Musing on Movies: “Failure to Launch” (2006)

Just to make it clear, I’m not writing about Failure to Launch (2006) starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker because I think it’s a great film or a classic, or even particularly notable.  It’s just that I happened to catch it over the weekend, and I’d had it on my mind to write some quick thoughts on films on this blog, I’d thought I’d start here. 

Up until recently, if you’d asked me which Matthew McConaughey film is about him playing a scared-of-commitment womanizer who gets involved with a new exciting girl who is secretly dating him with an ulterior motive, but who ends up falling in love with him before he discovers her deception and storms away feeling betrayed, I’d have answered How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, but it turns out the same description applies to Failure to Launch.  I watched this movie without much optimism.  I find it annoying that McConaughey seems to build nearly his entire career playing God’s gift to women, and I’ve never found Sarah Jessica Parker to be all that appealing.

The basic idea here is that McConaughey plays a 30-something ladies man who still lives at home with his parents, and uses this as a way out of relationships when they get too serious.  The parents long for freedom from their son and hire a woman whose specialty is to deceptively form non-sexual but romantic relationships with people like this, boosting their confidence until they “grow up” and move out.  The movie never really tells us how this works exactly, especially how Parker ends all these fake relationships without undoing her work.  That might have been an interesting touch.

Still, the movie turned out to be more satisfying than I had any right to expect.  This was partly because there were some laughs, thanks in part to the amusing antics of the supporting characters (particularly Zooey Deschanel as Parker’s darkly comic roommate), but even more so because the film gave its premise a fairly compelling treatment in the second half.  McConaughey turns out to have some reasons for his immaturity, and though he is justifiably angry at Parker’s deception, she also has the opportunity to call him out on his childishness, which is always gratifying.  So not a complete waste of time, and I enjoyed watching the film with my wife, in spite of myself.

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