REVIEW: Did You Hear About the Morgans? [2009]

“You may kiss the bride”

Why do I put myself through it? Every once in a while, those trailers for derivative romantic comedies hide behind them a diamond in the rough. Sometimes you can look at your date for the evening and genuinely say you enjoyed the film, and not just to put a smile on her face for the hopes of an extended evening. Well, I’ll tell all you guys, and girls if you’re thinking about dragging your plus one, avoid Did You Hear About the Morgans? at all costs. Maybe not ALL costs, I’m sure there is some sphere of America that lives for this sort of escapism drivel that packages everything up nice and dandy to hopefully turn a buck at the multiplex, but for this guy—known to enjoy a good rom-com in his day—I couldn’t wait for it to end. The pacing is excruciatingly long, I can see exactly why Paul Morgan would cheat on his wife Meryl, (not that I’m condoning an appalling act such as that), and the city/country juxtaposition only goes so far, (two for one sweaters at the Bargain Barn? Insanity?!). Thankfully Hugh Grant’s snide retorts make the monotony peripherally humorous, it’s just a shame the characters themselves don’t laugh at him … they are too busy brooding with self-loathing.

I kind of thought there would be a chance here, the trailer looked funny enough in a cute and obvious sort of way, however, that short two-minutes steals any thunder the actual film might have had. I love how the biggest laughs in the theatre came from the jokes that were in the ads. And the laughs start early, as though they are reacting to what they know is coming, making the joke itself fail on its own merits. What could have been a good comedic chase—the leads are a separated, married couple who witness a murder in New York City and must be relocated to protect them from harm in Wyoming—ends up being a talk-it-out reconciliation of forgiveness, acceptance, and eventual agreement by the spouses. The genre, the leads, and the limp plot can tell you how it all will wind up, at least give us some tension or stakes that this couple may get killed. Maybe the antics of the hunt would elicit chuckles; instead, though, we watch the man on their trail easily find their whereabouts due to the idiocy of the Morgans’ personal assistants, (Really Elisabeth Moss? Really? You kill it in “Mad Men” and this is your big entry into Hollywood since that success?), through short cut scenes while the bulk of the film deals with these city folk ‘roughing’ it in the sticks.

But, even that could have been funny. The fact that it is the pollution and noise that is missed most is an interesting spin. Here is a couple thrown into the country that doesn’t want to put down roots and stay. The Morgans are New Yorkers through and through—just forget that the mister is a Brit. We are given the guns, a bear, horseback riding, and a rodeo, all the staples us naïve urbanites believe make up middle of nowhere Republican towns. If anything, I think people could come up with a good reason as to how this film degrades small town folk by subjugating them to crass stereotypes for laughs. I guess I would excuse this fact if the end result were actual laughter; it’s not, though, it’s trepidation in wondering how much longer the charade will last before our protagonists are pitted against their would-be assassin once more. The simple fact of being in Wyoming does very little to be a catalyst in the couple’s actual reconciliation, so the setting is pure gimmick; the truth in caring for each other in the face of adversity, mortality, and fear is what’s necessary. No matter what little things they do to smile and enjoy each other’s company, the spiteful, selfish tropes that make up who they are will always get in the way. What we need is some good old-fashioned heroism, and we don’t get it until the final fifteen minutes.

Frankly, I didn’t like any character in this film at all. Each one had an agenda, each one was a cliché serving the plot rather than being an actual person. If I had to pick one person to relate to, I guess it would be Hugh Grant’s Paul only because I enjoyed his sarcasm and cynicism, voicing the only real comedic lines. Maybe Marc Lawrence did it because they are buddies, or maybe it’s because they are friends that he can write adequately for him, (this is their third collaboration in three films for the writer/director), I just wish he gave the others personalities. Sarah Jessica Parker’s Meryl is spot-on, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. This woman is a despicable person, one that won’t stop talking, hypocritically says no one listens to her when she doesn’t give anyone the chance to prove they do, and doesn’t know how to act warmly towards the personal relationships in her life despite doing charity work like crazy. It feels like a façade to tell herself she is a good person when she knows she is not. So, I guess I can say she portrays the role to perfection, especially if she is supposed to be the one pushing and pulling against Grant as he passively walks through life without a shred of autonomy whatsoever. These two are perfect for each other—I fear for the children.

And the supporting roles are caricatures at best. Sam Elliott appears to be looking for a paycheck, phoning in the sheriff act with the simple fact that he has the voice to pull it off effortlessly, (the horseshoe arrest bit at the end was atrociously ham-fisted and stupid); Mary Steenburgen is a tad out of her element as the hard-ass, guns and animal heads on the wall gal; Jesse Liebman and Moss are completely two-dimensional subservient robots; and can Kim Shaw’s Nurse Kelly be drawn any broader into simpleton territory? I did like David Call’s Doc Simmons and his pediatrician tendencies, as well as Michael Kelly’s murderous Vincent, even if he is given no room to show any range. This is a film catering to an audience that does not want to be intellectually stimulated or challenged. The plot is spoon-fed in its simplicity and the jokes are obvious and flat, making the whole endeavor of sticking with the 100-minute runtime a chore. At least the final line before the credits is a winner delivered with natural timing by Grant, trying its best to make you forget what came before and leave with a smile. Don’t worry, though, smiles fade and eventually the memory of the film will too.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? 2/10 | ★

photography:
[1] Sarah Jessica Parker and Hugh Grant star in Columbia Pictures’ comedy DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? Photo By: Barry Wetcher SMPSP
[2] Mary Steenburgen and Sam Elliott in Columbia Pictures’ comedy DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?, starring Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker. Photo By: Barry Wetcher SMPSP

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