She's the One
Screenplay : Edward Burns
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1996
Stars : Edward Burns (Mickey Fitzpatrick), Mike McGlone (Francis Fitzpatrick), Cameron Diaz (Heather), Maxine Bahns (Hope), Jennifer Aniston (Renee), John Mahoney (Mr. Fitzpatrick)
Edward Burns' sophomore effort, "She's the One," is a generally unenjoyable romp through the lives of a family of morally misguided, dysfunctional New Yorkers and the people they hurt. I could take this if it were dealt with properly, but the problem is that Burns thinks this is romantic comedy. He doesn't want to deal with the kinds of problems he unearths, so he brushes them off with a light touch, hoping we'll find them funny. They're not. They're just sad.
The film revolves around the two squabbling Fitzpatrick brothers, Mickey (Edward Burns) and Francis (Mike McGlone), and their father (John Mahoney). The theme of the film seems to be the male animal's inability to understand himself or the women around him. Mickey used to be engaged to Heather (Cameron Diaz), an ambitious blond who paid her way through college by being a hooker. Three years ago, he found her with another man (forever known as "The Hairy Ass Incident"), so he left and has been driving a cab ever since then.
Meanwhile, his brother Francis, an incredibly snobbish Wall Street broker, started an affair with Heather six months ago, and claims he's in a "down cycle" to explain to his, Renee (Jennifer Aniston of "Friends"), why they haven't had sex in three months. Francis is in love with Heather, so in his own twisted logic, he considers sleeping with his wife wrong because that would mean cheating on his mistress. Renee complains ceaselessly about the lack of sex, and instead of figuring out that he's sleeping with someone else, she comes to the grand conclusion that he must be homosexual.
Early in the film, Mickey picks up a pretty girl named Hope (Burns' real-life girlfriend Maxine Bahns) in his cab, and after a ten minute conversation, Hope invites him to New Orleans with her, and the next day they're married. Doubtful, but since a great deal of the film hinges on their relationship, we have to accept it. Even though they know nothing about each other, Mickey and Hope seems peachy-keen until we find out that Hope is soon to depart for Paris to get her Ph.D (if she's already educated enough to pursue a Ph.D., why is she working as a waitress?). Will Mickey go with her, or will he stay in New York with his family that he doesn't seem to like anyway? Do we really care?
Although we see a great deal of Mickey and Hope, the real center of the film is the relationship between Mickey and Francis -- the rest of the characters merely serve to get in the way and cause problems. Unfortunately, Burns made the huge mistake of making their relationship uninteresting. They never seem to like each other much as friends, much less brothers. They have no intelligent, emotional conversations together (unless you count arguments).
Mickey is a well-drawn, interesting character that we can sympathize with, even when he doesn't make the right decisions. Francis, on the other hand, is so slimy and such a jerk, that we don't want to see him improve -- we just want to see him get run over by a bus. He's the kind of person who sits in the back of his car and asks his chauffeur, "Do I look as good as I think I do?" He's also spineless, trailing around after Heather, alternating utterances about his undying love for her with crass comments about Poppa, an old man she's also sleeping with. "He wears diapers and has one foot in the grave!" he complains when she suggests that Poppa is more sexually capable than he is. Francis is crude, shallow, whiny, and utterly heartless, and yet we're supposed to spend an hour and a half caring about his relationship with Mickey and the women that come between them.
Of course, Burns explains that Mickey and Francis were competitive as children, and back then Mickey always had the upper hand, so now Francis is just getting his due. There's a sappy story about how they were playing on opposing baseball teams as kids, and when Mickey had the chance to throw the game and make Francis the hero, he swung away and made a goat out of his brother. Hardly an excuse for Francis' morally baseless behavior as an adult, but Burns seems to think it's sufficient.
What's even more frustrating about "She's the One" is that Burns has already covered this ground before in "The Brothers McMullen," his low-budget indie debut that won the Sundance Film Festival. He had critics eating out his lap, so he repays them by using a Hollywood budget and a soundtrack by Tom Petty to rehash the same Irish-American sibling rivalry he already gave us, only this time with less sincerity and wit. Burns has talent, but he needs to get out of this rut he's quickly digging for himself.
©1997 James Kendrick