Released: 17th July
Seen: 29th September
Some sex comedies question the human condition and our reliance on the act that the French call “the little death” in order to create a connection, some sex comedies mock the societal hangups we have regarding the act that is required to create life and some sex comedies point at some of the absurd elements of the sexual act itself… then there are the sex comedies that appear to be written by people who have never even heard of the concept of sex and wouldn’t know what to do if you handed them written instructions regarding what parts go where. That’s the best way I can explain something as completely unfunny as A Nice Girl Like You.
A Nice Girl Like You revolves around Lucy (Lucy Hale) who is a bit of a stick in the mud who doesn’t particularly seem to like sex or even know much about it. After an argument with her boyfriend over his enjoyment of pornography, Lucy decides to make a list of various sexy things she can do (Sexy like “Attend a sex lecture” and “Read cliterature”) in order to… uh… not suck at sex?. For the remainder of the film, Lucy goes through her very boring checklist of assorted sexual basics with the comedic sensibility of a driving instruction manual.
These are setups that, while not great, offer some comedic opportunities that A Nice Girl Like You never takes. We know people going into a sex shop can be hilarious, we’ve seen it done multiple times in multiple sitcoms but this one somehow doesn’t see the inherent hilarity in the setup. At best it does the “Erection cream put on womans lips” joke which I’ve seen before… and also she doesn’t buy the cream, just casually opens it and puts it on her mouth without looking before putting it back on the shelf, so she’s also an entitled bratty character who is boring and unlikable so that’s a fun combo. A sex workshop could be funny in a good writer’s hands, but we don’t have that here to work with because A Nice Girl Like You‘s sex workshop scene is boring, filled with bad crossfades and has one reference joke to Ghost that isn’t even funny. You have a room full of people giving hand jobs to dildos, at some point this should create a good joke. A joke, A joke, my kingdom for a joke!
It was around the time that they did an allegedly comedic horse shitting scene that I thought to myself “Who have I harmed in a previous life and why have they chosen this as my punishment” because it was the most painful thing. There are no comedic setups, no jokes, no actually fun subversions or even shock. Even scenes that could be funny fall apart after you think about them for literally a second. A scene where the main character is dropping Ben Wa Balls on the ground while she’s working could be funny… if, ya know, it made sense and had any real timing. It’s just “Oh, Fifty Shades did a scene with Ben Wa Balls so surely it’ll be funny if we have them dropping between our main characters legs every few minutes”. Spoilers, it’s not funny, it’s just stupid. Hell the phrase “It’s not funny, it’s just stupid” really does describe most of the scenes in this thing.
A Nice Girl Like You is not even raunchy enough to be funny, for a sex comedy it is stunningly tame regarding obscenities. I don’t think they said the F word more than once, it’s that tame. While it isn’t essential that the film uses obscenities, it is a warning sign that this film took an adult topic and refuses to handle it like an adult. It could be smart or broad as hell, I don’t care what kind of jokes it wants to tell with this subject but god damn it I’d like some jokes. I’d also like good editing, interesting visuals and some acting but I’ll settle for just “Make me laugh just one time”. It doesn’t even have to make a point (even though a setup like “woman who is afraid of sex tries checklist of sex things” is basically destined to make a point about what women are expected to do in the bedroom or to lead to a discovery of being asexual, two ideas I came up with on my own without even trying so I don’t know what this film’s excuse is)
I spent most of this film mentally comparing it to another film about a sexually repressed woman who discovers the joys of sex… A Dirty Shame. Sure, A Dirty Shame isn’t going to win any awards but I can watch it and spot the jokes, it has a general thesis that it sticks to, it has a comedic tone that it understands. Sure, maybe I’m alone in laughing at a film where Tracey Ullman yells “Something is the matter with your vagina!” but at least I can work out what the joke is in that line of dialogue. I can’t point to where the jokes are in A Nice Girl Like You or how to fix them because they seem to have just dodged them entirely.
A Nice Girl Like You should have been hilarious, it’s not like the actors can’t do comedy because you can see them trying to make this material work. They just haven’t been given any real jokes to work with. Sure, a dildo looks funny but you can’t just put a disembodied dick on screen and expect that to do all the work. This film seems to believe that just gesturing in the general direction of things shaped like genitals is enough to make the audience laugh and most audiences are just a little smarter than that.
I don’t ask much from a sex comedy like A Nice Girl Like You… just make a joke, just one joke. One good joke and we can all move on and enjoy the rest of our day but instead we get to sit and watch while a pack of people we don’t care about talk about sex without ever finding it humorous. Just go hunt down A Dirty Shame and watch that intead, it was under appreciated when it came out and at least that film understood the idea of how jokes work.