My Girlfriend's Boyfriend (2010)
www.imdb.com/title/tt1447793/ - Internet Movie Data Base
https://dvd.netflix.com/Movie/My-Girlfriend-s-Boyfriend/70125551 - Netflix
www.amazon.com/My-Girlfriends-Boyfriend-Alyssa-Milano/dp/B004IN75DU - Amazon
The description from Netflix reads "Jesse Young is a girl who has everything and maybe too much of it when she finds herself falling for two seemingly perfect guys: sexy but struggling writer Ethan and button-down advertising exec Troy. Can she find true love with two men at the same time, or is somebody going to get a broken heart?" The tagline reads "What would you do if you found your one true love... twice?"
This had more potential than almost any other possibly-poly movie I'd seen in a long time, especially for a movie that wasn't on any poly lists but that Netflix recommended to me based on adding other poly movies to my queue. The title and the line "Can she find true love with two men at the same time" made the cynical part of my brain pause in condemning it for yet another Hollywood choose-between-them romantic comedy plot. "This one," I thought "might actually be poly." I went into watching this movie with high hopes, but wary that those high hopes would lead me to a big fall.
My Girlfriend's Boyfriend stars Alyssa Milano, whom I've had a straight-girl-crush on for pretty much my entire life, so even with my usual misgivings about modern romantic comedies, I had to give it a try. Alyssa, as Jesse, is entirely convincing in her character and she put me back into my own history with similar situations. Jesse is a waitress who meets Ethan, a sexy-in-that-geeky-way writer who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get published for years and whose latest meeting with a publisher has convinced him that he will never make it as a writer.
Jesse, we learn right away, is getting over some kind of relationship ending and is not yet ready to try again. But then she meets Ethan, and seems to decide that her uncle was right - it's time to take that leap and go for love. She gives Ethan her phone number. But as Ethan leaves Jesse's cafe, a tall, handsome, charismatic man walks in through the front door. It seems that, when Jesse decides to leap, she goes for a swan dive off Mt. Everest. Troy, our handsome advertising executive, gets Jesse's phone number too.
The two men couldn't be more different from each other, and yet, they're really not all that different. Ethan takes Jesse on those cheesy sorts of dates that end up being the most romantic dates ever because of how personal and intimate they are. Troy takes Jesse on those perfect sorts of dates that end up being the most romantic dates ever because of how flawless they are. Jesse is smart and funny and sarcastic (and beautiful) and it's easy for me to see why both men like her (as opposed to the romantic lead in Cafe au Lait). As time progresses, we see her struggling with her growing feelings and her secret.
When monogamous people date, there is this unspoken, implicit rule that when you're "just dating", it's OK to go on dates with more than one person. It's even acceptable not to tell the people you're on dates with that you are going on dates with other people. The point is to maximize your time to more efficiently select The One, and since he is The One, he doesn't need to know about all the applicants who didn't make the cut. So the fact that Jesse has a secret isn't surprising, and I can completely understand how she could get herself into this predicament. In the beginning, many people don't need, or want, to reveal everything - this relationship may not go anywhere, or it may go somewhere bad. Better to wait and see if this relationship is worth keeping before revealing something that makes you vulnerable.
The problem is that, oftentimes, we don't know that this relationship is worth revealing that secret until we've kept that secret past the point where we should have revealed it. By then, the longer the secret is kept, the harder it is to reveal it because you not only have to reveal something that might destroy your relationship, but you have to reveal that you've been keeping that secret this whole time, adding broken trust and a false foundation onto whatever horror your secret is. It's a terrible predicament to be in. At first, the relationship isn't worth revealing your secret over. Then, when the relationship is worth it, it becomes too important to risk losing by revealing the secret. Rock, meet Hard Place.
This is going to be really difficult because I don't know how to end this review without giving away spoilers. So I'm going to say something here that needs to be said and is going to sound like a spoiler ... but it really won't be.
This is not a poly movie.
But this movie sucked me in, made me cry, made me root for the characters, put me back inside the headspace of a person I no longer am and could no longer remember, and I was completely surprised.
This is not a poly movie, but it's also not your typical romantic comedy. There is no "girl meets wrong guy that we know is the wrong guy because she sleeps with him too soon while Mr. Right pines away for her and eventually wins her away from the obvious bastard that she has chosen instead" plot. This movie doesn't make the same tired old plot turns, it takes totally different plot turns. As cynical as I can be, I feel as though I should have seen some of these things coming, because, now that I know the ending, I can see how it was set up. But either the writing or the acting (or both) was so touching and so real to me, that I didn't see it coming until the reveal.
One of the criticisms I read about this movie was that the two concurrent plots of Jesse and her two men were boring by themselves, without the tension of the Big Secret. Personally, I thought that was the movie's strength. Too often, especially in romantic comedies, we have to introduce some wild conflict - usually a conflict that would solve the whole problem if the characters just talked to each other. And every time I yell at the screen "this whole thing could be solved if you just do X and all this pain and suffering you're feeling would be over!", someone else reminds me that we wouldn't have the movie if they did the reasonable, rational thing, so shut up, Joreth, and watch the movie.
