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All About Steve

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All About Steve
The recent success of rom-com The Proposal and football drama The Blind Side in the US meant that 2009 was a bumper year for Sandra Bullock. After a brief wobble with 2007's Premonition, Bullock has pretty much wrestled away Julia Roberts's queen of the roost A-list crown completely. There is, however, an ugly stepchild in her batch of films from last year: All About Steve. Critically savaged and a box office underperformer, it arrives on UK shores this Friday with its fingers crossed hoping for the best. While the movie isn't the all-out disaster expected, it's weird, bizarre and just too creepily unsettling to really catch on.

The film finds Bullock playing Mary Horowitz, a cruciverbalist (or "crossword puzzle constructionist") who's moved back in with her mother and father while her apartment is getting fumigated. Mary's parents just want her to be normal, but she sticks out like a sore thumb. She's perennially cheerful, talks (with a nerdy lisp and mainly to her hamster) with the speed and force of a machine gun and has questionable fashion sense. Her favourite item of clothing is a pair of red boots that make her toes feel like "ten friends on a camping trip", and that hair is pure Mötley Crüe/Vince Neil mullet. She agrees to go on a blind date with cameraman Steve and is immediately smitten when, to her surprise, he turns up looking like Bradley Cooper. She quickly pounces, promising to eat him "like a mountain lion", but Steve is freaked out and quickly heads off on a work assignment. His white lie to Mary, that the trip won't be any fun without her, prompts the oddball heroine to set out on a dash across America to track him down.

As Steve journeys across the US with smug, perma-tanned reporter Hartman Hughes (Church) and producer Angus (Jeong) trailing inane and soppy news stories, Mary is forever biting at their heels. When she becomes embroiled in a story herself - falling down a mineshaft - the media frenzy turns on her. Through the ordeal Mary's oddball persona is embraced and she's encouraged to preserve her individuality. It's a positive message, but one that seems held back and diluted - a Sundance-type tale that's lost its edge after a Hollywood "dumbover". (500) Days Of Summer is perhaps the best recent example of a rom-com that found a way to deal with romantic infatuation without any underlying creepiness. Being kooky and eccentric is one thing, but obsession that transforms into stalking is much more difficult to execute successfully. Not even Bullock's charm can break through her character's alienating behaviour.

Director Phil Traill and screenwriter Kim Barker should take some credit for attempting something original, but ultimately what they come up with is an ensemble cast of non-entities and the overriding feeling that they're exploiting the lead character (who's clearly away with the fairies) for cheap laughs. Bullock at least seems sincere in her performance, however it's not enough to overcome this film's myriad of problems. Overly kooky comedy characters in film and television rarely get a moment in the sun (the lack of solo Phoebe Friends storylines or a Buster Bluth Arrested Development spinoff attest to that) because they're usually one-joke characters, and that more than applies with All About Steve.


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