She’s the One

shestheone06Edward Burns has been called the Irish-Catholic Woody Allen, and in some respects he earns the title. Allen’s humor is suffused with guilt, neurosis, family dysfunction, and the eternal craziness between men and women. Burns works the same side of the street. He isn’t Jewish like Woody, but urban Jews and urban Irish-Catholics share a knack for expecting the worst — think of Denis Leary’s rants — and finding it funny. She’s the One, Burns’ follow-up to 1995’s witty The Brothers McMullen, continues his wry examination of Irish machismo and its growing irrelevance in the ’90s. In both movies, grown sons are warped by their fathers’ neolithic approach to women; these twentysomethings either reject the old man’s example or follow his advice, and neither tactic guarantees happiness.

Burns, a natural and engaging actor himself, here plays Mickey, a New York cabbie who took off for three years after finding his fiancee Heather (Cameron Diaz) in a questionable position with a man whose hairy ass has become legendary. Mick’s brother Francis (Mike McGlone, from McMullen) is a Wall Street sleazo who’s cheating on his wife Rene (Jennifer Aniston). The woman he’s cheating with, it turns out, is Heather. Meanwhile, Mickey picks up a beautiful bartender named Hope (Maxine Bahns, Burns’ real-life partner), who is going to a wedding in New Orleans and wants Mick to drive her. En route, they get married. This part of the movie is problematic for two reasons: We’re never sure of Hope’s motives — is she using Mickey? — and Bahns, although not a terrible actress, reads her lines as if doing just that: reading them.

For a while, I was afraid She’s the One was headed for the can’t-trust-men/can’t-trust-women territory staked by the bitter Short Cuts, where everyone was an idiot. But Burns doesn’t let us hate anyone — not even the arrogant Francis (played with gusto by McGlone), the sort of guy who smugly asks his chauffeur, “Do I look as good as I think I look?” Everyone is allowed to have moments of craziness and sanity.

Burns focuses on the clueless brothers, but he doesn’t give the women short shrift. Heather, for example, could have been an offensive cliche — she paid her way through college by hooking — but she’s written (and played by the gifted Diaz) as a vulnerable woman looking for someone who won’t pass judgment on her past. These women are daughters of Annie Hall: smart enough not to let men define them, but unsure how to define themselves. But they’re models of stability next to the guys.

She’s the One begins and ends aboard a small fishing boat where Mick’s and Francis’ dad (John Mahoney, who’s great) spends all his time. So much time, in fact, that his own wife finds a way to fill his absence. The boat, I think, is both a joke and metaphor for the way commitment-phobic men always think there are other fish in the sea. At the start, Mickey is still casting about. At the end, he’s made an amazing discovery: women are not fish. For these guys, Edward Burns is saying, that’s real progress.

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