July 17, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Chris Riedell and Nick Riedell
Culture Representation: Taking place in the New York/New Jersey area, the romantic comedy “A Nice Girl Like You” features a predominantly white cast (with some African Americans, Latinos and Asians) representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: After her live-in boyfriend breaks up with her because she objects to him watching porn, a straight-laced woman in her 20s tries to be more open-minded about sex and makes a list of things to do to achieve that goal.
Culture Audience: “A Nice Girl Like You” will appeal primarily to fans of star Lucy Hale and to people who like very predictable and substandard romantic comedies.
“A Nice Girl Like You” is one of those romantic comedies that desperately tries to be edgy. But it’s clear from the first 10 minutes of the film that it’s following the same predictable and ultimately safe formula that other not-very-funny romantic comedies have done before and are quickly forgotten in a sea of generic mediocrity. Lucy Hale gives it her best shot to be the type of romantic-comedy ingenue that Julia Roberts, Meg Ryan, Kate Hudson, Jennifer Lopez and Anne Hathaway used to be, but Hale isn’t quite there yet in having consistently sharp comedic skills.
Directed by brothers Chris Riedell and Nick Riedell, “A Nice Girl Like You” would have benefited from more experienced people writing and directing this movie. This is the Riedell brothers’ third feature film as a directing team. “A Nice Girl Like You” is the first screenplay by actress Andrea Marcellus, who adapted the screenplay from a “based on a true story” by Ayn Carrillo Gailey.
Because “A Nice Girl Like You” revolves around sex and a heroine’s journey in going outside her comfort zone to try new things, the movie begins with a scene establishing how uptight she is about sex. (“A Nice Girl Like You” takes place in an unnamed city in the New York/New Jersey area, and was filmed in New Jersey.) Lucy Neal (played by Hale) is standing in front of a bathroom mirror in an upscale hotel, practicing saying this line out loud: “I want your hot, throbbing …,” but she’s having a hard time uttering the last word, which is supposed to be “cock.”
Now that it’s been established that Lucy is so prudish that she can’t even say a slang word for penis, the scene flashes back to the day before, when Lucy and her live-in boyfriend Jeff (played by Stephen Friedrich) are in bed having sex together in such an unrelaxed and almost mechanical way, that it would be easy to assume that they don’t know each other well. While Lucy stares up at the ceiling, looking very bored and disengaged, she suddenly blurts out, “Wheat-free waffles!” Why? Because she was thinking about her grocery list instead of being in the moment and connecting with her lover.
Jeff knows that Lucy’s mind was elsewhere while they were having sex, so he’s immediately offended. He jumps out of bed and they start to argue. Lucy, who’s clad in the type of pajamas that a 6-year-old would wear, tries to make excuses, but Jeff isn’t going to let her off so easy.
Jeff, whose work-at-home job is testing video games, has his laptop computer on, and Lucy notices that he’s been watching porn on the computer. Now it’s her turn to be offended. “Since when are you a porn person?” Lucy asks Jeff in disgust. Jeff replies, “I’m a guy, so, since always.” Lucy gives Jeff an extreme ultimatum: “It’s either me or the porn.” Jeff breaks up with Lucy, and he moves out.
The movie then flashes forward again to the next day when a newly available Lucy mentions the breakup while she’s at that hotel, where a wedding is being held. Lucy plays violin in a string quartet that’s been hired to perform at the wedding. The other members of the quartet also happen to be Lucy’s three best friends: married and middle-aged Pricilla Blum (played by Mindy Cohn); single and perpetually horny Nessa Jennings (played by Jackie Cruz); and mild-mannered and single Paul Goodwin (played by Adhir Kalyan).
At this outdoor wedding, Lucy is having some self-pitying breakup blues, as she tells her friends that Jeff dumped her because he thinks she’s “porno-phobic.” And so, it might come as a big surprise later in the movie when it’s mentioned that Jeff and Lucy had been together for four years before the breakup. It took them four years to find out that they were this sexually incompatible?
It’s one of the many flaws in this movie’s screenplay. A better screenplay would’ve had Lucy and Jeff dating for less than a year. But having a four-year time period during which Lucy and Jeff were together is supposed to make Lucy look more sympathetic because she invested several years in the relationship, and he ended up leaving her.
At the wedding, the bride arrives on a horse, which proceeds to defecate right where the bride and groom are saying their vows. (Yes, it’s that kind of movie.) Lucy is in the hotel ladies’ room again, this time practicing some orgasmic lines, so she could sound more like the type of porn actress whom Jeff likes to watch. While Lucy is shouting out these lines loud enough for anyone outside the restroom to hear, a tall and handsome Australian groomsman named Grant (played by Leonides Gulaptis) happens to be passing by to go to the men’s room.
Grant overhears Lucy in the restroom and thinks she might be in some kind of distress. He peeks in the ladies’ room and asks if she’s okay. He sees Lucy sitting on the floor by herself. A slightly embarrassed and flustered Lucy tells him that she’s perfectly fine and is just meditating. Now that this “meet cute” moment has happened, it’s easy to see how this movie is going to end.
Lucy is someone who likes to make lists, so one of the things she does is make a list of things she has to do to go outside her sexual comfort zone. Even though Jeff is done with her, Lucy still wants to prove to herself that she can be more open-minded about sex. Some of the things on her list include going to a sex shop, watching porn, going to a strip club, going to a sex seminar, having a sex-toy demonstration party and visiting a brothel. She enlists the help of Pricilla, Nessa and Paul to go on various parts of this journey with her.
Hale is better in dramas than she is in comedies, but perhaps Hale might improve if she had a better script to work with and more assured comedic direction. Throughout most of the film, the jokes are stale and the direction is lackluster and unimaginative. “A Nice Girl Like You” seems like the kind of movie that Anna Kendrick (who’s made her share of forgettable romantic comedies) would reject.
However, that’s not to say that “A Nice Girl Like You” is completely awful. The movie has a few laugh-out-loud moments where Hale shows some talent for slapstick—most notably, the best comedic scene in the film, where Lucy has a mishap with some Ben Wa balls. And supporting cast members Cohn, Cruz and Kalyan stand out as being more talented at bringing realism to comedy than lead actors Hale and Gulaptis, whose Grant character is written as a nice guy but very bland.
Timing, tone of voice and facial expressions are all crucial elements in making a character in a comedy look convincing enough to be a realistic person, compared to a character that looks like an actor reciting lines. Even when a raunchy comedy has over-the-top characters and outlandish situations (such as 2009’s “The Hangover” or 2011’s “Bridesmaids”), the cast members have to be believable and humorous as those characters. Unfortunately, there are too many poorly written and contrived “sitcom-ish” elements in “A Nice Girl Like You” that are quite dull and lack creativity. It’s not a good sign when a comedy about sex is so boring that it will put viewers to sleep.
Vertical Entertainment released “A Nice Girl Like You” on digital and VOD on July 17, 2020.