By Chaz Lipp
Watching She Wants Me, the new film by writer-director Rob Margolies, with a significant other will surely spur some discussion about the relative acceptability of its lead characters’ behavior. That’s a good thing, since it means Margolies has cut a little deeper and searched a little further for insight into what makes relationships work than the average rom-com. Of course, it always helps to provide some solid laughs. She Wants Me delivers in that department, too.
There are a couple of very high profile names attached to this film who will likely rope in more than a few curious viewers. Charlie Sheen was an executive producer and he turns up for a funny cameo appearance late in the film. Hilary Duff plays Hollywood starlet Kim Powers. Her screen time is limited, but her character is essential to the story. The real stars of the film are Josh Gad, who plays frustrated filmmaker Sam Baum, and Kristen Ruhlin as Sammy, his actress girlfriend. Gad and Ruhlin display real chemistry, which makes their unlikely living situation more believable—more on that later. You may know Gad as the keyboardist from The Rocker, the 2008 comedy starring Rainn Wilson.
Ruhlin is less well-known, but her obvious comedic skill and innate likability combine to make Sammy an endearing, sympathetic character. See, Sammy happens to be Sam’s first serious girlfriend—his first true love. But divorcée Sammy’s ex-husband was a studly surgeon who pulls down some $800K yearly. Sam is an unproven filmmaker trying to get his second film off the ground (his first was distributed in “two theaters”). Sam, understandably, is perpetually baffled over why Sammy chose him over this successful professional. Not only is Sammy still very close with her ex, she invites John (Johnny Messner) to live with them for a spell, ostensibly to help them pay the rent while Sam finishes his screenplay.
How would you feel about your significant other’s ex coming over for an extended stay? Sammy seems mostly unaware of why the situation troubles Sam so much. Sam tries desperately to be a good sport, despite being extremely uneasy about John’s sudden prominence in his and Sammy’s life. But Sam is not incapable of some flawed judgment of his own. Early in the development of his new screenplay he promises Sammy the lead role. After all, it’s based on their relationship. But his agent friend Max (Aaron Yoo), through a chance encounter at a nightclub, manages to get Kim Powers (Duff) interested in the same role. Sam offers the role to Kim but can’t bring himself to tell Sammy.
Much of the fun in She Wants Me comes from watching Sam squirm uncomfortably as he deals with his guilt over the casting issue. Gad plays him like a bit like a variation on the classic Woody Allen persona, while still distinguishing the character as his own. Some of the conundrums aren’t really satisfactorily tied together by the film’s conclusion. The fate of the role promised to both Kim and Sammy is never really made clear, but the movie isn’t really about that. It’s about the relationship between Sam and Sammy and how many complications it can withstand without completely falling apart. I haven’t even mentioned Sam’s dalliances with Gwen (Melonie Diaz), a girl he meets while Sammy is away in New York.
She Wants Me is deceptively light. Clearly some actual thought went into depicting this atypical relationship and like I said, it may generate a discussion that carries on long after the 87-minute film is over. The DVD includes a short selection of deleted scenes and a blooper reel.