All About Steve (2009)

<strong class="MovieTitle">All About Steve</strong> (2009)

(On TV, January 2019) Some movies are more infamous than famous, and to the extent that anyone even thinks about All About Steve, it’s usually to remind everyone else that it was a terrible film. (I don’t like the Razzies, but All About Steve is notable in that it led to Sandra Bullock winning a Razzie for the worst actress of the year, and picking it up herself … the day before winning a Best Actress Academy Oscar for The Blind Side, which is not necessarily a better movie.) With a reputation like that, it’s normal to approach the film with an “it can’t be that bad” presumption. All About Steve, however, is honestly that bad, although it can often camouflage its awfulness by humour. Even the premise is strange, what with a socially awkward girl obsessively pursuing a dreamboat of a romantic prospect, turning psychotic behaviour into rom-com antics. The problems, I suspect, go straight to Bullock as the producer of the film. There are plenty of hints that the script, as originally written, was far wackier than what eventually landed on the screen. There are enough zany hijinks and eccentric characters left over on the sides of the plot to make a reasonable hypothesis that when Bullock became the film’s producer and cast herself in the lead role, the main character re rewritten to fit their lead actors, and that neither Bullock nor Bradley Cooper wanted to strike out too far in absurdity. The result is a film that doesn’t know how to approach its own material. Bullock in the lead role is too conventionally sympathetic and cannot allow herself to completely become the nerdy obsessive protagonist in her full glory—she has to be fit to be played by Sandra Bullock’s persona, and that works to the film’s detriment as it holds back what could have been a far funnier film. Another actress may have been able to play a brainy outcast, but Bullock has to get her star moments. Much of the same also goes for Bradley Cooper, asked to play a relatively straight and featureless male romantic lead in a film geared for something else. This would explain such baffling tonal issues with the rest of the film, including a scene (glorifying Bullock’s character, naturally) mean to be inspiring and heroic, but just coming across as tone-deaf. I suspect that movie-star interference in films is widespread and corrosive, but All About Steve looks like an ideal example of the problem. The problems of All About Steve are all about casting—specifically when the casting of a persona end up weakening the character as originally written … which happens when the star and producer end up being the same person.

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