And I HATE that! Reporters and TV producers regularly approach me for their shows only to reject me when they find out that I don't usually feel jealous in my relationships, we don't argue all that much, and when we do, it's usually solved with a long discussion or two and not so much with the fighting in public or screaming and name-calling, and that I don't hate my metamours. For some reason, people feel the need to include massive amounts of drama* in their entertainment (and their lives). Now, there are certainly stories that I enjoy that include huge conflicts - like lovers being separated by war, or epic battles of good vs. evil, or, even better, epic battles of fundamentally flawed people vs. other fundamentally flawed people.
But a relationship that doesn't have lying, lack of communication, fights, breakups and reconciliations, and all the rest of the contrived bullshit that writers put into them can still be an interesting story. Yes, it's true, without the tension of the "secret", if we watched each of Jesse's relationships individually as its own movie instead of together, there isn't a whole lot of conflict. Jesse seems pretty happy with each of her men, and each man seems pretty happy with her. And I LIKED that.
I absolutely loved the fact that there wasn't a clear loser. I loved that she didn't choose "the wrong one". I loved that one guy wasn't an asshole and the other was perfect. I loved that we didn't have to make one guy a villain or to kill one of them off in order to justify her choosing the other one. I loved that because it felt more real to me. It made much more sense to me why she was with each man. I am too often disgusted with romantic comedies because I can't understand why the characters are together, since they don't seem to really like each other. In this movie, although I actually liked Ethan better as a match for *me*, I could totally see why Jesse would have been in each relationship. It felt REAL.
Had I written this movie, it would not have gone in the direction it did go. But, given the direction it went in, I have to say that it ended exactly as it should have. How she ended up with who she ended up with has been written before, although rarely, so it was a bit of a twist in that regard. I usually feel, in stories that take this path, that the writer wrote himself into a corner and had to use a cheesy plot device to write himself out. I didn't feel that way this time. It is a difficult path that the writer chose for his story, and one, as I said, I would not have taken if I were writing it. But, for once, I didn't hate that the writer took this direction.
In addition, the movie threw a bit of a curveball at the end that I've seen happen in a couple of other stories, and it happens to be a curveball that I have a particularly strong feeling about - it being a personal issue of mine. But this curveball is so rarely well-handled, and in real life it's handled even less well, that to see the character give exactly the response I so hoped for made the movie for me.
The other criticism I read was that the surprise plot twist was too easy to figure out. As I said above, after having watched the movie, I can now see all the places where it was set up, and I feel as though I should have seen it coming. I won't say what those clues are because I don't want to give it away if you haven't seen it (and even if you can guess the ending before it ends, the movie is still better not knowing it ahead of time), but I did notice at the time when a couple of clues presented themselves that something funny was going on and, in hindsight, it's completely obvious.
But, the point is that, sure, the plot twist and the Big Secret could have been figured out. There is a very fine line between too easy to figure out and completely unable to figure out because the setup went so out of its way to trick us that it ended up being implausible, and where that line is for any individual may vary, so I don't think any movie could possibly get it perfectly right. What I think a movie has to do is make it *possible* to figure out so that it's plausible and realistic, but so engaging that the audience is too busy feeling the story to sit back and analyze it to find the clues. And I think that's exactly what this movie did.
So, it's not a poly movie. It was a romantic comedy. And I recommend it anyway.
You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!
The word "drama" gets a bad rap in poly circles because of its misuse. I write about this problem often, so if you're interested in more discussion about it, visit my blog or Facebook page. But the short footnote is that when *I* use the word "drama", I do not mean any old conflict. All relationships have conflict. When I use that term, I mean that when conflict arises (or, more likely, is manufactured), the response to the conflict is so extreme as to be performative in nature. Meaning that sometimes shit happens like a death in the family or personality clashes and that's to be expected, but when a person goes out of their way to arrange their life in such a manner as to invite conflict, and then to deal with the conflict in unproductive ways that almost seem deliberate, that invite attention or an audience or participation from those outside the conflict, and do so repeatedly without any attempt made to learn more productive behaviour for dealing with conflict in the future, that's "drama".
These are the people who follow their partners to public venues and then have shouting matches in the parking lot, perhaps with the throwing of chairs or beer bottles, that result in venue security intervening, instead of attempting productive conflict resolution techniques or simply leaving someone, mostly because the only examples they've seen of dealing with conflict is from people who have an audience like reality TV or movies. As some article once said, we often learn how to fight by watching things like Friends, where people who are supposed to be buddies throw out some zinger to hurt each other. This doesn't make any sense for friends to fight this way, but it makes perfect sense if those friends have writers who have to entertain an audience with the fight. So we then grow up thinking that flinging insults at the people we care about that other people will laugh or "oooh" at is the way that people fight. This is what I mean by "drama". It's performative. That's why I use that term specifically, because drama invokes "the theatre" and is "dramatic", or perhaps even melodramatic. It most definitely does not include all forms of conflict, or even strong emotional feelings during conflict.
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