May 05, 2012

MOVIES: Think Like a Man (Tim Story, 2012)

This is perhaps the most viciously cynical movie I've ever seen. It's inspired by Steve Harvey's self-help book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which purports to tell women how men think in relationships, and how to use that knowledge to manipulate their men into being the boyfriends/husbands they've always wanted.

The movie tells the stories of several couples, primarily from the male point of view. The women are all using Harvey's book -- Harvey pops up in fictional talk-show clips to read key passages -- and getting the men to behave "correctly." Eventually, the men stumble onto the book, and begin using their discovery ("We know they're using the book, but they don't know we know!") to manipulate the women.

In other words, there's not the slightest shred of actual romance in any of these relationships; everyone is merely trying to con their partner instead of being honest with them. (One of the men in the group is happily married; significantly, that relationship remains entirely off-screen and we never see the wife.)

The formula for this sort of movie requires that all of the characters simultaneously realize "Oh my goodness, I really do love him/her" so that we can get several ostensibly moving reconciliation scenes. But since none of these relationships were ever built on real emotions, these scenes play as the cheapest form of audience manipulation.

The cast (who will go unnamed, because none of them are to blame for this vile mess) is talented and likable, and they're trying awfully hard, but the material is so depressingly insincere, especially in its final act, that no actor in the world is talented enough to make it convincing.

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