Trailerama: The Ugly Truth

If we interpreted the smoke signals from last month’s ShoWest correctly, The Ugly Truth is poised to be the big summer romantic comedy. Which made us wonder about the bankability of Katherine Heigl. Is she popular? Since Knocked Up led to Vanity Fair covers, her work has been distinguished mainly by the so-so 27 Dresses and the occasional tantrum over Grey’s Anatomy. And why is she popular? Then we watched the new Truth trailer and it started to make sense. Katherine Heigl is ready to be humiliated.

The Ugly Truth pits her television producer against Gerard Butler‘s macho meathead “guest commentator.” At first, they can’t stand each other. She’s sunny, he’s the dark side of the moon. But when a surgeon catches Heigl’s fancy, Butler agrees to play a Cyrano of sorts to their relationship. Acting on Butler’s insights into the male mind, Heigl might just be able to win her guy’s heart. However, as time goes on, the unlikely pair begin to feel a little lovin’ frisson. The only question is–who is going to rub off on whom?

We liked Heigl because she seemed to have it so rough in Knocked Up–a comedy which took pains to depict women, in her words “as shrews, as humorless and uptight.” Judd Apatow‘s point may have been that both sexes have some growing up to do, but it felt fair when Heigl herself complained to Vanity Fair that “It was hard for me to love the movie.” She isn’t alone. The film also put one of the unsexiest sex scenes in movie history on her resume, at least until that same boning session was parodied in Observe and Report.

In The Ugly Truth, however, she’s getting the shaft again from Butler. The first sign that something isn’t right is when her character Abby is suspended from a branch, giving the neighbors a flash of her grandma panties. No, actually, the first sign is the majority of her dialogue, which consists of making a disgusted gasp to whatever Butler’s unreconstructed Australian “man-whore” is saying. Then she chokes on fellating a hot dog. Sure, it’s all played for laughs, but somewhere Lars von Trier is having a sinister Danish chuckle.

There’s more to the flick than that. There’s a nice scene where Heigl comes on to Butler, doing his best Mel Gibson in What Women Want, before whispering “sucker” in his ear. And clearly this movie is made with a market in mind. Maybe women want to see their heroine shamed only to emerge, as Butler would say, “on top” at the end. Or perhaps the makers just believe that if one When Harry Met Sally orgasm can achieve cinematic immortality, a whole film based on role-playing according to sexist notions of gender is destined to score. As Heigl says, “You’ll never know.” Or at least not until the film is released on July 24. See it and then sneak into Funny People.

The Ugly Truth is directed by Robert Luketic. The film reunites several members of his team, including cinematographer Russell Carpenter and production designer Missy Stewart, who worked with Luketic on the fun Las Vegas/Harvard caper 21. Editor Lisa Zeno Churgin was nominated for an Oscar for The Cider House Rules. A trio of female screenplayers worked on the film: first-timer Nicole Eastman and the veteran team of Karen McCullah Lutz and Kristen Smith, whose previous work includes The House Bunny and Legally Blonde.

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