Movie Review – All About Steve (2009)
by HELEN GEIB
All About Steve is a coming of age road trip movie, except instead of the usual 17 year old boy desperate to lose his virginity with the cheerleader he barely knows the lead role is filled by a 40ish woman desperate to have a relationship with the news cameraman hunk she barely knows. Actually “barely knows” is a substantial overstatement. Mary Horowitz requires less than five minutes in his company to fixate on becoming Steve’s significant other.
Mary (Sandra Bullock) is highly intelligent and an accomplished professional writer of crossword puzzles, but socially inept. She talks too much, says the wrong things, has lousy taste in clothes, and is generally lacking in people skills. The road trip comes about when she misinterprets Steve’s (Bradley Cooper) obvious social lie that he’d love to see her again… if only his job didn’t keep him on the road as an invitation to join him on assignment. By bus, taxi, and hitchhiking, Mary trails Steve from one breaking news location to another, acquiring newfound self-confidence and learning valuable life lessons along the way.
The film finds Mary endearing; audiences are more likely to find her pathetic. Roger Ebert found her mentally ill. It isn’t an unreasonable interpretation, but I disagree with it. That reading is based on the faulty premise that this movie is set in the real world and can sustain real world judgments about the characters when in fact, there is not a believable character or plausible plot point to be found, starting with Mary and her idiotic plan to follow Steve around the country but continuing through everyone and everything else.
All About Steve, which was written by Kim Barker and directed by Phil Traill, is like a pilot episode for a television series that wasn’t picked up, and you can see why it wasn’t. The pacing is leaden. The situations are painfully artificial, like the media circus around a contested plan to surgically remove a girl’s third leg and – but space is limited. The characters are one-note stereotypes of cracked intellectuals (Mary), pretentious network news types (the wannabe anchor Steve is attached to as cameraman), and sweet-flaky down home Southerners (the organizer of the “pro-leg” vigil and Mary’s new best friend). And those are only the most prominent examples. The movie even looks cheap. If it cost more than a shoestring inclusive of Bullock’s fee to make this film then the investors were robbed.
Bullock is working hard in All About Steve. She smiles a lot. She has a wonderful smile. But it doesn’t make a character, let alone a movie. This movie is too inconsequential to hate, but I wish I hadn’t bothered to give it my time.