be good enough for whoever they love. It’s a nice change-of-heart for Stainer, and a good idea to pass on to the audience. Sadly, Stainer is a piece of garbage for the entirety of the movie beforehand, so I still don’t really see him as a redeemable character, but it’s a nice shift at the end nonetheless.
When looking at each individual piece of the film, it fails on most accounts. Most of the characters are either incredibly weak, or unlikable caricatures of douchebags. Not many backgrounds are established or explained, giving us information on why the character acts that way. And the two main roles are written in a way that lacks any interesting quality. The chemistry between the main couple is, in at least three different scenes, amazing; showing that they know what they’re doing, when they want to do it. But due to the qualities of the protagonist, they ruin this, and make the overall relationship seem stale and unbelievable. The jokes aren’t really funny, and it seems there aren’t even many of them to begin with. The extent of the comedy is “haha, they’re assholes?” or something to that effect. Every scene is just Kirk being forced to feel bad about himself, and occasional cringy awkwardness. It’s clear what they were going for: “sad man with bad past gets perfect girl, overcomes self-esteem, lives happily ever after, woohoo!” But the man isn’t a character, the relationship I don’t really care about, and the message isn’t enough to make the movie decent.
Overall, She’s Out of My League is a stripped-down version of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, with an overly-sad protagonist, an unnecessarily-hostile group of peers, and the journey to get what they want; finding that, in the end, they just needed to believe in themselves. The difference between them is found in both the performances and writing of the individual characters. Sarah has unbelievable star power, over-the-top performances from these A-list actors, fun, ridiculous moments that create laughs, and in the end, a protagonist we can maybe care about. She’s Out of My League lacks all of that, and more. It isn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but I think it’s clear to see what my verdict is on this one.